May 19, 2023 - 7:00am

BuzzFeed intends to use AI to generate headlines, quizzes and identity-based content to help it reach multicultural audiences in an “authentic voice”, an investor call revealed. During a conference with potential investors on May 11th, BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti argued that AI was an “exciting new creativity tool” that could be used for “imagination, storytelling and entertainment”.

Claiming that AI would replace the “majority of static content”, Peretti was bullish about BuzzFeed’s future, despite the closure of its news division late last month. “Audiences will take more control of when, how, and whether they consume news,” he said. “Conviction about this prediction is why we made the difficult decision to wind down BuzzFeed News“.

Part of BuzzFeed’s new AI offering are chatbots that serve as shopping assistants, “personalised” articles, and games which include an AI coach that tests users to see if they “have what it takes” to be an online influencer. Seeking to monetise “cultural moments” such as “Latine Heritage Month”, “Hiking with Rappers” and Pride, BuzzFeed also plans to deepen its outreach with the black, Latino and Asian communities through AI. In one example, the company states that it has “invested” in the “Latine community” through identity-focused brands and a “network of Latine creators”. “We see creators, AI and moments as intersectional,” concluded one BuzzFeed executive.

A screengrab of the AI influencer coach game from the BuzzFeed investor slide deck

In the journalistic sphere, BuzzFeed executives told investors that AI will replace “the majority of static content”. In addition to tools that will convert “community submissions into complete articles”, AI will “generate hundreds of articles in a second” instead of “10 ideas in a minute”. “Our team members can talk directly to an AI chatbot to progress their creative ideas,” said Marcela Martin, BuzzFeed President. “And earlier this year, our product team rolled out an exciting new feature that leverages AI to automatically suggest SEO headlines for our article based on other headlines”.

BuzzFeed Inc., which owns several publications such as HuffPost, Complex and Tasty, shut down its news division last month. Prior to closing, the publication had been discreetly publishing AI-generated articles as well as quizzes. As Futurism reported, around 40 or so AI-written travel guide pieces surfaced, which included strikingly similar headlines such as “I know what you’re thinking: isn’t Stockholm that freezing, gloomy city up in the north that nobody cares about?” and “Now, I know what you’re probably thinking. ‘Brewster? Never heard of it'”.

Since it listed in 2011, BuzzFeed Inc has lost 90% of its value. The company’s move towards AI underlines the pressure facing the digital media industry more broadly. As BuzzFeed executives told investors last week, the company believes the industry has reached another “inflection point” on the Internet, with AI serving as a means to reduce fixed costs. “Creators on their own get burned out, lack community, and don’t have a way to establish their trustworthiness and relevance,” said Peretti. But AI “will allow us to innovate and collaborate with our clients and partners on a new frontier in media”.

is UnHerd’s Newsroom editor.