Facebook's New Audio Features

Getting your podcast ready for FB

The people behind eight paid-for subscription newsletters - Platformer, Culture Study, Newcomer, Hot Pod, Deez Links, Garbage Day, Galaxy Brain and Zero Day - have joined forces to collaborate on a Discord server - called Sidechannel.

Discord is basically Slack but for non-work things and started off life catering for gamers and streamers. It’s grown to 250million users who use it for a whole variety of things.

For the newsletter folks it’s an interesting member benefit. I’m a subscriber to Hot Pod and I now get exposed to a bunch of cool people chatting and sharing. It adds some friction if I feel I want to unsubscribe, if it does a good job, so has the potential to be positive for all concerned.

It’s first proper day was today and they kicked off with an interview with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Not a bad get!

He turned up for a live stream audio conversation with Casey Newton to basically announce Facebook’s new audio products. It was fun to listen in on (with around 700 other subscribers). As he finished most of what he said was published on the Facebook news blog, but hearing from the horse’s mouth was quite interesting too. He talked a lot about making audio a “first class citizen”, taking a similar tone to Google when they launched Google Podcasts and you now see episodes showing up in search etc.

There’s four core audio things that they’re doing, as well as some broader connective tissue stuff.

1. Podcasts

The Facebook app is going to become a podcatcher. You’ll be able to listen to your favourite shows through it.

By the single screen shot they’ve offered, it looks like you’ll be able to add a show to a Facebook page. I’d expect this to mean episodes have the ability to appear in newsfeeds and be commented upon and liked. This should provide virality as well as being a default listening place too.

Listening to Mark speak, it sounded like podcasts will be ingested in via the creator tools that Page owners use for video and other forms of media.

2. Soundbites

Soundbites is a new piece of functionality that allows you to create short form audio. This could be thoughts, rips from the TV etc. They’ll then be studio-style functionality with lots of use of AI to remove background noise or make you sound like a robot etc. Think Stories but for audio.

Not mentioned in the release, but Mark said that Soundbites from the people you follow will also be stitched together to form a stream. I suppose it’s Tik Tok meets the radio.

3. Live Audio Rooms

This is their take on Clubhouse. It’ll be an adjunct to Facebook Groups and certain creators with Facebook Pages. Admins will be able to boot up an audio room and have discussions.

It also sounds like they’ll be tools available that means you can take that livestream and edit it into a podcast (and publish it to your page?) or cut it up into Soundbites.

4. Boombox

Not in the press release, but in the interview Mark alluded to Boombox, a project with Spotify that brings music into the Facebook app.

Similar to Podcasts-on-Pages this sounded like a way for Musicians to add audio to their pages and allow them to take advantage of the viral nature of the Facebook platform.

Monetisation

Across all of this there’s going to be elements of monetisation - ads, tipping and subscription.

Mark talked about ad opportunities for podcasters, but without any real detail. Does it mean hosting with them? Can you be part of other networks? None of that was discussed. If it follows the video ads that some creators have, then perhaps the ads will be ‘over the top’ so it adds pre-rolls or Facebook specific breaks. Handy if you don’t run ads at the moment, messy if your podcast already has some ads in them.

Tipping is something Facebook and YouTube have been doing for creators, particularly video game ones. This functionality will be extended to podcasters.

Subscription - It sound like Facebook is doing what Twitter’s doing with Superfollowers and adding a subscription option at a creator level. So maybe I have a newsletter, some videos, and now my podcasts, I can choose to put some of this behind a paywall and offer subscriptions to me. Again, if you use Facebook’s Creator tools, you can see where that would fit in alongside managing your media.

Thoughts

Facebook, in between inadvertently accelerating the decline of democracy, still remains one of the most popular platforms in the world, and one that the majority of consumers use. If audio does truly become a “first class citizen” then there a lots of opportunities for discovery of both episodes and podcasts.

Soundbites sounds fun, but I’m not sure what problem it solves for consumers or what couldn’t be handled in video/Stories. There’s unlikely to be enough material for me to listen to as a stream and it’s likely to be SUPER variable in quality.

As we’ve seen with audiograms, the interaction from consumers is pretty low. Obviously for podcasters its better to have it than not, but clips are unlikely to be much of a game-changer.

On Live Audio Rooms - this is now (or soon to be available in…) Clubhouse, Twitter, Slack, LinkedIn, Reddit and Discord. It’s becoming a functional feature rather than a product in its own right. As a user, if you’re alerted by your platform of choice that someone you like is talking, and you want to listen, you’ll hit the button and one of these platforms will open up. You won’t really care which.

For free-to-use consumer media, it’s not going to be much to think about. Just pick the place where most of your users are. Who it is interesting for is the monetising content creator. If I want to monetise personal output I’ll end up picking Twitter OR Facebook to manage all of my free/fee content. That’s the fight that will really happen.

Facebook’s entry into the podcast space is good, just as Spotify’s is, or Apple’s is. Getting great audio to more people is a good thing. However, all of them are opening up little cul-de-sacs that at worst try to trap podcast creators into only using their platforms, or at best force creators to now have to service the particular whims of the platforms.

If you work in social media you understand that you have to manage Twitter, FB, Insta in different ways - do this on the app, this through the Creator CMS, email myself a picture to add to a Story etc. It’s a mess. And guess what, it’s coming to podcasting.

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