The BBC and Harper Collins are two of the publishers chosen by Facebook to test out its new answer to podcasting and radio, called Live Audio. The social network announced the feature on Tuesday, explaining in a blog post that “we know that sometimes publishers want to tell a story… with words and not video.”
Like Facebook Live video, the Audio iteration allows ‘casters to go live with a click. Users will get a notification that someone they follow has gone live, and the audio player display includes the same options for commenting, reacting and sharing — just without the video. The other main difference with video is that Live Audio can be enjoyed while doing other stuff on your device. Android users will be able to listen to a live audio broadcast even if they leave Facebook or lock their phones, while iOS users can continue listening while browsing the rest of Facebook.
“From interviews to book readings, we’re excited about the layer of interactivity that Live Audio brings to both the broadcaster and listener,” Facebook said.
Facebook also sees Live Audio as a way to connect broadcasters from less-connected parts of the world with a wider audience, setting up a potentially helpful tool for news outlets looking to amplify a story. If a video broadcaster’s signal begins to diminish while in a low-connectivity area, the app will allow them to switch over to the lighter Live Audio option in order to continue streaming.
As with Facebook Live and other streaming video platforms like Periscope (and the late Meerkat), legal issues are sure to be raised about the audio feature. Proper licenses from performing rights bodies would be needed for a radio station to broadcast a concert (streams can last up to four hours, and are archived), and a company could potentially violate a record labels’ master rights if a user streamed a sound recording on Live Audio. Privacy is also an issue, given that someone could theoretically stream a conversation without someone’s knowledge.
If you want to see Live Audio in action in the coming weeks, Facebook has tapped the BBC World Service, HarperCollins, British talk-radio station LBC and authors Adam Grant and Brit Bennett for testing. The company plans to take the new format wide to other “publishers and people” early next year.