BuzzFeed capitalized on the growing power of social media, creating a digital media business worth more than $1 billion at its peak. But BuzzFeed’s valuation plummeted when the tech giant behind the social platform dropped its publishing business.
To bounce back, BuzzFeed turned again to new technology: artificial intelligence.
Since announcing its plans to incorporate AI a few months ago, the company has tried various experiments and is more open to the technology than most publishers. On Tuesday, BuzzFeed unveiled its most ambitious product yet, a free chatbot called Botatouille (no relation to Pixar’s Rat Chef) that offers recipe recommendations from BuzzFeed’s food brand Tasty.
Botatouille was built using the technology that drives OpenAI’s popular ChatGPT program, customized with Tasty recipes and user data.
rainy day? Botatouille recommends winter chili or lentil soup. feeling lonely? Botatouille recommends the chocolate biscuit or vegetable curry. Botatouille might also recommend shepherd’s pie, which he jokes is his mother’s recipe.
“It’s been an exciting transition for me from a shaky social wave to a growing wave of generative artificial intelligence,” said Jonah Peretti, the company’s CEO. Think we can definitely learn something to make sure we get more lasting value from technology trends.”
Although BuzzFeed was one of the first media companies to experiment with artificial intelligence, many others are also considering how to adapt it. Executives from Bloomberg, Insider and The New York Times are all weighing the potential benefits and risks of their existing businesses.
Possible pitfalls include loss of traffic to search engines as AI chatbots answer search queries.And some companies using artificial intelligence for content creation have already published Error ridden article.
Mr. Peretti shut down BuzzFeed News last month, but said in the future BuzzFeed plans to experiment with artificial intelligence to enhance its news business, which is now organized under its HuffPost brand.
Mr Peretti said this could include using artificial intelligence to help create headlines for search engines or brainstorming ways to tell certain stories.
But he said he does not foresee AI being used to replace Huffington Post reporters in the future.
“Even if you were an evil CEO trying to replace all journalists with AI, you would not succeed,” Mr Peretti said. “It doesn’t work commercially.”
He says he’s applying some of the lessons from BuzzFeed’s uneven relationship with social media to his AI experiments.
When BuzzFeed uses social media to grow its audience, it doesn’t always prioritize profitability. The company grew rapidly, but then hit tough times. It is now worth nearly $90 million — a fraction of its peak of $1.7 billion in 2016. The closure of BuzzFeed News affected dozens of jobs.
Mr Peretti said the company was now focusing on building a sustainable business from the ground up. He said that BuzzFeed plans to use artificial intelligence to sell subscription services to users, provide users with personalized services and custom interactions, such as Botatouille.
“We’re much more focused on monetization and we’re looking at it earlier than we were then,” Mr. Peretti said.
One of BuzzFeed’s big questions: Will Botatouille work?
Before partying on Sunday night, I asked the chatbot to suggest recipes for a batch of cocktails.
“Hey! Sounds like you’re ready to party!” Botatouille responded with his usual breezy tone—and added a caveat about drinking responsibly. “I recommend ‘Boozy Bubbly Sherbet Punch.’ It’s a fun, fruity drink that’s perfect for a party.”
Botatouille then shared the recipe, a concoction of vodka, champagne and fruit juice concentrate topped with a scoop of rainbow sherbet.
Later, I asked Botatouille to recommend a meal for a laid-off digital media worker. It was difficult to respond initially. “Oops. Something went wrong,” it said.
Then it had an idea.
“Well, you seem to be in a low mood. How about I recommend a meal that will lift your spirits?” Botatuje said. “For laid-off digital media workers, I recommend trying to prepare a one-pot chicken and veggie meal 2 ways.”