Facebook takes aim at podcasts, 'social audio' - and Clubhouse

Get ready for a whole lot more audio on Facebook and Messenger.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is taking a new tack with the social network, announcing plans to bring 'social audio' to the platform — a concept that's become popular during the pandemic with Clubhouse. 

Zuckerberg apparently agrees with Clubhouse, telling Platformer's Casey Newtown that audio is going to be a "first-class medium" that creates the potential for a host of new products. 

Facebook announced in a blogpost that several new audio products are coming in the next few months, including Soundbites, which it describes as "short-form, creative audio clips for capturing anecdotes, jokes, moments of inspiration, poems, and many other things we haven't yet imagined."

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The social network also announced podcasts for Facebook for longer-form audio content and noted that "35 million people are members of fan groups around podcasts". 

Those people would historically leave Facebook to listen to podcasts, but in the next few months Facebook users will be able to listen to them from within the app. 

Facebook also plans to help users discover podcasts they might be interested in, while podcast creators will be able to connect with listeners within the app. 

Live Audio Rooms, another new audio feature that's something akin to Clubhouse, should roll out by summer, catering to people who use and publish on Facebook Groups. 

This feature is Facebook's answer to the rise of video meetings on Zoom and Microsoft Teams in the pandemic, which includes broadcasting for people who have large audiences.

"With live audio, creators will be able to turn a live conversation into a podcast for everyone to listen to later," Facebook noted. It will also provide captions on audio content.

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Facebook's audio effort will focus on marketing for small businesses but it also looks set to compete more with newsletter platforms like Substack.

"A big part of the creative economy is that it's enabling individuals, and shifting power from some traditional institutions to individuals to exercise their own creativity," Zuckerberg told Newton, whose blog is published on Substack

Facebook says it will test Live Audio Rooms in Groups, making it available to the 1.8 billion people using Groups every month. The feature will be available in Facebook and its chat app, Facebook Messenger.