Now Facebook Wants To Compete With Substack, Launches Newsletter Platform

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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg launched the company’s newsletter publishing platform Bulletin on June 29. Integrated with Facebook Pages, Bulletin is a standalone platform for free and paid articles and podcasts. Bulletin comes with a self-publishing tool, allowing journalists to send email newsletters or create websites. 

According to Zuckerberg, “The goal here is to support millions of people doing creative work.” According to media reports, Facebook spent months recruiting writers across categories– entertainment, health, science and sports, paying them to bring their readers to Facebook’s new platform. While some of these content makers are writers and academics, others include public figures and industry experts, including Queer Eye’s fashion expert Tan France, the New Yorker writer Malcolm Gladwell and American sportscaster Erin Andrews. Facebook has sought creators for diverse topics, perspectives, and disciplines for their beta model. It further plans to expand the program and partner with more writers, including those focusing on local news.

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The bulletin on Bulletin

Creators on Bulletin can share their writing over email to subscribers and leverage Facebook’s reach to build their followings. Zuckerberg has said that he also wants Bulletin to be a suitable place for journalists to promote their content— both written and podcasts. 

This development is in line with Facebook’s recently introduced audio tools. Earlier in April, Facebook had launched audio accessories including Soundbites– short-form, creative audio clips to capture jokes, anecdotes, among other things, sort of like an audio version of TikTok videos or Instagram Reels; along with podcasts, and live audio rooms, similar to Clubhouse. Integration of Bulletin with these tools ensures that users remain in the Facebook ecosystem. 

Source: Facebook

While Bulletin has been built on a different website— to allow creators to grow their audiences in ways that are not exclusively limited to the social media platform, it does employ many other Facebook tools. For instance, readers have to use Facebook’s in-house payment portal Facebook Pay to pay for subscriptions on Bulletin.

Competing with Substack 

Additionally, Bulletin marks Facebook’s entry into the rising newsletter trend. Bulletin will be competing with major existing players, including Substack. In addition, mainstream publications such as The New York Times, Wired, and The Hindu also turn to email newsletters. 

Facebook, however, is not the only social media platform to show interest in newsletter products. Twitter’s purchase of Revue in January 2021 indicates the social media platform’s interest in entering the newsletter space. 

Established players like Substack have the advantage of the ‘hands-off’ approach to content moderation, unlike Bulletin. Substack allows anyone to start a newsletter on whichever topic they wish. On the other hand, Bulletin only has creators handpicked by Facebook and is currently not accepting new creators. Furthermore, the creators at the Bulletin launch were primarily based out of the US, with only two of them being non-American. Despite this, Facebook mentioned that it would look to include more creators post their beta programme’s launch. With time, the tech giant may also accept external applications. 

Bulletin’s creators enjoy the massive advantage of not sharing the subscription fees at the launch with Facebook. On the contrary, Substack charges 10 percent of the subscription fees, and Revue charges five percent. However, Facebook’s plans to charge creators in the future are not known yet. 

According to Zuckerberg, “More and more independent writers are discovering ways to use their voice and make money through other avenues, similar to the ones we’re introducing here.” Thus, Facebook’s new platform does bring forward a new tool to encourage independent writers and content creators. But, it presents how big tech firms like Facebook enter diverse avenues to compete with others. 

Zuckerberg claims that Bulletin is a part of Facebook’s mission to grow its content creators and the monetising tools they enjoy—and given the large number of content creators on Facebook and Instagram, the social media giant is placed brilliantly to connect independent creators with multitudes of readers and listeners. Bulletin articles and podcasts will be available everywhere on individual creator publication pages, in Facebook’s News Feeds and within its News Tab Section. 

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Mita Chaturvedi
I am an economics undergrad who loves drinking coffee and writing about technology and finance. I like to play the ukulele and watch old movies when I'm free.

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