On the newsletter side of the media ecosystem, it looks like everybody wants a piece of the action. Facebook joined the fray on Tuesday when it announced the launch of its newsletter product called Bulletin.
The product was built outside of the Facebook app to take on newsletter giants Substack, Twitter-owned Revue, and other newsletter products.
According to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, this development is part of efforts to power the creator economy and support independent creatives.
“The goal here across the company is to support people making a living doing creative work. We’re trying to elevate and support those writers and creators who are already producing high-quality work. I think Bulletin can be another great tool to have in their toolbox,” he said during the announcement via Facebook’s Live Audio Rooms.
Unlike Substack with its 10% commission on paid subscription revenue and Revue with 5%, Bulletin won’t take any commission on what writers make from paid subscriptions (for now, at least). This is expected to give Facebook a competitive advantage even though Facebook’s relationship with users over the past few years has been bumpy.
Though writers can share their work on other platforms, Bulletin will automatically leverage Facebook tools for subscription and distribution and writers will be eligible to distribute their work to Facebook News for more reach. Bulletin writers will enjoy 100% control of their content and mailing lists and can move them to a new platform whenever they want.
Though Bulletin is still in beta, anybody can go ahead to subscribe through their Facebook account or email. The platform is currently only open to select writers like bestselling author Malcolm Gladwell who writes the Oh, MG letter, Tan France who writes his reality as a queer person and a few other top writers and academics.
The reception of Substack in Africa has been great, especially in Nigeria where emerging and established writers are using it to share their work with family, friends and fans who could be free or paid users as the case may be. Companies are also using it for content management and email marketing.
A popular Substack newsletter is AfroBeat Intelligence by Joey Akan which captures the Nigerian music scene through the lens of top players in the industry and has gathered tens of thousands of subscribers. There’s also Bamboo, a fintech startup that uses Substack to publish and send content to its users. Revue, on the other hand, has not made a lot of buzz on the continent.
Can Bulletin shake off the popularity of Substack when it finally goes out of beta? We’ll see.