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Facebook Adds Live Audio Streams to iOS, Android Apps

Variety logo Variety 12/20/2016 Janko Roettgers
© Provided by Variety

After throwing its weight behind live video, Facebook is now expanding to real-time audio streaming: The company added the ability to listen to live audio broadcasts to its iOS and Android apps this week, and is now testing the format with a group of select publishers including the BBC World Service and Harper Collins.

Users can find audio streams in their news feeds, and interact with broadcasters via chat and reactions just like they would with a video stream. Android users will be able to continue listening even after they close the app, making it easier to listen on the go, while iOS users have to keep Facebook’s app up and running to stay tuned in.

Facebook product specialist Shirley Ip and Facebook software engineer Bhavana Radhakrishnan said in a blog post Tuesday that the new format was, in part, a response to broadcasters already using Facebook’s video streaming for audio-only programming. “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.”

They also suggested that audio may help in situations with slow internet access. “Live Audio presents another option for connecting with audiences in real time from low-connectivity areas,” they said.

Facebook is at launch putting a big emphasis on spoken word content for live audio, and has book authors Adam Grant and Britt Bennett participating in the current tests as well. However, the company wants to open up the feature more widely early next year, and one has to wonder whether labels artists and DJs will embrace it for music at that point as well — which in turn could be an interesting way for Facebook to once again dip a toe into the music streaming world.

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