By Emma Nitzsche
Facebook announced a new subscription service called Bulletin on Tuesday. Mark Zuckerberg announced the platform and plans to partner with influential writers in a live audio room on the social media site. Already, Bulletin advertised paid licensing deals with a handful of writers to entice consumers.
The newsletter will include topics such as sports, entertainment, science, and health. Facebook devoted the last few months to recruiting writers from various categories and genres. In April, the company said it would pay $5 million to recruit independent local journalists to write for its platform. Some writers include New Yorker writer Malcolm Gladwell, author Mitch Albom, and organizational psychologist Adam Grant. Facebook will pay authors upfront to encourage the writers’ fans to migrate to Bulletin.
On a conference call with reporters, Zuckerberg said that “the goal [with Bulletin] is to support millions of people doing creative work. 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.”
The platform will include free and paid articles and podcasts.
According to Zuckerberg, the platform is writer-centered and focused on helping more people make money online during the pandemic. He claimed that Facebook wouldn’t take a cut of the newsletter subscriptions until 2023.
In recent years, high-profile journalists and writers left media companies to start their own. By giving more of the subscription profits to writers, Facebook hopes to persuade more authors to write for them instead of the competition. The leading competitor, Substack, profits 10% from its newsletter subscription fees. Zuckerberg assured writers that they would own their content and email subscriber lists, permitting them to go to other platforms should they choose to leave Bulletin.
Facebook is not alone in this endeavor. Other publishers have targeted newsletter subscription services to attract and retain readers. The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and the New York Times are experimenting with different platforms to get media to consumers. Twitter is building a similar paid newsletter service, acquiring the newsletter startup Revue.
In 2016, Facebook attempted to launch a similar platform that paid news organizations to broadcast its live videos on the social network. The company backpedaled on the initiative after its relationship with news organizations became tumultuous.