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Facebook reportedly plans newsletter tools after explosion in popularity

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Aimed at independent writers and journalists

Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Facebook is planning to offer newsletter tools for independent journalists and writers, The New York Times reports. These are thought to include features for helping writers build a following using the social network, curate their email lists, and manage their paid subscriptions. Although work on the project is in its early stages, executives reportedly hope the features could launch as soon as this summer.

The news comes as interest in newsletters is booming. Newsletter service Substack boasted over 250,000 paying subscribers across its service as of September last year, and just this week Twitter acquired newsletter rival Revue. A number of high-profile journalists have left traditional publications to start up independent newsletters, lured by the promise of complete editorial control over their work and the ability to profit more directly from the subscription revenue it brings in.

Facebook has been attempting to better highlight news sources on its platform. Its News Tab is a section of the service featuring content from partnering media organizations, some of which are paid for the inclusion of their articles. While the News Tab has seen Facebook improve its relationship with traditional publishers, the newsletter tools are thought to be an attempt to court individual writers.

In a statement given to the NYT, a spokesperson for Facebook didn’t directly confirm the report, but said the company is working on ways to support independent journalists. “We want to do more to support the independent journalists and experts who are building businesses and audiences online,” Facebook’s vice president for global news partnerships Campbell Brown said. “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.”

Given the explosion in the popularity of newsletters, it was only a matter of time before Facebook started exploring the area. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg reportedly told his team to make the project a priority after noticing the trend. But jumping onto the bandwagon is unlikely to go down well with Facebook’s critics. As Kara Swisher put it in a tweet, “Does Facebook have one fresh idea or do they need to swipe them all?”