5 things you need to know about Facebook’s new audio features

20 Apr 2021

Image: © Konstantin Yuganov/Stock.adobe.com

Podcasts, Soundbites and Live Audio Rooms are all on the cards for Facebook users.

Following reports that Facebook was planning to launch a new range of audio features, the company has now confirmed some of the additions users can expect to see over the coming months.

While video-conferencing tools like Zoom and Teams have seen a major boost during the pandemic, another winner has been live audio app Clubhouse, which has surged in popularity and has reportedly reached a $4bn valuation after a fresh round of funding.

But it is now facing plenty of competition from established tech platforms that are looking to embrace more audio features.

Through its self-described ‘social audio’ range, Facebook said it wants to make audio-centric communication more accessible.

“The best audio creation tools are reserved for the pros,” Fidji Simo, head of the Facebook app, wrote in a company blog post. “It’s still too hard to discover and share awesome audio content, and too cumbersome to assemble the right group of people to have a conversation about your favourite topic, at the right time.”

Simo claimed that Facebook has invested in “the full spectrum of audio technologies”. Here’s what the social media giant has planned.

1. There will be audio-creation tools

Audio-creation tools are first on the agenda. Simo said Facebook wants every user to feel like they “have a sound studio in their pocket”. To that end, you’ll get access to Facebook’s sound collection to introduce music to your story, as well as sound and voice effects and filters. Users will also be able to mix audio tracks.

These will be built upon the company’s investments in audio tech, such as speech-to-text, voice morphing and AI-powered audio quality. All Facebook audio features will offer captions and will have “appropriate safety and privacy safeguards”, Simo added.

2. You’ll be able to make Soundbites

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Using the audio-creation tools above, you’ll also be able to produce Facebook Soundbites. Simo described these as “short-form, creative audio clips for capturing anecdotes, jokes, moments of inspiration, poems, and many other things we haven’t yet imagined”.

Soundbites will enter testing over the next few months will a small number of creators so that the product can be refined before it becomes more widely available.

Images of two phone screens showing Facebook's new Soundbite audio feature.

Soundbites. Image: Facebook

3. Podcasts are coming to the app

According to Simo, more than 170m people are already connected to hundreds of thousands of podcast pages on Facebook. But users will soon be able to listen to podcasts on the Facebook app itself, instead of having to leave it for another app.

Podcasts will continue to play when the Facebook app is in the background, and there will also be a podcast discovery tool where you can comment, recommend and reach new creators.

A phone screen showing a podcast page on Facebook, with options to listen to episodes.

Podcasts on Facebook. Image: Facebook

4. You’ll get to listen to live conversations

Messenger Rooms has been available since mid-2020. Now, Facebook will begin testing Live Audio Rooms on both Facebook and Messenger. It expects this feature to be available for all users by the summer.

During testing, Live Audio Rooms will be available to users via Groups, and public figures will also get to use Live Audio Rooms to host conversations with each other.

Creators of live audio will be able to turn their conversations into recorded podcasts, too.

Three phone screens showing elements of the Live Audio Rooms features on Facebook.

Facebook’s live audio rooms. Image: Facebook

5. Users can make money through Facebook audio

Fans will be able to financially support creators through Live Audio Rooms. Transactions will be possible through the Stars feature and shortly after the launch, creators will get access to monetisation tools. These will include charging patrons for access to a Live Audio Room via either a single payment or a subscription.

Facebook is also launching an Audio Creator Fund to help emerging audio creators get started.

Lisa Ardill was careers editor at Silicon Republic until June 2021

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