Facebook Gets Into Podcasting

But are they going to do a decent job?

Last week saw Facebook launch podcasts on its platform. Not that you’d notice if you were outside of the US.

The roll-out seems somewhat limited. US listeners are the only ones that can tune in, and participation for podcasters seems invite-only for the moment.

This means that even if your podcast episodes are pulled through and published they won’t show up in an international user’s newsfeed, or even on a Page if you visit it.

Whilst I can understand a slow roll-out to get the tech right, this isn’t something that really works for podcasters. You can’t really give it a shout-out if a load of your listeners can’t use it. It’s also frustrating for shows that want to take part but aren’t invited, or those that are international with a big US audience.

Facebook have even launched their own new tech podcast - Boz to the Future - which they flag up as being able to listen on Facebook, but you can’t. Or well, most people can’t. They even have to clumsily embed a page from hosting firm Buzzsprout on their promo blog. It doesn’t build confidence.

It’s not unusual, of course, for US companies to forget that they have an international audience (even though it’s where over 90% of the planet’s population live). I already bristle a little when I get a tweet from @ApplePodcasts, who only mention US shows and often link to promoted collections that won’t open outside of America. Handy!

Will it be successful?

I’m a little torn on whether Facebook will have a big impact on podcasting or whether it’ll just be a feature that fades away.

On the surface Facebook should be a massive opportunity. They have a huge, mainstream user base, the vast majority of which have probably never listened to a podcast. You would hope that for people who don’t know how to listen to a podcast, this would be a great training slope.

On the negative side, audio seems to appear on the platform as a long-form block, albeit one that can play in the background. I’m not sure people are likely to consume a long form piece of audio off the back of a scroll through their timeline. What you really want is a sort of save later/send to the podcast listening section. Indeed, at the moment there’s no centralised listening location in the app - though apparently that’s on the way.

The core challenge is that listeners want a single place to listen to their audio. To do this, having a good catalogue is essential. It’s taken Spotify a few years to get into this position and that’s with a pretty aggressive podcast-centric approach. Will Facebook have the wherewithal to push out to the community to get them to list shows?

Part of the trouble is they’re trying to force a Facebook-centric model onto the podcast community. To (eventually) list a show on Facebook it seems you have to attach a show to a Facebook Page. Which works if your brand is a single show, that has a Facebook page. What happens if you have multiple shows? You don’t seem to be able to list more than one RSS feed. And then, what about networks? Does the BBC have to create a Facebook page for each of their shows? And even if they do, those pages will have zero followers, which will likely affect the content surfacing algorithm.

So would you bother just so it’s available in Facebook search? Maybe - but you’re asking for a lot, from a lot of people. It would also help if Facebook hadn’t squandered much of the goodwill that media companies had given it over the last few years.

Like anything, success is in the execution. I’m yet to be persuaded Facebook will get the execution right. I guess we’ll see.

AOB

One year of Times Radio.

Today, Times Radio celebrates a year of being on-air. Happy Birthday. I’ve been asked to interview the boss and some of his colleagues. Radio Academy members can watch live tomorrow. Register here.

British Podcast Awards

It’s just eleven days to go to the British Podcast Awards. We’re very excited about doing an actual in-person ceremony. It’ll be outside, well, under a massive tent, in Brockwell park. They say necessity is the mother of invention - and it’s certainly pushed us to put on quite a show. We’ve leaned into it, and created a mini-festival with bars, attractions, stalls and an amazing awards show too. If you fancy an afternoon with actual people, in a COVID safe environment of course, come along on the afternoon of Saturday 10th July. You can grab the last remaining tickets at the British Podcast Awards website.