Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced their new newsletter platform, Bulletin, in an Audio Room on Tuesday. The new site will be a place for writers and podcasters to publish content and build a subscriber base.
As this new platform is in development, Facebook is testing tools and features with a small number of selected writers, but shares an overview of what’s to come.
Bulletin explained by Facebook:
"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. We respect the work of writers and want to be clear that anyone who partners with us will have complete editorial independence."
Interestingly, Facebook is putting a lot of emphasis on the writers’ editorial independence as they might be anticipating people’s concern over what data and content Facebook will claim for themselves.
With Bulletin, creators will own the rights to their content and subscribers list — although, the platform will still be dependent on Facebook’s infrastructure. For example, readers don’t have to have a Facebook account to access free content, but will need to use Facebook Pay for any transactions. An account seems to also be necessary to enjoy some of the subscription perks, such as being a member of special Facebook groups. Similarly, Bulletin will be on a separate site, but its articles and podcasts will appear in users' Facebook News Feed and within the Facebook News sections for distribution.
In addition to writing, Bulletin also seeks to get podcasters to join their platform as well. Their announcement states Bulletin will soon include tools that allow the distribution of podcasts, including those that are hosted elsewhere, with additional audio features that remain unspecified for now. Creators will have access to Facebook’s existing tools like Facebook Live and Audio Rooms to connect with their audience and keep the discussion going with some moderation tools like turning off comments or allowing only paid subscribers to comment altogether.
Facebook groups seem to be the heart of Facebook’s recent strategy. In October, Facebook announced that 1.4 billion users are using Facebook groups every month. That is a massive audience already engaged around topics and creators they care about. Facebook recently used groups strategically by launching Audio Rooms around selected creators with an already passionate following, challenging Twitter Spaces and Clubhouse with a potential solution to better discoverability and keeping audio content relevant. On Bulletin, users could discover other Audio Rooms they might be interested in as well as subscribe to alerts from their favorite creators.
Bulletin states that they are keeping branding entirely writer-focused. Each author’s profile looks and feels more like a separate website for their blog, giving creators control over their title page, logo, color palette and any use of multimedia embeds and stylization in their articles. While this may sound similar to early 2010s WordPress blogs with an added bonus of included analytics, what sets Bulletin apart from its competitors like Substack and Revue is it’s current business model.
Bulletin’s FAQ states that Facebook will not take a cut from creators at launch and lets each creator choose their own prices. For reference, Revue, recently acquired by Twitter, currently takes 5%, while Substack takes 10%. Facebook says creators will keep all the revenue from their subscribers and keep all the rights to their subscribers list as well as any content produced.
Subscription options range from gated content to commenting rights and private Facebook groups. Bulletin is integrated with Facebook Pages to enable distribution across multimedia formats. As explained by Bulletin:
We also want Bulletin writers to focus on publishing their work and growing their revenue. We’ll provide a robust package of third-party perks, including legal resources, design support, and we will be offering assistance with financial services through third parties as well. We respect the work of writers and want to be clear that anyone who partners with us will have complete editorial independence.
Niche newsletters have gained popularity as people seek more industry and topic specific articles. This has led platforms to find ways to lure more writers onto their platforms through features like adding the newsletter subscription button on your Twitter profile. By getting people to use one platform for their newsletter audience over another gives that platform an option to monetize the features like Twitter is doing with Super Follows and Ticketed Spaces. Facebook’s plan for Bulletin sounds promising, but time will tell how well it can compete against those already available for authors everywhere.
Currently, Bulletin features a small selection of independent creators and industry experts who are not exclusively bound to another platform. The list is almost exclusively US-based authors, featuring Adam Grant, Dr. Raven Baxter, Jessica Yellin, and Tan France among others. It is not yet clear when Bulletin plans on extending an invitation to other creators and the larger public.
Since Bulletin is still in beta test, they are not taking on any other writers, but it might be a good idea to keep an eye on how the platform will develop and evolve if you’re interested in bringing subscriptions to your audience and are looking for a hub for your content.
Read the full announcement of Bulletin by Facebook here.