CNet's AI SNFAU turned out to be merely the first pebble kicked down the slippery slope. In a Thursday morning internal memo acquired by the Wall Street Journal, Buzzfeed Chief Executive Jonah Peretti announced plans to embrace AI in both editorial and business operations and utilize text generation systems similar to CNet's to produce, for example, the memeable quizzes that originally built Buzzfeed's following.
Such AI-powered quizzes could provide more personalized answers based on the user's more specific responses rather than based on a score range or ranked choice system like they are today. Peretti envisions AI not only producing content on its own but drawing inspiration from human writers. We squishy meat sacks would serve as idea sources for AI text generators, or as Peretti described members of his own species, “cultural currency” and “inspired prompts.” He further argues that within the next two decades, AI will "create, personalize, and animate the content itself” rather than simply regurgitate (read: plagiarize) already existing works.
This announcement comes after Buzzfeed laid off 12 percent of its newsroom in December, blaming "challenging macroeconomic conditions." On Monday, news broke that Meta, Facebook's parent company, has been paying Buzzfeed millions to help generate creator content for Facebook and Instagram.
On one hand, this seems a foolhardy move given the Low Orbit Ion Cannon-level fallout that CNet's reputation has suffered since news broke that it had employed AI text generation systems to produce nearly 75 financial explainers since late 2022. More than half of those posts had to be updated on account of shoddy math (you'd think a computer would be better at that), plus the whole plagiarism thing. On the other hand, a lot of the flack that CNet took in the early days of the controversy was that it had tried to be cute and sneak in the fact that it was having chatbots write entire feature posts without actually telling anybody. Peretti's announcement Thursday, at least does that.
Of course, Buzzfeed is far from alone in the burgeoning "pivot to ChatGPT" movement. Microsoft announced this week a multiyear, "multi-billion dollar" investment in OpenAI's text generation systems — exactly two days before announcing that despite $52.7 billion in Q2 revenue, it would be laying off ten thousand (10,000) people on account of challenging macroeconomic conditions.