Meta closing down its Substack competitor

The forum will shut down “by early 2023.” The writing for Bulletin has been on the wall for a while. Meta will be shutting down its newsletter forum, Bulletin, “by early 2023,” according to a spokesperson Morgan White.

The New York Times states that Meta sent creators on the forum an email letting them know that the service would disappear.

Meta announced Bulletin in June 2021, listing it as a platform “focused on empowering autonomous writers, helping them achieve new audiences and power their businesses.” The idea was similar to Substack; readers could subscribe to newsletters from writers they liked, and writers could charge money for their work and other perks. Some writers who signed onto the service included Malcolm Gladwell, Tan France, and a host of independent creators. In addition, Meta promised that it wouldn’t be taking a cut from subscriptions until 2023.

There have been signals that the platform wasn’t top-rated. Meta released a report saying that there were “more than 115 publications” on the service and that over half of the creators had “over 1,000 free email subscribers.” Earlier this year, the company told employees that it was shifting its focus away from news and Bulletin and would instead focus on “building a more robust Creator economy.” 

The company has also been cutting back on some projects as the economy slumps, with CEO Mark Zuckerberg warning employees that the next year or two would be a “pretty intense period.” As a result, it’s shut down experiments like Tuned, a messaging app for couples, and has reportedly scaled back its work on new exploratory products. The company still has some big bets, but they’re in places where it thinks it could make a lot of money: mainly short-form video and the metaverse. 

Meta says it’s not entirely giving up on writers. While this off-platform creation itself is ending, we remain determined to support these and other Creators’ success and expansion on our platform.” The company also says that Bulletin lets it “learn about the association between Creators and their audiences and how to improve support them in building their community on Facebook.

Substack users range from journalists to experts to large media sites. Among the high-profile authors to have used the platforms are:

  • Pulitzer-Prize-winning journalist and author Glenn Greenwald.
  • Culture critic Anne Helen Petersen.
  • Music essayist Robert Christgau.
  • Food writer Alison Roman.

The New York Times columnist Mike Isaac claimed in 2019 that some of these institutions see newsletters as a more traditional means to support readers through a more direct connection with writers. However, in 2020, The New Republic said there was an absence of local news newsletters, especially in contrast to many national-level political newsletters.

As of late 2020, many journalists and reporters were coming to the platform, driven partly by the long-term decline in traditional media. The New Yorker said that while “Substack has advertised itself as a friendly home for journalism, few of its newsletters publish original reporting; the majority offer personal writing, opinion pieces, research, and analysis.” In addition, it described Substack’s content moderation policy as “lightweight,” with rules against “harassment, threats, spam, pornography, and calls for violence; the founders make moderation decisions.