Facebook announced its intention to launch several new streaming audio products. Following the success of other tech giants in the space, Facebook will be rolling out Live Audio Rooms, Soundbites, and Podcasts over the course of 2021. According to CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook wants to “treat audio as a first-class medium in the way that we treat photos and videos.” The first experiences will roll out on the Facebook App, with new products coming to Instagram and Messenger in the near future.
What streaming audio products are being developed?
First among the developing products is Live Audio Rooms for Facebook Groups. Live Audio Rooms began rolling out on June 23rd and can be discovered live via News Feed. This new product is now available to select users, enabling them to host conversations with other public figures, fans, and experts. Internet personalities, musical artists, and social entrepreneurs are expected to host rooms as this feature launches. Users can ask questions and leave comments just as they would from a live video on Facebook. Listeners can also enable live captions and request to participate in the discussion themselves.
Podcasts have also started becoming available to select users. Podcasts will be available in News Feed or from the podcasters’ pages. There will be an option to turn on “background mode,” allowing users to continue scrolling without being interrupted. Facebook’s current library includes over 1,200 podcasts, and that number is expected to grow as the feature continues to roll out. Later this year, podcasts will include an option for captions and the ability to select short clips to share with friends and followers. More than 170 million users are already connected to podcast pages, and 35 million users are members of fan groups around podcasts.
Soundbites will also roll out to a small group of users for testing over the next few months. Soundbites will allow users to create short-form audio clips capturing anecdotes, jokes, moments of inspiration, poems, and other forms of entertainment-based audio. Facebook is partnering with a number of creators, including comedians and motivational speakers, to showcase this new feature. An Audio Creator Fund will support emerging audio creators and help Facebook identify early feedback on the new product experience.
How will the Streaming Audio features affect the social landscape?
Each of these audio products is designed to strategically keep users on the Facebook platform for longer periods of time. Facebook’s attempt to expand their audio offering coincides with the rise in audio calls and audio messages on platforms such as WhatsApp and Messenger over the course of the pandemic. It will also allow Facebook to compete with companies that have similar offerings, including TikTok, Spotify, and Amazon’s Audible. New offerings are also a way for Facebook to compete with emerging audio platforms, such as Clubhouse.
What does this mean for advertisers?
While ads and sponsorships are not yet available across streaming audio, Facebook is exploring the possibility of monetizing these products in the near future. Facebook maintains they “have something unique to contribute to this space with our suite of existing monetization products, and will have more details to share as we get closer to bringing this product to market.”