Facebook gets into the newsletter game with ‘Bulletin’
With a new service called Bulletin, Facebook is getting into the subscription newsletter business, allowing writers to create free and paid newsletters that can be shared across Facebook, as well as posted to the web and distributed to subscribers' inboxes. Facebook says that it would not charge writers a fee initially, and that writers will retain complete control over their work and subscriber list.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg stated the new platform is "focused on empowering independent writers, helping them reach new audiences and supporting their businesses." Facebook has already signed up Malcolm Gladwell, Tan France, and Erin Andrews to cover a variety of topics, ranging from sports and finance to science and medicine.
Bulletin is a direct answer to Substack's and other newsletter software's increasing popularity. A number of well-known writers, like Glenn Greenwald and Anne Helen Petersen, use Substack, and the company has been recruiting talent with guaranteed rewards. Subscriptions are taken at a 10% discount through Substack. Revue, another newsletter platform, was also recently purchased by Twitter.
Bulletin, according to Zuckerberg, is part of Facebook's commitment to expand its creative monetization options. He stated, "The goal here across the organization is to someday assist millions of people performing creative work."
Bulletin is currently closed to new signups. Facebook has hired a number of authors for a beta period, with the promise of adding more over time.
The social media platform has had a tumultuous relationship with the news industry, which reached a head in February after a spat with the Australian government over content payment. As high-profile journalists and writers have left media companies to strike out on their own in the last year, Facebook is attempting to compete in the fast-growing email newsletter trend. Facebook announced in April that it would pay $5 million to hire local journalists to write for its new publishing platform.
Bulletin represents a common Facebook approach: developing competitor-like products within the company. While Facebook continues to grow its user base, it is wary of startups that could divert consumers away from its main platform and other apps. It occasionally acquires rivals, like it did with WhatsApp and Instagram in the 2010s.
One of such products, Live Audio Rooms, revealed earlier in June, was used by Zuckerberg to announce the debut of Bulletin. Live Audio Rooms was Facebook's response to Clubhouse, another budding media start-up.