23rd April 2021
In 2020 TikTok sparked a battle around short form social video services. Clubhouse is now creating a similar battle for social audio. This week, Facebook has announced a number of audio updates and Apple announced podcast updates at its Spring Loaded event.
Facebook has been working on its own Clubhouse-style audio-only social platform, which has been widely reported, and this week it revealed that Live Audio Rooms will be available in the Facebook app in Groups this summer and will also be available on Messenger shortly afterwards.
As well as Live Audio Rooms, Facebook also announced a new social format for short-form audio called Soundbites, which will be like an audio-only version of Instagram Reels. Audio creation tools will be available in the same way they are for other visual formats, with Facebook stating that it will be like ‘having a sound studio in your pocket’.
The company said it will introduce multiple ways for audio creators to monetise their audio output. Soundbites will be launched with an Audio Creator Fund to support emerging audio creators and fans will be able to support their favourite creators through ‘Stars’. Also, after launch creators will be able to charge for access to a Live Audio Room. It is not yet clear what advertising opportunities there will be in these new features.
Facebook also announced this week that it is deepening its relationship with Spotify in a new project called Boombox. Project Boombox consists of an in-line audio player that will allow users to listen to songs or playlists being shared on the platforms without being externally linked to Spotify’s app or website. Furthermore, users can now stream music and podcasts on Facebook itself, either through Spotify or through new tools that will allow podcasters to integrate their content into their pages.
Facebook’s integration with Spotify and entrance into the world of podcasting comes at the same time as Apple announces it is revamping its podcast platform. Apple was a big player in bringing podcast to the mainstream but last year Spotify overtook Apple as the most popular place to listen to podcasts.
At Apple’s Spring Loaded event this week, it announced an expansion of its podcast offering including the introduction of subscriptions and a redesign of the current podcast app. The new design will include new show and episode pages that will make it easier to listen, follow and share podcasts and will also include a new ‘channels’ feature that will let you find shows from favourite creators to get recommendations, this will include both free and paid channels. The subscription feature will allow listeners to unlock additional benefits like ad-free listening, early access to episodes and the ability to support your favourite creators.
Since Clubhouse burst on to the scene the major audio and social players have responded – in much the same way that the social space reacted to the debut and rapid growth of TikTok by launching their own similar services. If 2020 was about social video, then 2021 is going to be about social audio.