But the newsletter boom has cooled off in recent months. Substack laid off 14% of its staff in June and paused additional fundraising plans, and pundits began to question Bulletin’s long-term strategy of signing big creator deals while avoiding the type of political messages that attract readers, controversy and subscriptions.
“Facebook will stick to its apolitical agenda and create an incredibly boring product that no one cares about, then quietly put it on the back burner,” said Substack newsletter creator Ryan Broderick. written last year about the Bulletin, “or, they will give up on keeping it apolitical, respond to what works best among their users, and immediately turn to right-wing media. Can’t wait to see what comes first!”
Meta said it regularly evaluates products to ensure they are focused on giving consumers a meaningful experience on the platform and said it will pay out all remaining contracts in full. Newsletter creators will retain full control of their subscriber mailing lists and can choose to archive all of their content or move it to a new platform of their choice. Creators will be able to post until early January, and the site will remain in read-only mode for a short time after that, Meta said.
“Bulletin allowed us to learn more about the relationship between creators and their audiences and how to better support them in building their community on Facebook,” the company said in a statement. “As this off-platform product itself comes to an end, we remain committed to supporting the success and growth of these creators and others on our platform.”
Meta sought to cultivate content around sports, fashion and the environment which he characterized as apolitical. He has signed six-figure deals with high-profile writers such as journalist Malcolm Gladwell, activist Malala Yousafzai, reality TV star Tan France and sports journalist Erin Andrews, paying them a flat fee to create content on the platform until 2024. Meta also announced a commitment of $5 million to support 25 selected local journalists.
Despite some writers refusing to work with Substack following complaints that the platform fails to moderate misinformation and hate speech, popular celebrities and sports figures – as well as contrarian influencers such that Bari Weiss and Glenn Greenwald – chose Substack over Bulletin. These include actor Nick Offerman, former NBA star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, singer-songwriter Patti Smith, musical artists Tegan and Sara, and writers George Saunders and Salmon Rushdie.
“The newsletter was worth a try, and we’re glad Meta did it,” said Hamish McKenzie, co-founder and managing editor at Substack. “We know there were people on the Bulletin team who cared deeply about the project and helped the writers. There were many great writers using Bulletin, and we hope they will continue their newsletters. If they’re looking for a great home where they have complete ownership and control of their destiny, then Substack is here for them and we’d love to help take them to the next level.
In addition to providing publishing tools, Meta also offered third-party services to the Bulletin’s creators, including legal resources, design assistance, and editing assistance. “Our unique ability to help talented people find and connect with the audiences and markets they need to thrive gives independent journalism a greater opportunity to thrive,” said Campbell Brown, vice president of information partnerships at Meta, and Anthea Watson Strong, product manager for information, written last year.
In June, Facebook closed its podcast business and merged its abbreviated Live Audio feature, which was meant to compete with Clubhouse, into Facebook Live.