Tue. Aug 9th, 2022

Facebook is expanding its investment in audio initiatives with the launch of a new “Audio” destination in its mobile app in the US, where users will be able to discover all the audio formats that Facebook now hosts in one place, including podcasts, Live Audio Rooms and audio in short form. The company says it is also making its clubhouse rival, Live Audio Rooms, more widely available to global users, and is launching a new product called Soundbites, a kind of TikTok for audio that offers short audio clips.

An early version of the new Audio destination has been rolling out to all Facebook users (18 and over) in the US across both iOS and Android, but is being officially announced now. It can be accessed via the top navigation of the Watch, Facebook’s video hub – a design choice that feels a bit inconsistent, as audio content is meant to be listened to, not “seen”.

The company says the new destination will help creators find their shows, while Facebook users will be able to find audio content from favorite creators, discover new ones, and access content they had saved for later. At launch, the audio section contains content from the creators you already follow, and includes a set of personal recommendations as well as suggestions for other audio that is popular across Facebook.

The destination will eventually become more personal to your own tastes and interests as you interact with the audio content and follow more creators, notes Facebook.

In the hour of this launch, Facebook offered an update on the work it has done to expand access to more of its audio products.

In the spring, Facebook had introduced a number of new audio features, including the clubhouse’s competitor called Live Audio Rooms, as well as the short audio product called Soundbites plus support for podcasts. With Spotify, it also partnered with a new mini-player that streams from the music service to users on Facebook.

Live Audio Rooms was officially launched in June for US public figures in good standing with Facebook and for selecting Facebook groups. Since then, Facebook has said the feature has proven to serve as an easy means of connection and conversation across communities, where it has been adopted by creators including Lil Huddy, Noah and Miley Cyrus, quarterback Russell Wilson, singer Becky G, the comedian Sherry Cola, Mereba Music and others.

Photo credits: Facebook

Now, Facebook says Live Audio Rooms is rolling out to more public figures and creators outside the U.S. as well as non-U.S.-based Facebook groups. In addition to iOS, the feature has been launched on Android, and the ability to listen to Live Audio has arrived on the desktop, making it more accessible as it expands to other markets.

Meanwhile, the short Soundbites product has been in testing since June with a group of new creators and others, including comedian and best-selling author Josh Sundquist; actress, disability advocate and lifestyle influencer Lolo Spencer; and digital creator Molly Burke. This test was recently expanded to include more creators, and now Facebook says Soundbites will be coming to more people in the US in the coming weeks.

The company also noted that it has been working on support for podcasts following its audio announcements earlier this year. This summer, it made podcasts available to US users. Recently, it has rolled out the ability to share short podcast clips in News Feed and added support texts on Android (with iOS still waiting). Podcasters also got the opportunity to add their RSS feeds to their Facebook page on desktop and mobile. However, podcast listening still remains American only for the time being.

Facebook says that as it has expanded its audio experiences, it has been working with tools that could help identify an action on content that violates its community standards. This includes tools to automatically identify malicious content on Facebook. Plus, Facebook says it is adapting both its technology and processes to detect and moderate offensive audio content as it learns more.

This new follows a tough week for Facebook, which not only included one of its longest interruptions to date, but also saw a whistleblower witness for the U.S. Senate about the damages that Facebook’s platform made possible, including its engagement-based algorithms, missing ability to combat misinformation, and corporate decision-making that puts profits over people. Facebook staff now disagree on the whistleblower’s testimony, The New York Times reported. As Facebook now focuses more deeply on sound and live sound – a difficult area to address from a moderation standpoint – Facebook could become a platform for more misinformation to spread if it is not able to develop the necessary technology that would make sound a safe environment.

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