Facebook Photograph:( Reuters )
Facebook's incursion into the audio market comes as the sudden explosion of interest in Clubhouse, an audio app where billionaires and celebrities including Tesla CEO Elon Musk have popped in to chat, could be waning
Facebook on Monday said it is adding podcasts and "live audio rooms" in a push to get people talking and take on the fast-growing audio-based app Clubhouse.
Facebook's incursion into the audio market comes as the sudden explosion of interest in Clubhouse, an audio app where billionaires and celebrities including Tesla CEO Elon Musk have popped in to chat, could be waning.
Downloads of the Clubhouse app, which is only available on Apple's iOS devices, suffered an estimated 70 per cent decline in March from February when it hit a high.
Facebook has seen a steady rise in users opting for voice, from audio calls at the social network to leaving spoken messages using WhatsApp of Messenger.
Zuckerberg said the world's largest social media network planned in the coming months to launch features including short-form audio clips called "Soundbites" and ways to create sound effects or improve audio quality. Facebook said in a blog post it would begin to test live audio rooms, which would launch by the summer.
Zuckerberg said Facebook was looking to "treat audio as a first-class medium in the way that we would photos or video" in an interview on Discord with Casey Newton, editor of newsletter Platformer.
The rapid growth of the year-old app Clubhouse has demonstrated the potential of audio chat services.
The app, which is not yet available on Android, faces competition from multiple companies working on Clubhouse clones.
Twitter Inc is testing its live audio feature Spaces, along with new features from Discord, Microsoft-owned LinkedIn, Slack and Spotify Technology.
Reddit also unveiled a preview of its "Reddit Talks" product to moderators on Monday.
Analytics firm Sensor Tower estimated Clubhouse had a 72 per cent decline in growth from about 9.6 million February installs to about 2.4 million in March.
Facebook, which has long been criticized for its handling of problematic content across its products, will face the challenges of moderating live and recorded audio content.
Facebook said its live audio rooms would be available on its Messenger product and in its main app. It said it would test the rooms with public figures as well as in Groups - a product the company has vigorously promoted as providing places for people with common interests but which have also been used to spread misinformation and organize extremist activity.
As part of the announcements, Zuckerberg also said Facebook is working with Spotify on "Project Boombox" to share and listen to music on its platform.
Facebook said users would be able to send donations, or tips, to creators in live audio rooms through "Stars". After launch, it will offer other types of monetization like single-purchase access or subscription for rooms. It also announced an audio creator fund for Soundbites.
The company is working to attract more creators who are accustomed to receiving tips and other direct payments from fans.
More than 170 million people are connected to Facebook pages centered on podcasts, and some 35 million users are members of podcast fan groups, but listening to one required leaving the social network.
Facebook also planned to begin testing Live Audio Rooms, expected the feature to be available to all users by the middle of this year.
To make its audio offerings sustainable for the long term, Facebook is building in ways for people creating content to make money.
(With input from agencies)