Facebook’s Answer To Newsletters Could Be Launching This Week

Krasnoyarsk, Russia - June 13, 2011: Facebook main webpage on Google Chrome browser on LCD screen

Facebook’s answer to Substack, the popular email newsletter platform, could be launching as early as this week.

The platform, which will be called Bulletin, will launch on Tuesday, according to CNN’s chief media correspondent Brian Stelter.

In a newsletter published Monday evening U.S. time, Stelter wrote that Bulletin will be rolled out “on Tuesday, according to sources involved with the initiative.”

“The initial wave of Bulletin writers and their newsletters will be introduced on Tuesday. Participants are being paid to jump-start their newsletters with the expectation that they’ll build up paying fan bases over time,” explained Stelter.

“Some writers have already been stockpiling columns and ideas for weeks. But they’ve largely been in the dark about the bigger-picture plan, and some told me they’re looking forward to finding out who else is participating.”

E-mail newsletters have become increasingly popular over the pandemic, particularly Substack, which allows writers to put their content behind a paywall. Falon Fatemi, writing for Forbes, explored the rising popularity of the platform, citing increasing editorial and advertising constraints on journalists.

“Journalists are flocking to Substack in hopes of gaining back this freedom—creative, editorial, as well as financial freedom,” she wrote.

“Substack offers journalists a platform to say whatever they want, unencumbered by editors.”

Back in September 2020, Substack had over 250,000 paying subscribers. Most subscribers are charged anywhere from US$60 to $100 annually, and Substack takes 10 per cent of that, according to Axios.

If Facebook’s alternative is a success, it would allow them to tap into a market of growing readers, utilising their already extensive user base.

According to Vox, Bulletin will be a seperate webpage to the Facebook app. Unlike Substack, Bulletin’s writers will be actively recruited and paid by Facebook, who are reportedly avoiding politically divisive writing on the platform.

Facebook is not the first tech giant to enter the newsletter sphere. Back in January 2021, Twitter bought one of Substack’s competitors, the Dutch platform Revue.

When Twitter acquired Revue, it positioned the choice as one making the Twitter platform a “better home for writers”.

In a blog post announcing the acquisition, Twitter wrote, “Twitter is uniquely positioned to help organizations and writers grow their readership faster and at a much larger scale than anywhere else. Many established writers and publishers have built their brand on Twitter, amassing an audience that’s hungry for the next article or perspective they Tweet.”

It also pointed to opportunities for monetisation, and lowered the paid newsletter fee to 5 per cent.

“We’re creating a durable incentive model through paid newsletters. Bringing Revue to Twitter will supercharge this offering, helping writers grow their paid subscribers while also incentivizing them to produce engaging and relevant content that drives conversations on Twitter.”

“You can expect audience-based monetization to be an area that we’ll continue to develop new ways to support.”

Back in March 2021, when Facebook announced it’s entry into the newsletter marketplace, they took a similar angle to Twitter – that they were supporting writers and journalists.

“As writers, experts and journalists publish more of their work independently, we’re working to better support those efforts and make it easier for those content creators to build businesses online.”

“In the coming months in the U.S., we’ll introduce a new platform to empower independent writers, helping them reach new audiences and grow their businesses. We will start by partnering with a small subset of independent writers.”

In that initial post, they pointed to points of integration between the existing Facebook platform and the newsletter service, including integration with Facebook Pages and Groups.

What Bulletin looks like, and how successfully it both competes with and differentiates itself from other newsletter services remains to be seen. But, we are closer than ever to answers about the future of the newsletter economy.

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