The Buzz Behind Email (Or Is It The Email Behind Buzzfeed?)

Now that Buzzfeed has emerged as one of the most powerful publishing platforms in the business -- one that is credited with adopting and adapting the most state-of-the-art bells-and-whistles of digital technology (plus plenty of kitten photos and videos) -- I suppose it’s safe to say that it had some seemingly lowly roots: An email string. But in a way, that’s the whole point, according to Dan Oshinsky, who also happens to be Buzzfeed’s newsletter editor.

Speaking at the Email Insider Summit today, Oshinsky said Buzzfeed began life as an email feed 14 years ago when founder Jonah Peretti forwarded a copy of email correspondence with Nike executives about why he couldn’t get his Nike sneakers personalized with the word “sweatshop” on the bottom of them (I guess you had to be there). But the point is that the forward got re-forwarded like crazy, for a simple reason, Oshinsky said, “People like to share things.” And that was the inspiration for a billion publishing platform.

Not surprisingly, Buzzfeed still believes in email, which explains Oshinksy’s current gig, editing email versions of Buzzfeed that are sent out to subscribers, who re-forward them in turn to friends and family, thus amplifying Buzzfeed’s effect even further.

Equally unsurprising is the fact that Oshinsky believes email is an even more shareable medium than the shareable media du jour -- you know, social networks.

“There are a lot of social networks and they’re all very different,” Oshinsky said, adding that Facebook is “who I am and what I believe in,” while Twitter is “what’s happening now” and “interest is “what I want to be.”

“Email is a very different type of audience,” he said, revealing its secret sauce: “It’s very personal. It’s one-to-one. It’s a more personal experience.”

Because it is so interpersonal, Oshinsky says it gives people -- and big publishers too -- the ability to share very different forms of content than what they might distribute via other forms of social media.

“Facebook and Twitter are limited by the rules of what people share,” he said, adding, “Email is all of these things. Whatever you want to share, you can share on email.”

Apparently, the same thing holds true for email insider summits, because Oshinsky used the presentation as an opportunity to share a lot about himself, and specifically, why he is so keen on email as a medium.

It all goes back to when he was an aspiring journalist, writing for his middle school paper, and his father and uncle suggested he write to Washington Capitals hockey team owner -- and at the time, AOL heavyweight -- Ted Leonsis for tickets to cover one of the team’s games.

Just to prove his dad and uncle wrong, Oshinsky said he fired off an email to, and much to his surprise he almost immediately received a response: “Sure, what game?”

Oshinsky said it was that seminal experienced that solidified the power of email marketing to him, because what other medium could get an immediate response to an “”eighth-grader” from a guy with a “billion dollars and a hockey team.”

You could almost feel him buzzing about it.
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