It’s easy to dunk on Facebook when it rolls out another copycat product, in this case, its newsletter publishing platform that goes head-to-head with Substack. Facebook’s new Bulletin site, as the breakdown below shows, shares many basic features of its rivals. And the social network’s tactic of spending big to draw early buzz, as it did with Facebook Watch—its attempt to compete with YouTube—can take a while to show traction. But it would be silly to write off Facebook’s foray into newsletters on those grounds alone.
First, Facebook is making it easy for writers and readers to give the new product a shot. It gave unspecified multi-year licensing deals to recruit well-known writers such as Malcolm Gladwell and “Tuesdays With Morrie” author Mitch Albom, as well as Tan France, star of Netflix’s “Queer Eye.” And it’s promising to suspend taking a cut of writers’ subscription sales until at least 2023, undercutting its rivals.
Both CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Chris Cox, Facebook’s chief product officer, have been closely involved in the product’s launch. Zuckerberg announced Bulletin’s inaugural stable of writers in a Facebook live audio room on Tuesday, a double plug for his recently launched competitor to social audio app Clubhouse.
And Cox, the senior Facebook executive who returned to the company last year, helped in the inception of the project, he said in an interview with The Information Tuesday.