BuzzFeed is using AI to write SEO-bait travel guides
BuzzFeed has taken its next step into AI-written content and started publishing AI-generated travel guides, as reported by Futurism. The publisher’s first AI-generated articles were ad-lib quizzes that were largely innocuous, but the travel guides appear to be a more brazen play to attract search traffic about different destinations.
You can see the full list of travel articles from BuzzFeed’s “Buzzy” AI tool right here. Right now, there are 44 posts covering destinations like Morocco, Stockholm, and Cape May, New Jersey. The articles are “written with the help of Buzzy the Robot (aka our Creative AI Assistant) but powered by human ideas,” BuzzFeed says on Buzzy’s profile. The top of each story I’ve seen includes a line noting that an article was “collaboratively written” by a human and Buzzy.
“Now, I know what you’re thinking”
For the travel articles, it seems that Buzzy the robot and its human editors have a few writing crutches. As observed by Futurism, many of the articles include some common phrases. They often include “now, I know what you’re thinking” ahead of a rhetorical question about that specific place, for example. Futurism also found that “almost everything” from Buzzy uses the phrase “hidden gem.”
When I looked up a few of the collaborators attached to the articles, I saw that they weren’t BuzzFeed editorial staffers but were instead business and sales staffers at the company. That’s because this first set of travel articles was made with input from noneditorial BuzzFeed employees, BuzzFeed spokesperson Juliana Clifton tells The Verge.
I also noticed that quiz writer Buzzy has a separate author page than does travel writer Buzzy, which is specifically bylined “As Told to Buzzy.” That language choice is intentional: the human contributors responded to a questionnaire about travel, and BuzzFeed’s AI tools used those responses to build articles, which were then reviewed by a human editor, Clifton says. Down the line, BuzzFeed’s AI tools could be used to help write articles based on reader contributions that could be similar to its “Add Yours” format.
“We’re experimenting with new formats that allow anyone (with or without a formal background in writing or content creation) to contribute their ideas and unique perspectives on our site,” Clifton says in a statement. Clifton says human editors are involved, and as the company continues to develop its AI-assisted formats, they will have “built-in ways for humans to be in the loop” as collaborators and editors.
The thing is, the travel articles just aren’t that good right now. Sure, they have some nice pictures and generic advice about the destinations. But if I wanted to go to any of these places, I don’t think BuzzFeed’s guides would give me the information I’d need to actually plan a detailed trip.
BuzzFeed’s experiment with AI-written travel guides is the next step from its announcement in January that it would be using tools from OpenAI to personalize content. CNET was also using AI to help generate stories, but it paused that practice soon after it came to light.