Exclusive: Facebook selects local journalists paid in US$5 million newsletter recruitment push
Facebook Inc has chosen 25 local independent journalists to be paid out of a US$5 million pot to write for its newsletter site Bulletin through multiyear deals, the company told Reuters on Thursday.
Facebook launched Bulletin in June as a standalone newsletter subscription service with free and paid articles and podcasts. It is the social media giant’s attempt to compete in the booming email newsletter trend led by companies like Substack.
Facebook has previously announced about 40 writers on Bulletin and says there will be more than 100 on the platform “by the fall.” A spokeswoman declined to say how many subscribers Bulletin has at present.
The company, which in announced in April that its local news investment for Bulletin would prioritize reporters working in news deserts and covering communities of color, said the selected writers include those covering immigrant communities in Atlanta, climate issues in North Carolina’s Coastal Plain and insights from Latino business leaders in Florida.
The Facebook spokeswoman said Bulletin’s new local writers, who report on areas in more than a dozen U.S. states, include some of the first to monetize their Bulletin content through paywalls. She said the writers would keep all of their subscription revenue from these partnerships.
High-profile reporters and writers have left major media companies in the last year to publish their work on sites like Substack and Medium, which have thousands of content creators and paying subscribers. Twitter Inc, which has also been rolling out new features for creators to build audiences and make money on its social media site, acquired newsletter platform Revue in January.
The local journalists were chosen in an application process for which Facebook partnered with the International Center for Journalists and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. Facebook said the writers will have access to an intensive course for journalists aiming to build a sustainable independent business.
The world’s largest social network has long had a strained relationship with the news industry. The company says it has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in the sector in recent years, though critics argue these contributions hardly compensate for the revenue lost by publishers as big tech companies gobbled up the digital ad market.
In February, following a showdown with the Australian government over paying news outlets for content, Facebook pledged to invest US$1 billion in the news industry globally over the next three years.
(Reporting by Elizabeth Culliford in London; Editing by Matthew Lewis)