BuzzFeed says it will use AI tools from OpenAI to personalize its content

The WSJ cites a memo sent this morning to staff by CEO Jonah Peretti. In it, Peretti says BuzzFeed wants to use more AI in the coming year and could start with experiments like personalizing the output of the site’s famous quizzes. In an example cited by the WSJ, AI could be used to generate personalized rom-com pitches for readers. They would be asked a series of questions, including personal information (like “name an endearing flaw” and “pick a favorite rom-com trope”), which would be used to generate a shareable output.

It’s not clear how else the digital publisher plans to use AI or when exactly this content might appear, but a spokesperson for the company told the WSJ that the company’s newsroom would remain focused on journalism written by humans.

The increasing capability of AI tools like ChatGPT to write prose has made the technology a tempting prospect for media companies hurt by falling advertising rates. BuzzFeed, in particular, has had a rocky ride on the markets since going public in December 2021. By June 2022, the company’s share price had already fallen 40 percent and has continued trending downwards since. Following news this morning that BuzzFeed will be using AI to produce content, its share price had risen more than 100 percent at the time of writing.

Although publishers like The Associated Press have used automated tools to produce stories for nearly a decade, these have tended to be formulaic articles covering news like earnings reports and sporting results. Automated tools are used to input figures and results into prewritten templates. As AI systems have improved, though, so has their ability to write more of a story. The problem is that the more AI is used in a story’s creation, the more chance there is for mistakes to be introduced. This is especially true of tools like ChatGPT, which have a tendency to produce “fluent bullshit” — that is, plausible but incorrect information.

Recently, CNET was criticized for failing to clearly disclose its use of AI in writing a number of articles offering financial advice in its money section. The company, which is owned by private equity firm Red Ventures, has since paused its use of AI tools and says it found errors in more than half of the articles written with the technology’s help.

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