Facebook Looks To Make Audio More Social With Podcast Integration, Clubhouse Rival And New Soundbites Format

Facebook is making a major push into audio, integrating podcasts, establishing a live chat answer to Clubhouse and launching a new format called Soundbites.

The initiatives were highlighted by CEO Mark Zuckerberg in an interview on social chat site Discord, and then further explained in a blog post by Fidji Simo, head of the Facebook app. The goal is to make audio a key element in the experience of Facebook’s 2.8 billion monthly active users.

“Audio seamlessly fits within our busy lives, allows us to be inspired by new ideas, and talk with other like-minded people without pressure,” Simo wrote in the post. “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.”

More than 170 million people are already connected to hundreds of thousands of podcast pages on Facebook, Simo noted, and 35 million are members of podcast fan groups. The company wanted to take advantage of that surge by allowing users to play podcasts through the main platform instead of leaving. The integration is also aimed at enabling podcast creators to more easily connect with listeners via Facebook.

Soundbites, which will start being tested over the next few months, is described as a brand-new format. Simo said it will be a vessel for “short-form, creative audio clips for capturing anecdotes, jokes, moments of inspiration, poems, and many other things we haven’t yet imagined.”

Live Audio Rooms will be made available to the 1.8 billion Facebook users who take part in groups on the platform. The offering is an answer to services like Clubhouse, the live audio app that was recently valued at $4 billion in a fundraising round. Twitter and Reddit are also making moves in audio.

Eventually, all of the new audio material circulating on Facebook will be centralized in a hub, which the company says will facilitate sharing among users.

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