Facebook unveils audio tools, including Clubhouse-style audio rooms

Mariam Cheik-Hussein
By Mariam Cheik-Hussein | 21 April 2021

Facebook has unveiled a list of new audio tools, such as Clubhouse-style chat rooms and in-app podcast listening, to help it compete in the booming sector.

The new tools come following the rise of audio platform Clubhouse which has attracted big names such as Elon Musk, as well as the ongoing popularity of podcasts. Facebook says that more than 150 million of its users are fans of podcast pages.

Facebook is billing the new tools as a ‘sound studio’ in people’s pockets, hoping to do to audio what it did with images. Users will have “professional level” tools such as audio quality enhancements, captions, speech translations, and sound effects.

“At Facebook, we’ve seen the continuing rise of audio on our platforms, from audio calls to audio messages on WhatsApp and Messenger,” the company says.

“We’re working to make audio messages easier to record, and more fun — including the ability for people to send familiar sound clips to their friends that range from sound effects like crickets chirping to quotes from popular songs.

“But we know there are more social experiences to create to help people say what they want to say, discover new voices they haven’t heard before, or exchange ideas at the speed of sound.”

The first tool, Soundbites is a short-form format that allows users to create things such as anecdotes and jokes. Facebook will start testing Soundbites over the next few months with a small number of creators and refine the product before making it available to everyone.

For an idea of how widely Facebook wants Soundbites to be used, it’s working with content creators such as comedian Drew Lynch, accessibility advocate Lolo Spencer, entrepreneur Tobe Nwigwe, and motivational speaker Molly Burke.

Facebook is also bringing in-app podcast listening, meaning users no longer have to leave its app to listen to podcasts. Facebook says it has 170 million people already connected to podcast pages on Facebook, and 35 million members are in podcast fan groups. Facebook will also start helping people discover new podcasts based on their interests and help them connect with podcast creators.

Facebook is also rolling out Live Audio Rooms. The Clubhouse-style feature will be made available within Facebook Groups and Messener and is expected to be available to everyone by the summer in the US. Facebook will also make it available to public figures so they can host conversations with other public figures, experts and fans.

Facebook has outlined ways it will monetise the audio products.

On the launch of Live Audio Rooms, fans will be able to support their favourite creators and public figures through Stars, or donate to causes they care about. Later on, Facebook will also offer other monetisation models, such as the ability to charge for access to a Live Audio Room through a single purchase or a subscription.

To kickstart Soundbites, Facebook is introducing an Audio Creator Fund to support emerging audio creators and get early feedback on the new product experience.

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