Analysis: key drivers in Buzzfeed's emails

Buzzfeed is probably one of the most talked about websites around. This social news and entertainment platform gets over 130 million unique visitors each month, and is well on its way to becoming the biggest site on the web. A part of its success is the email newsletter. But what exactly makes a good newsletter great?

Start by identifying your audience. 

We noticed that unlike their website, their newsletters don't have dynamic content, but use handpicked stories. They do have a well segmented sign-up page to get the right content into your mailbox.

Catalogue your content. 

Buzzfeed works with specific identity content and broad identity content. Specific content is like the infamous groups on Facebook: “You're from [insert town name] if…”. This performs well on specific social networks. Broad content on the other hand works well on most channels, as in "27 reasons why Belgium is the place to be".

Provide mobile coverage.

More than 50% of newsletter click-through comes from a mobile device. Make sure that your entire story works well on mobile. Another cool thing they noticed is that scrolling on a mobile device is native to that device. So don't worry about long emails, but make them easily scanable.

Tell micro stories in GIFs. 

It's well known that GIFs work great if you're aiming at email interaction. If you can tell people a convincing micro story in a GIF, you probably have gold in your hands.

Remember that copy is king. 

This is probably their true key to success. Copy is the key to driving interactions. Every word, letter, number and punctuation mark matters. So test what works best. There is a difference in click-through between ‘the 26 best…' and ‘the 27 best…'. Use real-time testing to find out which works best.

Deliver on promise.

An ab-so-lu-te must if you are aiming at a long-term program. Writing compelling copy is one thing, but if you're not delivering on your content promise, you are wrecking your own program. Or as they say at Buzzfeed:

“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.”


Don't just copy/paste the Buzzfeed model, but if you are aiming at increasing interactions: look, learn and apply the best practices to your business.

Posted on
Mar 5, 2014