Apr 19, 2021 - Technology

Dollars flow to live audio as moderation problems loom

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser / Axios

The social audio craze that exploded during pandemic-driven lockdowns looks like it is here to stay, thanks to big investments from Silicon Valley.

Driving the news: Clubhouse said Sunday it closed a new Series C funding, valuing the buzzy live audio app at $4 billion, sources tell Axios. That's an astonishing number for an app that's still in beta and has no revenue.

  • The round is being led by Andrew Chen at Andreessen Horowitz. Other participants include DST Global, Tiger Global, and Elad Gil.

Meanwhile, Facebook is looking to roll out a suite of new audio products on Monday, Recode reports.

  • Facebook is reportedly eyeing a podcast product, a live audio app that could rival Clubhouse, and an asynchronous voice messaging feature that lets users leave voice messages for one another on their News Feeds.
  • Spotify last month acquired Betty Labs, an app developer, and a live audio app developed by Betty Labs called Locker Room. Axios' Dan Primack reported that the deal was worth around $80 million and Spotify paid in cash.
  • Twitter's audio feature Spaces is reportedly soon coming to desktop.
  • Discord last month debuted Stage Channel, a feature for audio-only chat rooms.
  • Apple could well deliver its own audio news as part of a product launch event Tuesday. The company declined to comment ahead of the event, but a paid podcast product has long been rumored.

Yes, but: The audio craze, still in its infancy, is already beginning to reckon with the difficulties of moderating voice at scale.

What to watch: Big social media platforms are increasingly finding ways to offload content moderation onto users or third parties as they push more aggressively into new areas, like voice, that are difficult to monitor in real time.

The bottom line: Tech giants already struggling with moderation challenges are jumping headfirst into audio anyway because, for the moment at least, it is hot.

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