Meta has provided an end-of-year update on its Bulletin newsletter platform, which it first launched back in April as part of a push to facilitate more connection between creators and subscribers by using the company’s massive reach to scale newsletter growth.
And while it hasn’t become a key competitor for Substack and other newsletter providers as yet, Meta has been making steady progress, and it could yet become a key consideration for writers in various niches.
As explained by Meta:
“When we launched Bulletin, we began with a small group of voices to learn how to best support their work. Six months later, we have more than 115 publications on Bulletin, and we’re energized by all the ways this first group has made meaningful connections with their audiences. This is the start of our overall effort to connect people in a more significant way to content from a broader set of sources and experts.”
In terms of growth specifics, Meta says that more than half of the creators on Bulletin now have over 1,000 free email subscribers, ‘with many having more than 5,000 or 10,000’. Which is reasonably solid – but then again, for a platform that connects almost 3 billion people, you would think that the growth rates would have significant potential for far higher reach than this. That’s essentially the promise of the option, and by comparison, these numbers would also suggest that around half of Bulletin writers have fewer that 1k subscribers. Which is not amazing, but is still early days for the option.
One of the most interesting use cases for the Bulletin platform is facilitating local news, and providing an outlet for local news providers, many of whom have been shut down or otherwise significantly impacted by the COVID downturn. If Bulletin can provide a more equitable pathway for local journalists and updates, that could make it an essential tool for many users, and Meta does highlight the ways in which local news providers are utilizing its suite of engagement tools to maximize connection.
“Experimentation with engagement tools across Facebook and Instagram have led to subscriber growth and deepened reader connections, particularly in places where appetite for relevant coverage is high. The Kerr County Lead, a local news publication in Kerr County, Texas, hosts Facebook Live videos every weekday to engage its local community of readers.”
Meta added 25 local news journalists to its stable of Bulletin writers back in August, whom it’s funding through the initial period of their establishment. And again, with so many local newsrooms being forced to shut down in recent years, there could be major opportunity for the platform to become a key hub for such, if it can provide a viable pathway for local news writers to make money from their coverage, while also highlighting relevant news content to Facebook users in feeds.
Which seems like the most viable pathway for Bulletin’s growth. Other newsletter platforms offer similar revenue and connection capacity, but no other platform has the reach that Facebook does, especially when you consider the usage of The Social Network for local community groups and local news discussion.
Bulletin could essentially become the replacement for your local news publication - though it does still seem a way off from this being a significant, viable element.
So what’s next for the platform? Meta says that, over the coming year, it will ‘thoughtfully increase’ the number of creators on Bulletin as it improves the experience ahead of future expansion.
“This will include a number of different topics and types of content, from video-first and audio-focused creators to long- and short-form writers, and more.”
Meta’s also adding in new tools and third-party integrations to enable more creative and research options (including a partnership with LexisNexis for data insights), while it’s also providing free educational opportunities for Bulletin creators to help them build their own newsletter businesses.
Tying your opportunities to Meta does come with a level of risk, with Meta changing the rules on creators and businesses in the past to limit their post reach, and shift their incentives based on its own engagement focus at any given time. But it could still be a viable pathway to building a newsletter business, with the reach and connection afforded by Meta’s networks opening up significant opportunity – if it can get the Bulletin offering right.
You can read Bulletin’s end of year review here.