Facebook has unwrapped Bulletin, its newsletter/blog initiative for independent writers aimed at competing with Substack and other rivals. Featured partners for the “closed beta” test of the service in the U.S. include best-selling author Malcolm Gladwell and sports reporter Erin Andrews.
Facebook won’t take a cut of subscription revenue that Bulletin partners earn, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a Facebook Live Audio Rooms session Tuesday announcing the launch. “Bulletin writers are going to keep all of their subscription revenue, we’re not gonna take any [cut],” he said. Zuckerberg earlier this month said the social giant won’t take a share of creator revenue — for any of its products — until 2023. For now, Facebook is not currently accepting new creators to Bulletin.
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“The goal here is to support millions of people doing creative work,” Zuckerberg said. By contrast, Substack charges a 10% fee of subscription revenue, while Revue, a startup acquired by Twitter, takes a 5% cut.
Initially, Facebook is paying each of the Bulletin writers under multiyear licensing deals “to give these writers time to build a relationship with their readers,” according to a blog post by Campbell Brown, VP of global news partnerships, and Anthea Watson Strong, product manager for news. Bulletin writers will keep all of their subscription revenue for the length of their partnership with Facebook — and will have the ability to take their subscriber lists and content with them if they choose to leave Bulletin.
The first group of Bulletin partners, in addition to Gladwell and Andrews, includes Tan France (of Netflix’s “Queer Eye”), economist Tyler Cowen, molecular biologist Dr. Raven Baxter, journalist Jessica Yellin, author Mitch Albom, cookbook author Dorie Greenspan and former ABC News correspondent Ron Claiborne.
Both Gladwell’s and Andrews’s Bulletin newsletters are currently free. Gladwell’s newsletter, “Oh, MG,” promises readers, “Malcolm Gladwell answers your burning questions… and his own.” Andrews’ newsletter has the typographically unorthodox title “the rEAl dEAl with Erin Andrews.”
Eventually, Facebook hopes to bring an array of local journalists to Bulletin, Zuckerberg said. “Part of what I think we can try to do here is make a real investment in local news,” he said.
For the closed beta launch of Bulletin, Facebook said it looked for creators “with a diverse range of topics, perspectives and disciplines,” including writers and academics, industry experts and public figures. The company said it defines “independent creators” as individual journalists or subject matter experts “who are not contractually bound to write exclusively for a platform or publisher.”
“Discover fresh voices. Tune into new conversations. Welcome to Bulletin,” says the company’s site for the newsletter platform.
Some of the Facebook Bulletin content will be locked behind a paywall, giving subscribers access to premium benefits (like subscriber-only Facebook groups and badges), while other newsletters are free.
Brown, a former CNN host and NBC News correspondent who joined Facebook in early 2017, was on the audio livestream with Zuckerberg to talk about Bulletin. “We’ve really seen this trend emerge over the last couple of years where writers and reporters who are really knowledgeable about certain subjects — from science to sports — are finding there’s an audience out there that really does want to go deeper with them on the subjects that they’re experts in,” said Campbell.
Facebook built Bulletin on a separate website “to enable creators to grow their audience in ways that are not exclusively dependent on the Facebook platform,” the company said. “Branding on Bulletin publications will be creator-first, and readers will not need to be logged into Facebook to read free content.”
Subscription payments for Bulletin will be made through Facebook Pay, allowing subscribers to pay with a credit card, debit card or PayPal account. Each Bulletin creator will have a standalone website under their own brand, and will be able to customize their publication’s name, logo and color palette.
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