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Facebook recruits dozens of writers and jumps into newsletters with new Bulletin product


By Brian Stelter, CNN Business

A version of this article first appeared in the “Reliable Sources” newsletter. You can sign up for free right here.

Facebook is rolling out its new newsletter product, called Bulletin, on Tuesday, according to sources involved with the initiative.

Bulletin is Facebook’s version of Substack: A way to create and distribute both free and paid newsletters. FB has recruited dozens and dozens of writers, the sources said, across categories like sports, science, health, and finance.

According to Recode’s Peter Kafka, who wrote about the plan earlier in the month, “Facebook is deliberately trying to avoid political (read: divisive and popular) writers and subjects on Bulletin.” Substack already has more than enough of those.

The initial wave of Bulletin writers and their newsletters will be introduced on Tuesday. Participants are being paid to jump-start their newsletters with the expectation that they’ll build up paying fan bases over time, in an elongated version of Substack’s “Pro” program. Some writers have already been stockpiling columns and ideas for weeks. But they’ve largely been in the dark about the bigger-picture plan, and some told me they’re looking forward to finding out who else is participating.

One appealing aspect, as Kafka wrote, is Facebook’s “massive reach, with 2.85 billion users worldwide, and its ability to target and segment people who might be receptive to reading and paying for a newsletter that covers topics they’re interested in.”

>> Axios reporter Sara Fischer recently wrote that Bulletin is an example of Big Tech “racing to build and acquire new tools that will help them compete with smaller upstarts for the attention of individual creators…”

>> Twitter is also promoting its newsletter efforts, through the acquisition of Revue earlier this year and a deal with Eric Holthaus to provide a weather service…

>> Callum Jones writing for The Times of London:Email is back and the social media giants are taking note…”

Facebook scores victory against FTC

Facebook won a key battle, but not the war, in federal court on Monday. A judge dismissed the FTC’s antitrust complaint against FB by “saying the agency had failed to provide evidence for its claim that the social media giant holds a monopoly in social networking,” Brian Fung reported for CNN Business.

But the judge, James Boasberg, also signaled that “the issues with the FTC’s lawsuit could be addressed if the agency filed an amended complaint.” The FTC said it is “determining” next steps. Lawmakers in both parties said antitrust reform is urgently needed.

>> “In a separate decision,” Fung wrote, “Boasberg dismissed entirely a similar antitrust suit against Facebook brought by dozens of state governments, saying they waited too long to challenge Facebook’s Instagram and WhatsApp acquisitions, which were completed in 2012 and 2014, respectively…”

Facebook joins the $1 trillion club

In the immediate wake of Boasberg dismissing the FTC case, Facebook “joined the ranks of companies valued over a trillion dollars as of today’s market close,” The Verge’s Mitchell Clark noted. This makes Facebook “the fifth U.S. company to surpass the feat, joining the likes of Apple, Microsoft, Amazon and Google parent Alphabet,” USA Today’s Jessica Menton wrote…

>> Politico tech lobbying/influence reporter Emily Birnbaum tweeted: “So weird & wild that i have been covering the top tech companies in the world for years and have never once experienced the government actually punish, regulate or even significantly change the practices of any of them. Crazy how power works!”

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