Home Resources Blog

Could your newsletter do with a bit of BuzzFeed’s stickiness? We asked Dan Oshinsky, their Newsletter Editor to share with us their secret sauce. Find out why personality and good content curation really count with Dan’s top 8 tips.

1. The Subject Line + Preheader Really Matter

Your emails are showing up in the same space as emails from family and friends. Subscribers are letting you into their lives. Embrace that. Whenever I’m writing a subject line, I try to make it about the reader as much as possible. And then the preheader just drives home the message. For instance, if the subject line of a Food email is, “This Is YOUR Month” the preheader reads, “February is here, and it’s time to take control and plan out a month’s worth of delicious recipes.” When they work together, it can really give subscribers a reason to click.

2. Don’t Just Have An Audience In Mind — Have A Person

I write every email with two very different BuzzFeed readers in mind. One is a twenty-something friend who’s always busy at work. The BuzzFeed daily email is her link to what’s happening on the internet. The other is my mother, and she’s got a great sense of humor — but I also don’t want to share anything that’s NSFW. Before I send an email, I ask myself: Would my friend like this? Would my mom? If the answer is “yes” to both, it’ll almost always do well.

3. Be Personable/Be Consistent

Again, your email lives in the same inbox as emails from family and friends. This is a space for humans. Be personable, and be a consistent source of awesome stuff. Do that, and subscribers will keep reading (and keep sharing your emails).

4. Write Honest (But Amazing) Headlines

At BuzzFeed, we work hard to make sure our headlines aren’t creating false expectations. If we’re promising the “The 27 Best Moments From The Golden Globe Awards” then those better be the best moments! Don’t trick readers into clicking — readers are too smart for that, and too busy not to unsubscribe from emails that deceive.

5. Don’t Be Afraid To Share Stuff That Doesn’t Directly Help You

Our Sunday email of great feature stories is our most-opened email — 40-45% of subscribers open it every week — but it’s also the newsletter that features the most non-BuzzFeed content. Our team curates great stories from around the web, and readers really appreciate that approach. Sharing only BuzzFeed content would drive more clicks in the short run, but this approach has made this a more awesome newsletter that we can continue to grow.

6. Embrace the GIF

I won’t include one in every email. But if there’s a really amazing GIF, I always try to feature it. It’s a great way to make your emails stand out — and they also look great on mobile!

7. Mobile Is What Matters

If you’re not building your emails with mobile readers in mind, you’re losing half your audience. We try to keep the content easy to scroll through on your phone, and our newsletters are fluid-width, which mean that they’ll look fantastic on mobile — and also really good on your desktop.

8. When In Doubt, Feature A Photo Of A Puppy

tl;dr — Everyone appreciates a good puppy photo.

Massive thanks to Dan for being not only a cool customer, but someone who sends newsletters that many of us regularly look forward to. To receive their regularly hilarious, sometimes animated and always irresistible emails, sign up here.

  • Annika

    The gif and puppy part is completely new for me especially for a newsletter but it actually might work :)

  • sadhu

    after all, 7 is getting more important, i check my mails via mobile everyday

  • Jamie Teasdale

    Subject lines are the first opportunity you have to grab attention and make people curious about what’s inside. And the pre-header is the first thing they’ll see after that. Glad to see your first item on this post addressed both of those! But, aren’t GIF’s dying? Just read an article yesterday on the Daily Dot: “Meet the GFY”. Curious your thoughts on that…

  • Jesper Frier

    GIFs doesn’t work in Outlook email clients since 2003. Only first frame will show.

  • Kamile Vitaite

    Great post. 2 and 5 parts- quite interesting approach. I will definitely try them with next email campaign. Also I have to agree that GIFs are dying, so I cannot see the purpose to add file which probably would not work. But maybe it works for some companies. Who knows..

  • Kurt Sharer

    GIFs won’t work in Outlook-Clients. They just show the first frame of the GIF.

  • Richard Chambers

    Re: point 8 – I’ve noticed three separate marketing agencies local to me talking about puppies recently: bringing in dogs to the office, having an office dog etc.

    I’m sure that can’t be coincidental.

    Has it been decided by the marketing goddess that kittens are out, and 2014 is the year of the dog?

