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Article published February 2014, updated July 2019.

There are plenty of great content creators across the web, all of them offering something special that sets them apart. However, some of them stand out a little more than others. 

Even if you’re not a subscriber, you probably recognize the name BuzzFeed. This renowned content creator provides news, facts, opinions, stats, information, and entertainment to an audience of millions of people.

What’s the secret to their success? 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

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.

All good BuzzFeed email examples are written for people, as in individuals rather than the broad idea of an audience. All the best email marketing examples share this characteristic. Writing for people makes your content more humanized. Sounds basic, right?

You’d be surprised how many content creators overlook this tip. Many times, we get too carried away by the need to create something grand, broad-reaching, and marvelous that we forget about the end result.

We want people reading our content. Whether it is that twenty-something workaholic or good-old mom, or even anyone in-between, speaking to individuals rather than the abstract concept of an audience or segment always makes for better content.

The readability, the takeaway for the reader, and the result it brings to the publisher is also better.

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).

What’s the best way to be personable? Going back to tip #2, you’re writing for individuals, right? Those individuals will have traits. They’ll be at a certain place in life, with particular interests and goals. If you can appeal to these unique aspects of their personality and journey, your content will make a better connection.

What’s the best way to be personable? Going back to tip #2, you’re writing for individuals, right? Those individuals will have traits. Source: Really Good Emails

In this example, you see a great strategy where a company recaps a customer’s history with them. Not only is this personal, but it brings out the other element we’re discussing—consistency. Consistent content builds on previous entries, and in this case, the email summarizes the user’s experience with the company.

Now imagine that in BuzzFeed email format. It could discuss a user’s journey with them, the articles they’ve engaged with, or even a list of the biggest stories from the year. The approach is consistent with the brand’s offerings, and it’s personal in how it connects with the reader.

4. Write Honest (But Amazing) Headlines

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 not too busy 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.

They say variety is the spice of life, and it’s also a great element to remember in your marketing. If your own in-house team can’t pump the variety of content you need to keep things fresh, reaching out to other sources is a smart move. We can still maintain the BuzzFeed email format even with mixing things up every now and then.

6. Embrace the GIF

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!

The GIF is a nice treat, largely when it is used sparingly. You may use static images on a regular basis, so your viewers will be used to it. When they check out an image and see some animation along with it, it’s an unexpected treat.

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 means they’ll look fantastic on mobile—and also really good on your desktop.

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

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.

Wrap up

The BuzzFeed email format is designed to enable great design, not hinder it. That’s why there’s never a worry about mixing things up. Curated content, multiple media types, and a personalized approach are all great strategies. They keep your emails spontaneous, even if you do stick by a familiar format.

Learn how BuzzFeed has powered consistent growth through their approach to email marketing.

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.
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