Facebook's standalone newsletter platform 'Bulletin' launches today

The social network is paying writers to take on Substack.

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Facebook has revealed its long-rumored standalone newsletter platform: Bulletin. Mark Zuckerberg announced the new project during a live audio room, saying that the project was a “response to what’s happening in the media ecosystem.”

Bulletin will host a mix of free and paid content. Some articles will be freely available, while others will be behind a paywall, with paid subscribers getting access to extra features like dedicated Facebook Groups or special badges.

Like newsletter upstart Substack, Facebook is reportedly paying some writers upfront for their participation. Zuckerberg also said Facebook won’t take a cut of writers’ earnings (at least initially), and will give them the ability to take their content and subscriber lists with them to a different platform.

Newsletters will have their own branding.

Interestingly, unlike previous journalism initiatives from Facebook, Bulletin primarily lives outside of the main Facebook app. The newsletter platform has its own website and branding, though it will take advantage of Facebook’s distribution tools. The newsletters will be integrated into author’s Facebook pages and readers can find the content in the news section of Facebook’s app. Authors will also have the ability to "complement their writing" with podcasts and audio rooms, Zuckerberg said.

The initial lineup of writers includes authors like Malcom Gladwell and Adam Grant, and faces from TV like former CNN White House correspondent Jessica Yellin and former ESPN correspondent Erin Andrews. For now, it’s not clear when Facebook will open up Bulletin beyond its initial slate of hand-picked writers. The company describes the program as a "closed beta," but Zuckerberg said more writers would be coming onboard in "the coming weeks," including people specializing in local news. Recode previously reported that the company was eager to avoid the kind of “political” writers that have caused some headaches for Substack.