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Facebook has radio in its sights with launch of Live Audio broadcasts

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Facebook is expanding the ways users can broadcast live on its service with the launch of Facebook: Live Audio.

As the title suggests, the update introduces audio-only streams to the social network. Over the next few weeks, the feature will be tested with select partners (including BBC World Service, LBC, Harper Collins, and authors Adam Grant and Brit Bennet). The lineup gives you an idea of the kind of content you can expect to find on Live Audio — news, current affairs, and cultural discussions will make up the breadth of topics on the service at launch. Two of the broadcasters — BBC World Service and LBC — are popular radio stations, which is another indication of the type of publishers Facebook is targeting.

Facebook promises to roll out the feature to general users early next year, essentially allowing anyone to set up their own radio station on the platform, with access to a potential audience of 1.75 billion people. Chances are, Live Audio will prove a big draw for podcasters, which inevitably means it will be cause for concern for other audio-hosting sites, such as SoundCloud and iTunes.

In its announcement, Facebook touts the interactivity and engagement offered by the feature. In the vein of Live Video, Facebook Live Audio lets listeners post their reactions and comments, and share broadcasts, all in real time. It also claims the feature is ideal for those looking to go live from low-connectivity areas, hinting at the fact that Facebook is interested in tapping into its global user base with the update.

Additionally, the platform is updating its mobile apps with new audio-centric features, including the ability to listen to Live Audio outside of the Facebook app for Android, and even from a device’s lock screen. Meanwhile, iOS listeners will be able to continue to listen to audio broadcasts while they browse Facebook. It will be interesting to see if Facebook adds a dedicated “audio” section (alongside video) to the News Feed sidebar to help users discover content.

“As we continue to improve the Facebook Live experience,” Facebook product specialist Shirley Ip and software engineer Bhavana Rhadakrishnan write about Live Audio in their blog post, “we’ve been listening to feedback to inform the new tools and features we build. One thing we’ve heard is that partners want new formats for going live … Our new Live Audio option makes it easy to go live with audio only when that’s the broadcaster’s preferred format.”

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