Commentary

How Facebook's Newsletter Platform Threatens Publishers

Facebook expanded its budding email newsletter platform with the addition of more than 30 handpicked writers from journalism, politics, sports, health and cultural criticism this week. The newsletters are a threat to publishers in that they compete for a share of audience attention and consumer spending.

The newest writers on Bulletin, which Facebook launched last month as part of a broader initiative to provide creators with tools to monetize their content, include tennis star Sloane Stephens, Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafazi and relationship therapist Nedra Tawwab.

With the launch ofBulletin, Facebook entered the fray of cultivating relationships with content creators who help to drive traffic to social media and video-sharing sites. Google’s YouTube has offered video creators a way to earn a commission based on their viewership for years. Snapchat, TikTok and Facebook’s Instagram also pay people to create video content. Twitter moved into newsletter publishing with this year’s acquisition of Revue, and last month introduced a subscription service called Twitter Blue.
Bulletin competes most directly with Substack, the email newsletter platform that collects a 10% commission on paid subscriptions, though it also has set up special deals to pay writers seed money to get their publications off the ground.
Facebook doesn’t collect a commission on subscriptions, but there is a possibility it may do so eventually.

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It appears the main goal is build a stable of writers for Bulletin that support Facebook’s goal to keep people engaged on its platforms. From there, it can gather more information about their personal interests to help its advertisers with audience targeting.

Facebook already competes with print and digital publishers for media dollars, but it’s less clear how big its subscription business will become. It does have a powerful platform will billions of users worldwide and the ability to cross-promote its various services including newsletter subscriptions.
It’s likely only a small percentage of Facebook users who expect to receive free content will pony up for a paid newsletter, though there is an opportunity for growth before “subscription fatigue” sets in and the market matures.
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