After it shared initial details of its coming newsletter platform last month, Facebook has now confirmed the first elements of the new project, which will see the company pay out $5 million in funding to local journalists in order to kickstart the product, and generate initial interest.
As reported by Reuters, Facebook's new funding will come in the form of multi-year deals with established writers to essentially showcase its newsletter platform, and expand interest.
As per Reuters:
"Independent journalists in the United States can apply to the program beginning on Thursday, and priority will be given to reporters who plan to cover “Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Asian or other audiences of color,” in locations that lack an existing news source, Facebook said."
Facebook will partner with the International Center for Journalists and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists to evaluate applications. The company will then provide the selected participants with access to experts and services to help them build a newsletter business through the app.
Newsletters have seen a resurgence of late, with a growing number of journalists now going it alone, and generating solid incomes through the establishment of their own, dedicated audiences. With traditional newsrooms struggling, particularly throughout the pandemic, paid newsletter subscriptions offer a viable alternative, with only a relatively small paying base required to make it a profitable endeavor.
That's seen platforms like Substack and Revue working to expand on their offerings, with Substack in particular, reportedly offering deals of up to $300k for top writers, in an effort to lure them across, and expand its business.
Social platforms are now also looking to tap into the same, using their massive audience reach as a lure to help writers establish audience connection, in order to build a newsletter business on the back of their presence.
Twitter went all-in earlier this year by acquiring Revue, giving it an immediate linkage into the newsletter space, which it's now looking to translate into an integrated Twitter offering, to help users monetize their on-platform presence.
As noted, Facebook shared some early details of its coming newsletter platform last month, which will be integrated with Facebook Pages, and will enable writers to use Facebook's massive reach to build their audience, and monetize their work.
Which, of course, could be a risky proposition. Facebook has an established history of heavily promoting a post type or option, only to abandon those who've built reliance on such when it eventually loses interest. And as we recently saw with the Australian publisher shut down, if you are looking to build a business through Facebook, you don't want to leave yourself too reliant on the platform.
Which is exactly what writers would be doing through these newsletter deals, putting their income in the hands of The Social Network, which could decide to switch off that revenue stream at any moment.
One positive note, as recently reported by former Verge journalist, and now newsletter independent Casey Newton, is that Facebook’s newsletter product will let creators take their email lists with them if they go, according to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
That could alleviate some concerns around the offering, with the option to walk away, with your audience, if you so choose.
Either way, if Facebook starts throwing money at writers, you can bet that at least some of them will accept.
The question then is, how many newsletters can people take, and how many of these writers are also underestimating the amount of work it takes to actually create an engaging newsletter, day in, day out, week in, week out?
I can tell you, I write around seven posts every day, and it can be tough to stay on top of all the latest happenings, while also consistently pumping out content. Most established writers are, of course, aware of this - but in opening the option up to less experienced voices, that could create a messy, spammy situation, which could also, potentially, dilute the value of newsletter offerings overall.
One way or another, it looks like we're going to find out what the limits of the newsletter push actually might be. Cleanse your inboxes and prepare.