BuzzFeed’s recent foray into AI-assisted content creation appears to be falling short of CEO Jonah Peretti’s promise to uphold high standards. The company’s initial AI-generated quizzes were deemed an interesting experiment, but new content produced by non-editorial staff is being compared to a content mill model. Around 40 SEO-driven travel guides have been published, each containing almost identical lines, with almost every article featuring the phrase “hidden gem.” The travel guides carry only one byline – that of Buzzy the Robot – although a message at the top claims they were “collaboratively written” with a human employee. However, these employees are not BuzzFeed journalists, but instead come from non-editorial domains such as client partnerships, account management and product management.
A BuzzFeed spokesperson has confirmed that the AI-generated pieces are part of an experiment to see how well its AI writing assistance works in conjunction with non-writers. Staff outside of editorial departments were asked to contribute their favourite underrated travel picks via an internal questionnaire. Responses were then fed into the AI software and the results were published in both masterpost and individual posts. BuzzFeed insists that it is continuing to experiment with AI to “enhance human creativity,” and is trying new formats that allow anyone to contribute ideas and perspectives to the site.
However, the travel guides appear to be a step back from Peretti’s original intention to use AI to enhance the work of his employees, rather than replace them. While the quizzes used AI as a tool for human staff to produce custom results for readers, the new travel guides have been created wholesale, raising concerns that AI is already mature enough to replace BuzzFeed’s human writers. The spokesperson stated that the company is trying to broaden the range of ideas and perspectives it publishes, and that future formats will have built-in ways for humans to co-collaborate and edit. BuzzFeed denies that the travel guides are advertisements or sponsored content.