Facebook Lays Out Ambitious Social Audio Plans to Compete With Clubhouse and Twitter
Facebook will launch a social audio feature similar to Clubhouse, joining the rush to nab a piece of what has become a hugely popular new market. CEO Mark Zuckerberg explained the social media giant’s plans for a suite of audio products that seem to take a page from Twitter, TikTok, and other social media during an interview on Discord.
Live Audio Rooms
The headline product is the Live Audio Rooms, a Clubhouse-like live social audio space for conversation. The feature will be available first for groups and celebrities like NFL player Russell Wilson and director Elle Moxley but will then be incorporated into Messenger so that users can make rooms for their friends to chat. Live Audio Rooms will include several features lacking from Clubhouse or its competitors like Twitter Spaces, however. Room creators will be able to record and share the conversations with others and even caption the audio in real-time. Facebook is also focusing on monetization. The initial celebrities and eventually anyone who makes a Live Audio Room will be able to start charging people to get in for a single fee or through a regular subscription. The Facebook tipping system, Stars, is also going to be a way for people to share their appreciation to people in Live Audio Rooms. Facebook is encouraging interested creative types to join with an Audio Creator Fund that will offer grants to certain users, a bit like the Clubhouse Creator First Accelerator.
“We believe that audio is a perfect way for communities to engage around topics they care about,” Facebook app head Fidji Simo wrote in a blog post. “We think a lot of magic happens at the intersection of audio formats, as well as at the confluence of text, audio, and video. For example, with live audio, creators will be able to turn a live conversation into a podcast for everyone to listen to later.”
Soundbite and Spotify
Another unique aspect of Facebook’s version of Clubhouse is that it links to Facebook’s new spin on TikTok called Soundbites. The audio conversations in the Rooms can be clipped and edited into Soundbites, which are promoted by an algorithm that brings them to people’s attention in the Facebook News Feed like TikTok videos or the Instagram Reels that serve a similar purpose. And like both of those products, Soundbites comes with a lot of editing and adjustment tools, which the company refers to as a kind of pocket sound studio, including music and sound effects to mix into the clip.
For those who prefer the longer forms of audio, Facebook is also upping its investment in podcasting. User’s interests will be used to create recommendations for shows and episodes, and people will be able to start suggesting them to their friends. Podcasters will be able to access a new monetary channel via Facebook to encourage them to promote their shows. The Spotify audio player is also going to be embedded into Facebook as an option for listening to podcasts or music.
Social Audio Frenzy
Facebook getting involved in the social audio craze is not surprising. Clubhouse’s success has spurred a lot of interest from all corners of the tech world, whether startups like Quilt and Swell or major tech companies who see a chance to diversify Twitter Spaces, Telegram’s Voice Chats, and LinkedIn’s experiments in social audio have all gained traction. While Twitter’s efforts to buy Clubhouse might have ended, Spotify chose that route to launching a social audio option when it acquired Betty Labs, the startup behind sports-focused social audio app Locker Room. Discord has just launched a new social audio feature called Stage Channels, which are explicitly about people showing off their creations like what Facebook is describing. Reddit too has just announced its own variation on the theme. Facebook is well-known for putting its imprint on popular social media ideas, but how much follow-through there will be is still an open question, as fans of IGTV and Facebook Live shows can attest. Still, the basic nature of audio and enthusiasm for talking to others may give these new initiative the staying power Facebook wants.
“Speech, sound, and language are the building blocks for how we connect with each other. That’s why good audio experiences can feel immersive and intimate at the same time,” Simo wrote. “We’ve seen time and again just how much creative energy is liberated when you build powerful creation and editing tools, make them free and easy to use, and — with appropriate safety and privacy safeguards — put them out into the world. By bringing the magic to new audio formats, we’re giving people a new way to say more of what they’ve always wanted to say, this whole time.”