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Facebook

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

Go deeper

Updated 2 hours ago - Health

CDC: Vaccinated people in COVID hotspots should resume wearing masks

CDC director Rochelle Walensky and top infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci at a Senate HELP committee hearing. Photo: J. Scott Applewhite-Pool/Getty Images

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued updated guidance on Tuesday recommending that vaccinated people wear masks in indoor, public settings if they are in parts of the U.S. with substantial to high transmission, among other circumstances.

Why it matters: The guidance, a reversal from recommendations made two months ago, comes as the Delta variant continues to drive up case rates across the country. Millions of people in the U.S. — either by choice or who are ineligible — remain unvaccinated and at risk of serious infection.

Olympics medal tracker

Data: International Olympic Committee; Chart: Connor Rothschild/Axios
Bryan Walsh, author of Future
3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

U.S. students fell 4 to 5 months behind during pandemic

An empty classroom in Pinole, Calif. Photo: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Elementary school students in the U.S. ended the school year four to five months behind their expected level of academic achievement, according to a new report.

Why it matters: Months of school closures and often inferior remote education eroded what schoolchildren would have learned since the pandemic began, and caused some to go backwards.