Jun 21, 2021 - Technology

Facebook doubles down on audio


Facebook on Monday rolled out long-awaited audio features, including a live audio product and a new tool that allows users to listen to their favorite podcasts while browsing its app.

Why it matters: Facebook is in a race with several of its peers for creators' attention in the audio space, including Twitter, Spotify and Clubhouse.

Details: Facebook's new "Live Audio Rooms" feature debuted Monday in the U.S. users to connect with their friends or public figures via real-time audio chats. It closely mimics the app Clubhouse or Twitter Spaces.

  • For now, public figures and select Facebook groups can create Live Audio Rooms on iOS. They can invite anyone who follows them, other public figures with a verified badge, and listeners in the room to join as a speaker. 
  • Live Audio Room hosts will be able to select a nonprofit or existing fundraiser to support during their conversation that listeners can donate to in real-time. The rooms can hold up to 50 speakers and an indefinite amount of listeners.
  • If a listener enjoys a conversation, they can offer support to speakers by sending virtual "stars" to public figures, who are paid acknowledgments. Listeners who buy stars can be bumped to the "front row" of a conversation, so their name displays first among the list of people tuning into the conversation.

Between the lines: Facebook is also rolling out a new podcasting feature. It includes an initial slate of podcasts from podcasters like Joe Budden and Nicaila Matthews Okome. It says it will add more podcasts in coming weeks.

  • Users can listen to select podcasters on their Facebook Pages, as well as in News Feed. They'll be accessible while users are browsing Facebook via a miniplayer that will still work even if the phone's display is turned off.

The big picture: Audio has become a table stakes feature for tech giants, following an audio explosion during the pandemic.

Go deeper: Big Tech moves in on the creator wars

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