Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge
A new blog post from Meta marks the six-month anniversary of its newsletter publishing platform, Bulletin. Amid its plugs for the writers who publish work on the service, the company lets us know just how many publishers it has on board to help compete with companies like Substack and Twitter: 115.
Unlike Substack, the buzziest newsletter platform of the moment, you can’t just start writing with Bulletin — Meta has continued to add writers to the platform in batches instead of having a public sign-up process. While the number implies that the company isn’t doing a huge push to get people on the platform as fast as possible, that does appear to be on purpose, at least to some extent (there’s always the possibility it hasn’t been as successful at courting writers as it planned). If it wanted, Meta could probably get those numbers up by letting anyone sign up to write, but for now the company’s still promising to “thoughtfully increase the number of creators” over the next year.
In November, Substack announced that its writers had netted a million paid subscribers. Meta only gave numbers for free subscribers, saying “more than half of the creators on Bulletin have over 1,000 free email subscribers, with many having more than 5,000 or 10,000.” Even if most Bulletin publishers are closer to the 10,000 side, it doesn’t look like Substack will have its lunch eaten anytime soon. That’s likely a relief for Substack’s co-founder, who wrote a semi-snarky blog post welcoming the competition when Twitter bought competitor Revue and rumors were swirling about Facebook getting into the newsletter business.
While it’s probably too early to write off Bulletin over how the testing is going, it doesn’t seem like Meta’s seeing the same runaway success it has with some of its other clones. Its copy of Snapchat’s stories feature has become a massive part of Instagram, and Meta is just one of the companies trying to prove that Clubhouse’s social audio is more of a feature than an entire platform. With those features though, there’s less baggage — writers may have a hard time trusting a platform run by Meta, as its past efforts to work with publishers and journalists haven’t been terribly successful.