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Facebook Culls Podcast Offering

Facebook is shutting down its podcast service next month, barely a year after its launch.

After entering the market like a bat out of hell, the Meta bigwigs at the top of Mark Zuckerberg’s empire have decided to pull out of podding and focus on other areas.

According to Bloomberg, Facebook will scrap its podcasts from June 3 – while new episode uploads have already ceased.

Why is it making these changes?

Facebook is making those changes because audio no longer figures on its list of ‘meaningful experiences’ that it wants to focus on.

Meta Spokesperson, via Bloomberg

“We’re constantly evaluating the features we offer so we can focus on the most meaningful experiences.

The Verge also managed to get a glimpse into the inner workings of Facebook and found that Facebook has decided to ‘simplify’ its audio tools.

Adelaide Coronado, Meta Spokesperson, via The Verge

“After a year of learning and iterating on audio-first experiences, we’ve decided to simplify our suite of audio tools on Facebook. We’re constantly evaluating the features we offer so we can focus on the most meaningful experiences.”

Still, that won’t be much comfort to the creators who went all-in on Facebook to promote their podcasts and reach hundreds, thousands or millions more people.

The great audio cull has begun

Facebook has a habit of jumping on the bandwagon, only to jump off it when it realises it’s not headed in the right direction.

Which, to be fair, is not necessarily a bad thing.

Egyptian diplomat and former United Nations secretary-general Boutros Boutros-Ghali once quipped, “Only stupid people don’t change their minds.”

When it thought that audio was going to be the new video, it quickly launched podcasts, soundbites, audio hubs and Live Audio Rooms. Here’s a quick rundown on how those products are going:

  • Podcasts were launched in June 2021 with partners that included The Joe Budden Podcast, Jess Hilarious of Carefully Reckless and LadyGang. Podcasts let users discover and consume audio from within the Facebook app, promising extra monetisation and discovery. You know what happened next.
  • Soundbites were supposed to give additional discovery and engagement benefits to podders who wanted to create short clips of their best bits and share them on Facebook. It’s also gone to the wall.
  • Audio hubs are going the same way as podcasts and soundbites. Audio Hubs was supposed to be a destination for users to discover endless great content. It was designed as a great place to boost discovery and was going to include personalised recommendations and show popular audio content from across Facebook.
  • Live Audio Rooms is the one product that looks like it’ll survive the cull. However, it will be moved into Facebook Live – so now users will have the ability to go live with audio or audio and video. Live Audio Rooms was Facebook’s answer to Clubhouse’s meteoric rise, in which groups of up to 50 speakers can discuss whatever their heart desires – to be listened to by an unlimited number of people.

Podcasts sacrificed on the altar of Reels

Instead of audio, Meta will now look to pour its energy into Reels. Reels are its short-form video answer to TikTok and are available on Instagram and Facebook. In a Q1 2022 earnings call, Facebook revealed that 20% of the time people spend on Insta is on Reels – which makes it an impossibly important part of the business. In terms of monetisation, it should be noted that Facebook expects it to improve in the future.

Additionally, video accounts for 50% of time spent on Facebook. Within this context, it’s not a huge surprise to see focus pulled from audio. We can expect to see Meta putting considerable resources into its recommendation AI.

Mark Zuckerberg, CEO, Facebook, via Tech Crunch

“The AI that we’re building is not just a recommendation system for short-form video, but a discovery engine that can show you all of the most interesting content that people have shared across our systems.”

As part of TikTok’s breathtaking popularity is the strength of its recommendation system, it’s no surprise that Zuckerberg is pumping money into his own research.

YouTube – an audio alternative

For brands who create podcasts and want a popular social network to put them on, YouTube looks promising. YouTube has plans to bring podcasts to the platform and will monetise them via audio ads.

YouTube has the highest monthly usage of any social media app and is working on a podcast discovery page within the app.

Marketers could do a lot worse than exploring how the video giant can help boost discovery and grow an audience through audio.

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