BuzzFeed Debuts AI Quizzes in Its First Use of the New Technology

BuzzFeed Inc. debuted a new line of quizzes that use artificial intelligence to respond to

Feb 16, 2023 - 03:26
BuzzFeed Debuts AI Quizzes in Its First Use of the New Technology
BuzzFeed Debuts AI Quizzes in Its First Use of the New Technology

BuzzFeed Inc. debuted a new line of quizzes that use artificial intelligence to respond to readers, the media company's first attempt to make money from the new technology.

On Tuesday, BuzzFeed published quizzes, a format that the company is perhaps best known for, that respond using AI. One, related to Valentine's Day, is sponsored by the yard-care giant Scotts Miracle-Gro Co. and suggests which type of plant would make an ideal romantic partner. Others let readers write a romantic comedy or a breakup message using AI.

While BuzzFeed quizzes usually involve multiple-choice questions, the AI-assisted versions let readers enter a word or phrase, creating more personalized results and more outcomes, according to Jess Probus, senior vice president of editorial.

“With this, we have the ability to have an infinite number of results,” Probus said.

BuzzFeed hopes the strategy will create more-engaging quizzes, ultimately boosting advertising and subscription revenue. One quiz is only available to subscribers of BuzzFeed+, which offers ad-free content for $2.99 a month.

BuzzFeed is paying to use software made by OpenAI, a company whose artificial intelligence tool, ChatGPT, has captivated the business world since its introduction in November.

In a recent memo to staff, BuzzFeed Chief Executive Officer Jonah Peretti said “AI-inspired content” will become “part of our core business” this year. Breakthroughs in artificial intelligence will be “opening up a new era of creativity,” he added.

BuzzFeed shares more than doubled on Jan. 26 on news that the company plans to use AI to help produce some content. The stock is down about 80% since it went public in December 2021.

In the third quarter of last year, the company reported a net loss of $27 million on sales that rose 15% from a year earlier to $103.7 million. BuzzFeed executives have said they are grappling with declining traffic from Facebook, along with advertisers that are more cautious in a weak economy.

The growing use of AI has raised concerns that companies will use it to replace workers. Probus said BuzzFeed is devoting more employees to AI projects to help create new quiz formats.

“We're not thinking of this as a replacement for humans,” Probus said.

In recent weeks, other publications, like CNET and Men's Journal, have been forced to correct AI-written articles that were riddled with errors.

BuzzFeed won't publish AI-generated articles without editors reading them first, Probus said. The company is focused on entertainment content and not more serious journalism, she added.

Scotts Miracle-Gro, a longtime advertiser on BuzzFeed, decided to increase its budget to sponsor AI-enhanced quizzes, seeing them as a chance to “reach consumers in an engaging way,” said Patti Ziegler, the company's chief marketing officer.

One of the quizzes sponsored by the company asks readers about what they look for in a romantic partner, including their ideal weekend, before revealing a plant that would be a match.

In one example, the quiz revealed that a reader's “plant soul mate” was “an imaginative and cheerful Chinese money plant” named Gertrude.

Then, based on the answers given, the BuzzFeed bot wrote a paragraph-long story about the reader and the plant, with lines like: “They would leisurely laugh about silly stories, with Gertrude taking it all in, her roots vibrating with delight!”

It also included snippets of dialog. “Promise you won't forget me, my spunky leafy friend,” followed by “I'd be lost without my Gertrude.”

BuzzFeed employees tweaked the quiz questions after discovering the AI only contains information going up until June 2021, making it unable to grasp references to new TV series, for instance.

And while AI has shown that it can produce mostly coherent sentences based on reader input, the bots have so far revealed a major drawback — they lack a sense of humor without human collaboration, Probus said.

“They're not that funny,” she said.