In April, Facebook announced a series of planned investments in new audio products; including a Clubhouse live audio competitor as well as new support for podcasts.
Today, Facebook is officially rolling these products with the launch of Live Audio Rooms in the U.S. on iOS; starting with public figures and select Facebook Groups, and the debut of an initial set of U.S. podcast partners.
The company tells us Live Audio Rooms will become available to any verified public figure; or creator in the U.S. who’s in good standing with Facebook and is using either a profile or the new Facebook Pages experience on iOS.
For Facebook Groups, the feature is launching with “dozens of groups,” we’re told.
Both products will become more broadly available in the weeks and months ahead; as more people, podcasts, and Groups are brought on board. Meanwhile, 100% of Facebook users in the U.S. will be able to listen to Live Audio Rooms and podcasts as of this week.
Much like Clubhouse or similar audio apps, Facebook’s Live Audio Rooms offer a standard set of features.
The event’s hosts appear in rounded profile icons at the top of the screen; while the listeners appear in the bottom half of the screen, as smaller icons.
The active speaker is indicated with a glowing ring. If verified, a check appears next to their name, as well.
There are also options for enabling live captions, a “raise hand” tool to request to speak, and tools to share the room with others on Facebook, through things like News Feed or Group posts.
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Facebook does things a little differently than others in some places.
For instance, hosts are able to invite people to join them as a speaker in advance of the session; or they can choose listeners during the stream to join them.
In each session, there can be up to 50 speakers and there’s no limit on the number of listeners, Facebook says.
During the session, users will be notified when friends or followers join the chat, too.
While listening, users can “Like” or react to the content as it streams using the “Thumbs Up” button at the bottom of the screen; which connects you to Facebook’s set of emoji reactions. And with today’s official launch, listeners can also now show support to the public figure of the Live Audio Room by sending “Stars.”
These Stars can be purchased during the conversation and used at any time, similar to how they work with other Facebook Live content.
By sending Stars, the listener is bumped up to the “Front Row,” a special section that highlights the people who sent the Stars.
This allows the event’s hosts to easily recognize their supporters and even give them a shout out during the event, if they choose.
Another new feature allows hosts to select a nonprofit or fundraiser to support during their conversation, and listeners and speakers can directly donate.
A progress bar will show how much has been raised during the show.