Facebook is working on newsletter tools for journalists and writers, according to three people familiar with the company’s plans, a move toward offering more services to independent writers as the social network jumps into the fast-growing newsletter space.
The product, which is still in its earliest stages, could be similar to those of other newsletter companies, according to the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to do so publicly. That could include features to help writers build their followers on Facebook and curate their email lists, the people said, as well as paid subscription tools to help journalists make money from their newsletters.
The effort would be part of the Facebook Journalism Project, which is managed in New York, the people said. Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, is supportive of the initiative, said the people, and has encouraged a team of dozens of engineers to pursue it.
Newsletters are booming, as publishers and start-ups seek new ways to attract and support independent writers. Substack, a start-up founded in 2017, has attracted a growing audience with software that allows writers to publish and distribute both free and paid emailed newsletters to their followers. In return, the company receives a nominal cut of the writer’s subscription sales. Earlier this week, Twitter announced it had purchased Revue, another newsletter software service.
“We want to do more to support the independent journalists and experts who are building businesses and audiences online,” said Campbell Brown, vice president for global news partnerships at Facebook. “We’re exploring ways to help them benefit from the news products we’ve built, like Facebook News and subscriptions, while also building new tools to complement what journalists already find useful.”
The newsletter project is part of Facebook’s plan to provide more legitimate news sources. The company has spent the past few years building up the News Tab, a specific destination inside of the Facebook app that displays stories from publishers like The Washington Post, Bloomberg, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. It has also pledged to donate more than $100 million to publishers, an effort to rejuvenate the ailing local news industry.
Facebook executives believe that while they have improved relations with major publishers, the company had not yet developed a way to court individual writers to publishing their work on Facebook. Mr. Zuckerberg noticed the growing trend of independent journalists monetizing their work through newsletter services, and urged the team to make the project a priority.
It is unclear when the product will see the light of day, though executives hope to release it by this summer.
Kevin Roose contributed reporting.
— Mike Isaac