  • Jenn

    As long as you pick a strong first frame, you don’t lose anything by including a gif! Subtle gifs look great in email, overdoing it can look tacky.. unless it’s a cat flying through the air, then it’s obviously just hilarious.

  • Jenn

    @Richard – I’ve notice this too! I’ve named it the “O2 be more dog effect”.

  • Martyn

    Gif’s aren’t on the immediate way out – and lets face it email design is frustratingly backward – so even if gifs did die a death in the next week, it’d probably take years for it to filter down! ;0)

    Gifs are fine….. as long as the first and last frames are relevant.

  • Des

    Might be a daft question, but is there a way to specify the pre-header? the top line of my template has links to unsubscribe, forward to a friend, view in browser etc, and this is what is being picked up for the pre-header – not good. I can move these links, but below these I have a line of icons with links which mimmick our website layout, so I’m assuming the pre-header would simply pick out the address links instead?

  • David Greiner

    Des, a good question and something we’re planning on improving in our template builder very soon. This update will make it easy to add it for each campaign and give your emails the best chance of being opened.

  • Rach

    Yes you are right the animated gif will only show the first frame in Outlook 2003+, however, CM gives you the tools to see what devices are opening your email campaigns and as such you can tailor the content to suit your audience. If your opening rate in Outlook is small then go with an animated gif if appropriate, as Jenn points out having a first strong frame is a good compromise not a campaign killer.
    Read and use the stats you are given to advance your campaigns.

  • Alexis

    Have you found that particular types of puppies generate a better response rate? ;)

  • Frederik

    Try a kitten instead of a puppy and you won’t believe your eyes. ;-)

  • Dan Oshinsky

    @Alexis Corgi puppies are best, but any puppy will do, really

  • Dan Oshinsky

    @Jamie Teasdale For me, the actual file format isn’t that important. It might be a GIF, or it might something else — a GFY (which I’d never seen until just now), or a snippet of HTML that acts like a GIF, or a Vine — but I think that animated images are going to be around forever, and they’re a fun element to include in your emails.

  • Dan

    I love number 8 :) It’s brilliant

  • Liqui-Site Designs

    @Des, we had same question! We want to use attention-grabbing preheaders but each email would have to be completely customized and produced as responsive. @DavidGreiner – any idea when that update will be made?

  • Mark Simchock

    The lead is buried within #4.

    In short: Shit might attract flies. But shitty content and/or shitty experience isn’t going to attract anyone.

    So #2 really isn’t “Will they like this.” It’s “Is this the best I have to offer? Does this build our reputation of diminish it?” Simply toss more shit at the wall is eventually self-defeating.

  • Ros Hodgekiss

    Hi there Liqui-Site, this is certainly something for us to keep in mind when we update the template builder, thanks for letting us know it’s something you’re after! We’ll keep you posted if we make it possible to easily add and edit preheaders at a later date. Thanks again!

    Mark – I don’t quite get your analogy, but I hope everyone washes their hands thoroughly today :)

  • ColinSmithson113 – Redbrick Sa

    Great tips

    Animated Gifs like that are great to add. But just in case someone uses a mail program that does not support it it is wise to add a link to the online Gif as well so they can click on it to view is.

    As for puppies, not everybody likes dogs. So it would be best to include other animals as well. Such as bunnies and kittens.

  • Spark Email

    Good work. Animation attracts more to user than steady images. Its new thing that should be implemented which would change mind of email receiver.

  • Jim

    If it’s got a dog or a cat, I skip it. I do not open it, and I won’t read it!

This blog provides general information and discussion about email marketing and related subjects. The content provided in this blog ("Content”), should not be construed as and is not intended to constitute financial, legal or tax advice. You should seek the advice of professionals prior to acting upon any information contained in the Content. All Content is provided strictly “as is” and we make no warranty or representation of any kind regarding the Content.
Straight to your inbox

Get the best email and digital marketing content delivered.

Join 250,000 in-the-know marketers and get the latest marketing tips, tactics, and news right in your inbox.


See why 200,000 companies worldwide love Campaign Monitor.

From Australia to Zimbabwe, and everywhere in between, companies count on Campaign Monitor for email campaigns that boost the bottom line.

Get started for free