In recent years, an increasing number of independent writers have been making a living by connecting directly with their readers through various platforms. Facebook saw this as an opportunity and launched Bulletin, a set of publishing and subscription tools to support authors of creative content currently only available in the US. The goal of this new Facebook platform is to support creators and combine existing tools with something that could more directly support writing and audio content (from podcasts to live audio) all in one place. Bulletin includes support focused on content creation, monetization and audience growth.
Key features and integrations of this platform include:
Tools that allow authors to start their own publications and write longer articles
The content creator has an independent website under his own brand and can customize the name, logo and color palette of his publication. Creators can customize their articles using embedded multimedia content and other formatting options.
Sustainable business model
Content writers on the Bulletin platform will retain all subscription revenue for the duration of these partnerships and will be able to take the list of subscribers and content with them even after the partnership is terminated. Subscription payments are handled by Facebook Pay, allowing subscribers to pay by credit and debit card or PayPal account. Writers can offer a range of subscriber features, including content, commenting permission and Facebook groups that only subscribers can access. There will also be analytical tools to help writers understand their audience and increase subscribers over time. For starters, Bulletin offers a multi-year licensing agreement to give writers time to build relationships with readers.
Distribution (connecting audiences with a range of new and diverse voices of writers so they can delve deeper into topics they care about)
The content is suitable for distribution in Facebook news to make it easier for audiences to find and subscribe. It will include tools for distributing podcasts that will go with the long form of articles, even podcasts hosted by someone outside the platform, as well as additional audio features that will be available soon. Bulletin will integrate with Facebook pages to allow publishing in a variety of multimedia formats.
Connecting with the audience
To help writers nurture a community of readers, Facebook groups can be created, free of charge or just for subscribers. Within their groups, they will have the ability to have conversations with their subscribers and offer them content intended only for them. Writers will also have the opportunity to take advantage of existing Facebook tools such as Facebook Live or Live Audio Rooms to continue the discussion with their communities.
To help writers make discussions respectful and appropriate, comment moderation tools are also offered, such as the ability for writers to control who can comment or to completely exclude comments.
Likewise, writers have the possibility to use some more options, such as legal resources, design support and assistance with financial services.
The biggest benefit for now, by all accounts, is that Facebook won’t take a fee from writers, at least not initially and writers will retain full ownership of their work and subscriber list.
In a live talk about launching this platform, Mark Zuckerberg stressed that “it is aimed at empowering independent writers, helping them reach new audiences and empowering their business.” Facebook hired Malcolm Gladwell, Tan France and Erin Andrews, well-known American writers, to cover a wide range of topics, from sports and finance to science and medicine. Looking at the context of the emergence of this platform, it can be said that it is a direct response to the growing popularity of the Substack platform. Substack is used by a number of recognizable writers like Glenn Greenwald and Anne Helen Petersen, and they have retained talents with regular payouts.
Zuckerberg also stressed that this new platform is part of Facebook’s mission to continue developing such tools: “The goal of the entire platform is to ultimately support the millions of people involved in creative work.”
The platform was built separately from Facebook, but on the Facebook website. A Bulletin newsletter subscriber does not have to be a Facebook user, but Bulletin relies on Facebook’s infrastructure, including the aforementioned Facebook Pay for premium subscribers and groups that are only available to content subscribers. What is quite indicative is that Bulletin does not accept writers’ applications. Given the global influence of Facebook and the fact that Bulletin is under its leadership, the question arises as to why these particular writers were chosen to be on this new platform. Maybe Facebook wants to promote the ideas, attitudes and opinions of these selected authors within this platform? It is a new platform, so for now it is difficult to predict in which direction it will go and how it will develop, and whether it will eventually introduce the possibility of independent registration of writers.