Will "Facebook Live Audio" be good for podcasters? Will it help us engage with our audiences? Will it compete with SoundCloud and other similar platforms? Or will it pull people away from traditional podcasts to keep people within Facebook's shiny walls?
On December 20, Facebook announced the impending release of "Live Audio", initially with five partners and then "early next year" to more people. There's been a great amount of discussion but as of yet I've not learned of anyone who has seen/heard one of these new Live Audio events. Here is the info I've seen so far or can speculate on:
- Users will be able to go live with audio in a similar way to going live with video.
- Live audio content will go out in News Feed.
- Listeners can ask questions and leave reactions in real-time during the live audio stream.
- Presumably listeners will also be able to leave comments and reactions after the event is no longer live. Will Facebook differentiate as they do with comments to Live Video events? (Comments during the event have a red dot next to them.)
- Facebook users can easily share the Live Audio streams to their own feeds and friends.
- Listening will occur inside the Facebook mobile application. There will be an important distinction between iOS and Android listeners:
- iOS users will only be able to listen while the Facebook app is open (and the phone is not locked). The users can continue browsing through Facebook while listening.
- Android users will be able to listen in the background while using other apps.
- To me this means that Facebook has not yet integrated with the audio interfaces within IoS that allow other apps to play in the background or on lock screens.
- Techcrunch reports that Live Audio streams will have a limit of four hours in length.
As far as a motivation for launching Live Audio, Facebook mentions the feedback that some publishers prefer audio as a format. They also mention that some people are in areas where Internet connectivity is too low to support Live Video. Writing over on The Drum, Sean Larkin notes that Facebook needs new advertising formats and points to a recent study from The Trade Desk showing that advertisers are looking to increase their spending on audio advertising. Audio streaming and podcasts were highest rated in that survey.
In many ways this seems a logical extension of Facebook's desire to be THE place where people spend their time on the Internet. Given the explosive growth in interest in podcasts, it seems to me only logical for Facebook to try to bring some of that attention inside their walls.
Granted, it seems Facebook's initial focus is on the audio version of "live events" versus on podcasts. But to me podcasts are an obvious extention of this tool.
Given that we can't see the Live Audio streams yet, or the tools to produce them, I find myself with the following questions:
- Will users be notified with special "Dan York is live" kind of messages? (I suspect yes.)
- Will Live Audio streams show up in the new "Live" tab in the mobile app? (as Live Video streams do now?)
- What tools will be available for streaming audio? For instance, will there be anything to help with audio levels?
- Presumably we will have to use the Facebook mobile app to stream the Live Audio streams. Will it be able to work with any other mobile apps?
- Will we be able to bring in intros, outros, bumpers and other audio effects? Or will it truly be raw, live audio?
- Will Live Audio streams also be accessible outside Facebook's walls to traditional podcasting apps? i.e. would there be a RSS feed that could go into iTunes? Or will it only work inside of Facebook?
- Will Live Audio be a place to host a podcast? Or will it be another distribution channel?
- Will Live Audio help spread the interest in podcasts and audio streams? Or will it impact the usage of traditional podcasting apps?
- What will the impact be on SoundCloud? Many of us have found that platform useful for quick, fast podcasts.
- And on a techie note, could you start out in Live Video and when connectivity drops, could you drop to Live Audio? Or will they be two separate event types that need to be started separately? (I suspect the latter.)
So many questions!
Given my interest in using SoundCloud for rapid creation and distribution of podcasts, I'll be curious to see how well Facebook Live Audio might work for podcasting. It might be good... it might be too constraining.
What do you think? Are you interested in Facebook Live Audio?
P.S. Another interesting aspect - over on The Verge, Casey Newton notes the potential of Live Audio for "witnessing" events: "Live audio of police confrontations might be less conspicuous, and thus easier, to broadcast than video streams."