In April, Facebook announced a series of planned investments in new audio products, including a live audio competitor Clubhouse as well as new support for podcasts. Today, Facebook is officially launching these products with the launch of Live Audio Rooms in the US on iOS, starting with public figures and some Facebook groups, and the launch of a first set of US podcast partners.
The company tells us that live audio rooms will become available to any public figure or verified creator in the United States who is in good standing with Facebook and uses either a profile or the new Facebook Pages experience on iOS. For Facebook groups, the feature launches with “dozens of groups,” we are told.
Both products will become more widely available in the coming weeks and months, as more people, podcasts, and groups are integrated. Meanwhile, 100% of Facebook users in the US will be able to listen to live audio rooms and podcasts starting this week.
Much like Clubhouse or similar audio apps, Facebook’s live audio rooms offer a standard set of features.
Event hosts appear as rounded profile icons at the top of the screen, while listeners appear in the lower half of the screen as smaller icons. The active speaker is indicated by an illuminated ring. If verified, a check mark will also appear next to its name.
There are also options to enable live captions, a ‘raise your hand’ tool to ask to speak, and tools to share the room with others on Facebook, via items such as the news feed or group posts.
Facebook does things a little differently than others in some places. For example, hosts can invite people to join them as speakers before the session, or they can choose listeners during the flow to join them. In each session, there can be up to 50 speakers and there is no limit on the number of listeners, Facebook says.
During the session, users will also be notified when friends or subscribers join the chat.
While listening, users can “Like” or react to content as it is played by using the “Thumbs up” button at the bottom of the screen which connects you to the set. of Facebook emoji reactions. And with today’s official launch, listeners can also show their support for the live audio room’s public figure by sending ‘stars’. These stars can be purchased during conversation and used at any time, just as they work with other Facebook Live content.
By sending stars, the listener is referred to “Front Row”, a special section that highlights the people who sent the stars. This makes it easy for event hosts to recognize their supporters and even shout at them during the event, if they wish.
Another new feature allows hosts to select a nonprofit or fundraiser to support during their conversation, and listeners and speakers can directly donate. A progress bar will show how much has been collected during the show.
Meanwhile, for Facebook groups, admins can control whether moderators, group members, or other admins can create a live audio room. Members and visitors can listen to rooms in public groups, but in private groups, rooms are limited to group members.
Facebook users are alerted to all new live audio rooms via the news feed and notifications, and can sign up to receive a reminder when a room they are interested in goes live. Live audio rooms will also be discoverable in Facebook groups, if applicable.
Early users of Facebook Live Audio Rooms include Grammy-nominated electronic music artist TOKiMONSTA; American football quarterback Russell Wilson; organizer, producer and freelance journalist Rosa Clemente; streamer and digital artist Omareloff; and social entrepreneur Amanda Nguyen. Others are planned for the near future, including D Smoke, Kehlani, Reggie Watts and Lisa Morales Duke, to Dr Jess, Bobby Berk, Tina Knowles-Lawson, Joe Budden (most notably the first big Spotify podcast star he lost last year) and DeRay Mckesson.
Facebook groups trying out the new format include Dance Accepts Everyone, Vegan Soul Food, Meditation Matters, Pow Wow Nation, OctoNation – The Largest Octopus Fan Club! and Space Hipsters.
Along with the launch of Live Audio Rooms, Facebook is also starting to roll out its planned podcast support with a few select creators. These include Joe Budden of The Joe Budden Podcast; “Jess Hilarious” by Carefully Reckless from The Black Effect Podcast Network and iHeartRadio; Keltie Knight, Becca Tobin and Jac Vanek of The LadyGang; and Nicaila Matthews Okome of Side Hustle Pro. Facebook will open up to other podcasters this summer.
To be clear, this new podcast service is different from the music and podcast player recently launched in partnership with Spotify, which allows users to share content from Spotify on the social network. Instead, the new feature involves podcasts that are delivered via public RSS feeds directly to Facebook, not provided by Spotify. However, the miniplayer for podcasts on Facebook will be similar to the miniplayer for the Spotify listening integration (also known as Project Boombox), and they will behave the same. But they are not the same.
The new podcast listening experience allows users to listen to podcasts while browsing Facebook, whether in a mini player or a full screen player with playback options, and even on the phone screen is off. This makes Facebook, in a way, a native podcast streaming app because it allows people to listen to audio without the need of another service, like Spotify or Apple Podcasts, for example.
Facebook previously said there were more than 170 Facebook users logged into a Page for a podcast, demonstrating user interest in podcasts on its social network.
With the launch of the Facebook Podcast service, the company is asking podcast creators to give it permission to cache their content on Facebook’s servers, which we are told is done to ensure that the content does not violate Facebook community standards. However, since podcasts are always delivered via RSS feeds, they will be represented in the metrics provided by a podcaster’s hosting provider.
Last week, Facebook emailed podcast page owners with details on how to set up their show on Facebook, noting that they can link their podcast’s RSS feed to automatically generate feed posts. news for their episodes. These are also presented in a “podcast” tab on their page. Under Facebook’s Podcast Terms of Service, the creators grant Facebook the right to create “derivative works,” which likely refers to an upcoming clips feature.
Facebook is announcing that later this summer it will add the ability to create and share short clips from a podcast, along with other features, such as captions. In the longer term, it will also create social experiences around podcasts. He also works with creators to develop and launch his new product, Soundbites, which are short, creative audio clips. This will be launched later in 2021.
Other audio products in the pipeline include a central listening destination and background audio listening for videos.
Facebook says this new destination will be a place where all of the different audio formats on Facebook are available, not just podcasts, and will help users find new things and people to listen to. More details on this project will be available later this summer.
Prior to today, Facebook quietly tested Live Audio Rooms in Taiwan and internally with Facebook employees. These tests will continue. Last week, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg hosted the first trial of the new service in the United States, where he was joined by other Facebook executives and a few creators of Facebook Gaming.
Zuckerberg was optimistic about the potential of audio on the social networking platform. He even appeared on Clubhouse a few times to discuss the topic before announcing what is, essentially, Facebook Clubhouse’s own competitor.
“I think the areas where I’m most excited about Facebook are basically in the sheer number of communities and groups that exist,” Zuckerberg told Platformer at the time of the initial announcement. “I think you already have these communities that are organized around interests, and allowing people to come together and have rooms where they can talk is – I think that would be a very useful thing,” he said. -he adds.
Facebook plans to expand its audio products globally in the coming months.