Facebook transforms audio to support upcoming apps

Facebook is getting into audio by launching a suite of new features that will allow users to host audio conferences and podcasts, in a dash to compete with upcoming apps such as Clubhouse.

Mark Zuckerberg, managing director of the world’s largest social media company by users, said on Monday that he plans to roll out live audio rooms for its users as well as new tools for users to search, create and earn. money from podcasts over the next three to six months.

He also announced the launch of a feature called “Soundbites,” where users can post or listen to short audio clips that will be featured in a continuous stream, much like his Reels video feed on Instagram.

“We believe audio will of course also be first-class media,” Zuckerberg said in a live interview with tech reporter Casey Newton on Monday. He added that audio “allows for longer discussions and exploration of ideas,” but it is also “accessible because you can multitask.”

The move is Facebook’s latest effort to copy popular products from rivals, after ran to present new video conferencing features last April following the rise of Zoom and Google Hangouts as a means to host meetings and socialize from home.

Audio products exploit what is called “Fatigue zoom” – a frustration of constantly having to be in front of the camera – but also of providing entertainment-hungry professionals with new ways to network as the conference circuit remains closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

In particular, the launch of Facebook could hurt audio start-up Clubhouse, which this year has become the world’s fastest growing social media app by providing a platform to discuss topics such as entrepreneurship, politics and the latest current events.

Clubhouse surpassed 14 million downloads, according to data from App Annie, but suffered outages as its servers struggled under the influx of users.

Over the weekend, Clubhouse announced that it had secured a new round of funding led by Andreessen Horowitz, with new investors DST Global and Tiger Global. The fundraiser gives the start-up, which launched its product only a year ago, a valuation of $ 4 billion, according to two people familiar with the situation, against $ 1 billion in January.

Facebook is also targeting Twitter, which this month rolled out its Clubhouse “Spaces” clone and the Reddit discussion board, which previewed its upcoming “Reddit Talk” feature. Monday. Twitter had previously attempted to acquire Clubhouse for $ 4 billion, although discussions have halted, according to a recent Bloomberg report.

Switching to live audio, such as live streaming, brings challenges in moderation of content given its real-time nature, at a time when Facebook is already under fire from US regulators for its failures. perceived in terms of content control.

Additional reporting by Miles Kruppa in San Francisco

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