Quicktake: What is new in Facebook’s latest ‘social audio’ products

The California-based company introduced several ways for audio creators to monetise content through the Facebook platform

Facebook is tapping into rising demand for audio-based social media products amid the pandemic. Courtesy Facebook
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Facebook announced a slew of new "social audio" products as the company underscores the importance of building audio tools and formats that connect people amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Most of these produces are still in the testing phase and will be launched in the coming months, the company said.

The National looks at the major products/services announced by the world's biggest social networking platform.

Facebook’s take on Clubhouse

Facebook announced its own version of the popular Clubhouse app that allows groups of people to listen and interact with speakers on an online stage.

The new platform, called Live Audio Rooms, will be available to all users on the Facebook app by June, the company said. It will also be available to public figures to host conversations.

"We are making live audio both accessible and discoverable so that public figures can share ideas with new audiences and create a forum for discussion, without the added pressure of being on camera," Fidji Simo, head of Facebook App, said.

The company is currently testing Live Audio Rooms on its Groups platform, which is used by 1.8 billion people every month.

Facebook's Live Audio Rooms will be available to all users by June. Courtesy Facebook

Getting into podcasts

Facebook is finally entering the podcast industry. Within the next few months, users will be able to listen to podcasts directly on the Facebook app, the company said.

More than 170 million people are already connected to various podcast pages on Facebook and more than 35 million people are members of groups related to podcasts.

“But until now, you had to leave the Facebook app to listen to these episodes,” said Ms Simo.

“Because it’s still hard to discover podcasts you like, we will help you easily find new podcasts and episodes based on your interests, comment on them and recommend them to your friends … creators will be able to reach and connect with new listeners,” she added.

The social networking company is reportedly venturing into podcasts through a partnership with the Swedish media streaming company Spotify.

Introducing Soundbites

Facebook also unveiled new tools to let users record brief voice messages and post them in their newsfeeds, just like text, pictures and videos.

The company will start testing the new product, called Soundbites, over the next few months with a small number of creators. It aims to improve the product through feedback to make it more user-friendly before launching it for the wider audience.

Offering a sound studio in your pocket

Facebook is also building a sound studio – a set of audio creation tools.

“We have been investing in audio technologies such as speech-to-text and voice morphing for a long time and will make them available in an audio creation tool directly inside the Facebook app,” Ms Simo said.

“Through our advances in AI [artificial intelligence], we can make audio quality magically great … even if you record on a busy street corner.”

Users will be able to use music from Facebook’s sound collection in the background. They can mix audio tracks, access a collection of sound effects, voice effects and filters.

Letting audio creators monetise creations

Facebook is introducing multiple ways for audio creators to build a business through audio.

Facebook users can record brief voice messages and post them in their newsfeeds. Courtesy Facebook

Listeners will be able to support their favourite creators and public figures through its stars service and also donate to causes they care about. Audiences can buy stars during a streaming. For every star, Facebook will pay $0.01 to the creator.

Soon after the launch, creators can charge for access to a Live Audio Room through a single purchase or a subscription. Facebook is also introducing an Audio Creator Fund to support emerging audio creators, the company said without disclosing further details.