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Facebook Introduces Audio-Only Facebook Live Broadcasts

Podcasting has seen a big increase in popularity over the past few years.

According to Edison Research, podcast listenership grew 23% between 2015 and 2016, while 21% of all Americans now listen to podcasts on a regular basis. For comparison, 21% of Americans use Twitter – so the same amount of people tweeting are listening to podcasts. Worth considering in your marketing process.

And that’s not all – check out the growth in podcasts on iTunes over the past few years (via Copyblogger).

Facebook Introduces Audio-Only Facebook Live Broadcasts | Social Media TodayEven LinkedIn recently published an infographic on the growth of podcasts, noting that more than a third of their 467 million members regularly listen to podcasts, with users under the age of 35 the being most prolific podcast consumers.

While it may not get as much coverage as other marketing options, podcasting is clearly a growth area. And it might just be about to get bigger, with Facebook today announcing a new option to broadcast via Facebook Live in audio-only mode.

Facebook Introduces Audio-Only Facebook Live Broadcasts | Social Media TodayAs per Facebook:

“We know that sometimes publishers want to tell a story on Facebook with words and not video. We’ve even seen some Pages find creative ways to go live and reach audiences with audio only by using the Facebook Live API or by adding a still image to accompany their audio broadcast. Our new Live Audio option makes it easy to go live with audio only when that’s the broadcaster’s preferred format.”

The update adds to the expanding options for live broadcasts on the platform – and with live content getting a reach boost via the algorithm, logically, more people are looking to use it in different ways. 

Audio live-streams can be up to four hours long, while Facebook also notes that audio-only broadcasts will be beneficial for areas of low connectivity, enabling more people to connect in real-time.

From interviews to book readings, we’re excited about the layer of interactivity that Live Audio brings to both the broadcaster and listener. Just as with a live video on Facebook, listeners can discover live audio content in News Feed, ask questions and leave reactions in real time during the broadcast, and easily share with their friends.”

Live audio will also continue to play while you do other things on the app – on Android, Live audio will continue playing even if you leave the app entirely, while iOS listeners will be able to continue browsing other parts of Facebook while the audio plays.

Facebook Introduces Audio-Only Facebook Live Broadcasts | Social Media TodayReally, Facebook Live is begging for new options in how to use it. As noted, because Facebook gives Live content a reach boost, publishers are trying out any way they can to exploit the system, broadcasting pre-recorded videos, static images and interactive polls in which viewers can cast their votes via Reactions. This last one obviously works well because Reactions in themselves boost reach – more people responding means the content is more interesting, at least as far as the algorithm can tell, so it gets an even bigger reach boost for all that activity.

Facebook has sought to crack down on some of these mis-uses or ‘re-interpretations’ of what live content is, but as we noted recently, five of the top 10 Facebook Live broadcasts of 2016 were basically static images and not much else. If people are engaging with such content, Facebook’s better off finding a way to work with it and keep that interaction going, rather than outlawing it entirely.

Facebook Introduces Audio-Only Facebook Live Broadcasts | Social Media TodayThis is all part of the ongoing development of Live, and there’ll be more use-cases and mis-uses as time goes on, but it’ll be interesting to see how Facebook works to adapt to user behaviors and either integrate or eliminate them from the tool.

Facebook also recently announced the addition of Live 360 content, and with the new audio functionality, it’s even easier to see how Live will become a much bigger part of the Facebook experience, and a much more relevant content consumption option for more users.

And if Live audio also gets an algorithm boost – which you’d expect it will – a great many podcasters will no doubt be very interested in utilizing it to reach a whole new audience with their work.

Facebook’s testing Live Audio with several partners over the next few weeks, including BBC Brasil LBCHarper Collins, and authors Adam Grant and Brit Bennett. The new format will be made available more broadly to publishers and people early in 2017.

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