Facebook reveals newsletter platform Bulletin

30 Jun 2021

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In a bid to rival Substack and Twitter’s Revue, Bulletin has wooed writers like Malcolm Gladwell to its subscription newsletter platform.

Facebook has entered the subscription newsletter game with Bulletin, a Substack competitor.

Bulletin, which is only available in the US for now, has been launched separately to the main Facebook site. Users aren’t required to have Facebook accounts to subscribe to a newsletter.

Much like Substack, the social media giant has been courting high-profile writers to come to its platform exclusively. It has signed up journalist and author Malcolm Gladwell and sports broadcaster Erin Andrews.

Announcing the news on Facebook’s Live Audio Rooms, its Clubhouse clone, company boss Mark Zuckerberg said that it will not take a cut of writers’ revenue from their newsletters.

In its statement, Facebook added that the Bulletin writers will own their newsletter and subscriber lists and can take them with them after their partnership ends. All payments are handled through Facebook Pay.

It is not clear if Facebook will introduce new revenue streams through Bulletin by, for example, taking a cut from subscriptions. Currently it appears to be focused on amassing as many writers as possible.

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“Through Bulletin, we want to support these creators, and unify our existing tools with something that could more directly support great writing and audio content — from podcasts to Live Audio Rooms — all in one place,” the company said. “We respect the work of writers and want to be clear that anyone who partners with us will have complete editorial independence.”

Facebook also indicated that it would be striking deals with local writers, which fits in with its previous initiatives to support local news.

Newsletter start-ups like Substack have aided a new boom in paid and free newsletters. Substack has become a significant player in the field in recent years, attracting several big-name writers that have left major newsrooms to write independently on the platform.

The company recently raised $65m to bolster its platform in the face of rising competition.

One of its competitors, Revue, was acquired by Twitter earlier this year. Twitter has pushed newsletters into its new content strategy that includes live audio broadcasting à la Clubhouse and paid-for additional features.

Facebook is following a similar route. As well as Bulletin, it recently launched Live Audio Rooms, its own take on Clubhouse.

Jonathan Keane is a freelance business and technology journalist based in Dublin

editorial@siliconrepublic.com