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AI Will Start Writing BuzzFeed's Notorious Personalized Quizzes

The company said it wouldn’t use AI for news journalism, but CEO Jonah Peretti talked up AI as a shift 'toward longer term trends.'

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A crowd of people clap and cheer in front of a sign for BuzzFeed Inc.
BuzzFeed went public in December 2021, though like many tech and media companies it conducted layoffs just a year later. CEO Jonah Peretti, center, has talked about the need to cut costs and shift toward ‘longer term trends’ like AI.
Photo: Bennett Raglin (Getty Images)

BuzzFeed is already jumping the gun trying to answer its upcoming quiz: Will AI Take Your Job Next?

The Wall Street Journal originally reported Thursday based on an internal memo that BuzzFeed, the site known for unleashing the idea of “listicles” into common online parlance, is now planning to use AI to generate its notorious digital quizzes.


BuzzFeed provided Gizmodo with a memo company CEO Jonah Peretti recently sent to employees. The CEO wrote that he wants an AI system to take a major role in both the company’s editorial and business departments, but that it was already planning to use an AI model for its BuzzFeed quizzes. Peretti said the AI could write questions based on a quiz topic and then create a unique write-up for every user.

The AI BuzzFeed was designed using the public API from OpenAI, the creator of ChatGPT.


One example of a quiz Peretti used in his memo was titled “This Quiz Will Write a RomCom About You In Less Than 30 Seconds.” The image included AI-generated questions such as “pick a trope for your romcom” or “tell us an endearing flaw you have.”

An image of a Buzzfeed quiz about writing a romcom about you in 30 seconds.
This is an example Buzzfeed CEO Jonah Peretti used to describe the site’s new AI-based quiz generator.
Image: BuzzFeed

“We see the breakthroughs in AI opening up a new era of creativity that will allow humans to harness creativity in new ways with endless opportunities and applications for good,” Peretti wrote in his memo. “AI can benefit both content creators and audiences, inspiring new ideas and inviting audience members to co-create personalized content.”

A spokesperson for BuzzFeed told us that their AI-generated content will go live in early February, though they didn’t say how much of this AI-generated content will replace existing human-made quizzes. A company spokesperson told WSJ that BuzzFeed will still focus on human-generated content for its journalism side of things.


But the move to AI has an economic incentive behind it too. Peretti also mentioned having to scrounge and scrape for “every penny of revenue” and run his company “like a lean, scrappy startup.” BuzzFeed went public in 2021 through a special purpose acquisition company after acquiring HuffPost and entertainment outlet Complex. Like many media companies, BuzzFeed laid off 12% of its workforce late last year amid talk of a worsening economic outlook.

In addition, the CEO was also bullish on using third-party creators or influencers to build brands on BuzzFeed and its other properties. This seems close to the relationship content creators have on social media sites like YouTube or TikTok, though Peretti did not share any details of how this relationship would work. This move to AI comes just a few years after BuzzFeed made a big deal about paying for fan-created quizzes and lists.


In this supposed ecosystem, humans would create the framework for the quiz and perhaps edit some of the AI’s responses, but the computer system would handle everything else, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The news comes on the heels of another Journal report citing anonymous sources that Meta is paying Buzzfeed close to $10 million to create content on Facebook and Instagram. The company is also reportedly being tasked with training content creators to make more viral content.


Other sites are already experimenting with AI-generated content. CNET has been under fire this month for quietly publishing explainer articles written by AI for months. CNET and its parent company Red Ventures have put their AI-written articles on hold after investigations detailed how even after they were supposedly edited by real-life humans, some of the articles contained major factual errors. Even after the blowback, CNET is still planning to put out more AI-generated journalistic content.

As much as Peretti is extolling how AI will “allow humans to harness creativity,” there’s an honest fear that AI could be coming for the jobs of creatives, from artists to writers. Low-paid freelance quiz writers may be first on the chopping block, but cost-cutting companies could easily see opportunities to replace humans writing longer content.


Update 1/27/23 at 10:30 a.m. ET: this story was updated to clarify the AI was designed using OpenAI’s API.