With Live Audio, Facebook Proves it Wants a Piece of the Future of Radio



Facebook is democratizing radio with the introduction of Live Audio, designed to empower publishers and people with live broadcasting capabilities. Launch partners include the BBC and HarperCollins.

Just days after Mark Zuckerberg introduced us to Jarvis, his futuristic AI home system, Facebook announced a new feature that will support a much simpler media format: audio and radio.

Facebook users, in addition to brands and publishers, have been dabbling in Live Video since that feature was introduced in April. Now, the platform is providing a stripped down experience to facilitate live audio broadcasting.

In a blog post, Facebook’s Shirley Ip said the feature was for people who “didn’t want the bother of adding [a] video layer, but still wanted to broadcast live.” According to TechCrunch, the broadcasts can run up to four hours and will help “make talk radio social.”

Despite the rise of emerging media formats, radio really hasn’t gone anywhere. iHeartRadio, an app-powered online radio experience, has 90 million users. In 2015, Nielsen released a report which found that 91 percent of Americans age 12 or older (245 million people in total) listen to radio at least once per week. For context, Snapchat has 60 million daily active users in the U.S. and Canada.

Moreover, podcasting – radio-like format – grew more than 20 percent between 2015 and 2016, per a study by Edison Research. A fifth of Americans say they listen to podcasts on a regular basis, and you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who hasn’t at least heard of “Serial.”

Facebook is rolling out Live Audio with the help of a few pre-selected partners, including BBC, HarperCollins and author Adam Grant. The feature will be available to other publishers, and everyday users, in early 2017.

For more insights on Facebook and live media, you can subscribe to SMW Insider and watch Facebook’s Marketing Director of North America, Michelle Klein, discuss the future of communications when she spoke at Social Media Week New York at the beginning of 2016.

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