Facebook is hoping users will be all ears for its new push into podcasts and social audio.
Starting Monday (June 21), select podcasts will be available to Facebook users in the U.S. In addition, Facebook’s Live Audio Rooms feature — a copycat of Clubhouse’s live audio-chat app — will be available to public figures and select Facebook Groups in the United States., initially on iOS, coming after CEO Mark Zuckerberg last week staged the first test of Live Audio Rooms in the U.S.
On the podcast front, the initial slate of shows launching on Facebook will include “The Joe Budden Podcast” (whose host recently fired two friends and commentators from the podcast); “Carefully Reckless” with Jess Hilarious from the Black Effect Podcast Network and iHeartRadio; “LadyGang,” with Keltie Knight, Becca Tobin and Jac Vanek, from PodcastOne; and Nicaila Matthews Okome’s “Side Hustle Pro.”
Users can listen to podcasts while browsing Facebook, via a miniplayer or full-screen player experience with playback options, including with their phone display turned off. People can listen to select podcasters on their Facebook Pages, as well as in News Feed. The company also has a pact with Spotify to integrate Spotify’s audio player in the Facebook app.
Later this summer, Facebook plans to roll out additional features, like captions and the ability to create and share short clips of a podcast, Fidji Simo, head of Facebook App, wrote in a blog post announcing the launch. “Over time, we’ll build more unique social experiences around podcasts that make use of Facebook’s best interactive and personalized features,” she said.
Meanwhile, Live Audio Rooms is Facebook’s attempt to latch onto on the audio-chat craze, with a set of features resembling Clubhouse and Twitter Spaces.
Facebook’s Live Audio Rooms allow up to 50 speakers and an unlimited number of listeners. Public figures can host Live Audio Rooms and invite anyone on Facebook to be a speaker, whether they’re friends, followers or other public figures with a verified badge. (Speakers can be set in advance or selected from the audience of listeners during the stream.)
When listening to a Facebook Live Audio conversation, users will be notified when friends or followers join. It lets you turn on live captions, “raise a hand” to request to join the conversation, and use reactions to participate in real time.
Facebook has teamed with several celebs, artists, athletes and creators on upcoming Live Audio Rooms. Those include electronic music artist Tokimonsta, Seattle Seahawks QB Russell Wilson, producer, journalist and activist Rosa Clemente, esports player Omareloff (a Facebook Gaming partner) and social entrepreneur Amanda Nguyen. Others are scheduled to include D Smoke, Kehlani, Reggie Watts, Lisa Morales Duke, Dr. Jess, Bobby Berk, Tina Knowles-Lawson, Joe Budden and DeRay Mckesson.
There’s a monetization piece of Live Audio Rooms: Listeners can send public figures who are hosting an audio chat Stars (Facebook’s virtual livestream gifting currency), which bumps those listeners up to the “front row.” The “front row” is a special section that highlights people who send Stars, so hosts can recognize supporters. Users can purchases Stars starting at $1.99 for a pack of 95; Facebook pays livestreamers one penny for every Star they receive.
In Facebook Groups, admins can control whether moderators, group members or other admins can create a Live Audio Room. In public Groups, both members and visitors can listen to the Live Audio Room, but in private Groups, only members can listen. Live Audio Room hosts can also select a nonprofit or fundraiser to support during their conversation, and listeners and speakers can directly donate.
Launching later in 2021: Soundbites, Facebook’s feature that will let creators share short-form, audio clips. According to Simo, Facebook also plans to soon start testing other audio products, including a listening hub in the app and background audio listening for videos.