Facebook is set to launch Bulletin, as a direct competition to Substack.
Social media giant Facebook is looking to launch its own newsletter product Bulletin, to allow journalists, writers and content creators grow an audience using Facebook’s ecosystem. It works much the same way as Substack; writers will cover a topic and build an audience interested in the topic, their audience signup and receive a regular stream of content in their inbox.
However, there is a catch. Unlike Substack that allows basically anyone onboard its newsletter platform, Facebook is adopting a vetting and invite only process. Bulletin will thus be limited to select writers that Facebook itself will recruit and pay.
It is not clear whether Facebook will take a cut out of subscription revenue generated by writers, although the company has previously suggested it will not take a cut off writers’ subscription revenue. For context, Substack takes 10 percent of its writers’ subscription fees, and Twitter’s Revue takes 5 percent.
Facebook is also offering writers a two-year deal with an option for the writer to opt out after the first year; Substack, by comparison, offers some writers a Substack Pro advance that covers their first year on the platform.
This is not Facebook’s first foray into the newsletter market. The company had previously tried to entice writers and journalists with Instant Articles. The product never really caught on and it has since been abandoned. Now, the company wants to use its 2.85 billion users worldwide, and its ability to target and segment people who might be receptive to reading and paying for a newsletter they’re interested as an advantage.
They are effectively pitching their ability to find communities at scale for the writers and journalists. Also, the product itself will exist outside the Facebook ecosystem, thus ensuring its independence from the Facebook brand which might be a critical factor for journalists.
What this means for African journalists and creatives
Substack is the market leader for newsletters globally and in Africa. The product essentially allows any creative, writer or journalist to grow an audience interested in whatever topic they are writing on. Facebook has a different value proposition for these creatives.
If Bulletin comes to Africa, it essentially allows African creatives to grow a community using Facebook's massive community building tools. They have the opportunity to grow organically, while still reaching new communities with little or no effort at all. They also get two streams of income; one from subscription payments and also the money Facebook will pay them.
For now though, the product will only be available in the USA. But for those African creatives and journalists Facebook decides to bring unto the platform, it will hold massive opportunities for them.