Facebook bets big on audio, with new tools & podcast features
In a plotline as predictable as Tottenham Hotspur losing another sporting final, Facebook’s obviously now going full Clubhouse.
Facebook hasn’t just clubbed audio app Clubhouse; it’s also announced a whole new raft of audio features that will change how users consume their listenable content.
The platform has invested in audio creation tools, a social audio format called Soundbites, found a place to house Podcasts within the app and has started testing Live Audio Rooms on Facebook and Messenger.
Let’s dive in with an overview of each of Facebook’s new audio features.
Audio creation tools
Facebook is investing in audio creation tools that are powerful but also relatively easy to use. Users should be able to use AI to clean up recording with a lot of background noise, for example, as well as pick tracks from Facebook’s Sound Collection.
If Audio Creation Tools ends up being as good as Facebook promises, it should be a convenient free resource for content creators.
“We want everyone to have tools that are powerful enough for the pros, but intuitive and fun — like having a sound studio in your pocket.”
Soundbites will be short-form audio clips, a TikTok for your ears in some respects, and will feature high-end creators for now, but should be opened up to ordinary Facebook users too.
“These audio creation tools will enable you to create Soundbites — short-form, creative audio clips for capturing anecdotes, jokes, moments of inspiration, poems, and many other things we haven’t yet imagined.”
Users will be able to listen to podcasts within the Facebook app, both directly and when it’s in the background.
You’ll also be recommended podcasts to listen to based on your interests, while podcast creators will be able to harness Facebook’s massive user base to reach out to new audiences.
“Within the next few months, you’ll be able to listen to podcasts directly on the Facebook app — both while using the app or when the app is backgrounded.
And because it’s still hard to discover podcasts you like, we will help you easily find new podcasts and episodes based on your interests, comment on them and recommend them to your friends.”
Live Audio Rooms
Live Audio Rooms will be available to everyone around June or July, said Facebook.
Live Audio Rooms are due to be tested within Groups and public figures on the platform, and is supposed to serve the billions of people that use Groups each day. Live Audio Rooms will also be available on Messenger.
“We’ll test Live Audio Rooms in Groups, making it available to the 1.8 billion people using Groups every month and the tens of millions of active communities on Facebook.”
And, so we come to the Clubhouse-y bit.
Facebook is testing an app called Hotline that borrows several features from current flavour of the month, Clubhouse.
Although more video-centric, Hotline bears some resemblance to Clubhouse, Twitter Spaces and other audio-only chat room networks.
Despite the similarities with Clubhouse, Hotline has a variety of subtle differences, unlike say when Facebook duped Snapchat Stories for Instagram back in 2016.
The more nuanced take on Clubhouse is perhaps understandable since the app is still reasonably raw. The jury also remains out on whether its features would indeed have broad enough appeal for Facebook’s 2.7 billion users.
Marketers welcome a new audio dawn
Facebook have a clear plan to monetise their new raft of audio products, but the update didn’t explicitly mention advertising solutions. However, it did note that fans will be able to support their favourite content creators through Stars or donations.
After launch, creators will also be able to charge for access to a Live Audio Room via a subscription model or a single purchase. Soundbites will be supported via an Audio Creator Fund that sounds exciting but wasn’t fleshed out in any way by Facebook.
For marketers, this could open up a whole new world. Facebook’s audience numbers are in the billions, and audio could be a fresh new way for brands to make inroads.
Additionally, Facebook’s recommendation tool for podcasts could be a powerful way for marketers that have jumped on board to reach new audiences.
What about Clubhouse?
The social media big guns making an overdue more on audio could pull the rug from under Clubhouses’ feet, but there were already signs that things were slowing down for the audio app.
In February, Clubhouse was all the rage as Elon Musk, and Mark Zuckerberg took to the platform for a chat.
A new round of investment has valued the company at US$4 billion. Still, users appear to be feeling less enthusiastic about the platform than investors as the novelty factor has waned and discussions have become poorer in quality.
Given how hard it is for lightly-funded independents to make headway nowadays within the digital space, likely outcomes for Clubhouse include either vanishing into obsolescence or acquisition.
If SMK were betting folks, our money would be on either Microsoft or TikTok…