Facebook debuts Live Audio

Facebook Live Audio will be rolled out further in the coming weeks

Facebook is building on the recently announced rollout of its Live 360 platform with the unveiling of Live Audio, a feature that lets media owners engage with audiences using aural-only content.

The new feature lets media owners serve such content to audiences within the social network’s News Feed – a method that is particularly useful, particularly in areas of poor cell phone coverage, Facebook said.

Media owners including BBC Worldwide, London-based radio outfit LBC and Harper Collins, as well as authors Adam Grant and Britt Bennett, have participated in the early phases of the rollout, which is set to be extended in the coming weeks.

A blog post announcing the Live Audio developments claims early participants have been able to go live and engage audiences in new ways using only the Facebook Live API, or “by adding a still image to accompany their audio content".

The post, co-authored by Facebook Product Specialist Shirley Ip and Software Engineer Bhavana Radhakrishnan, further reads: “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, your 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."

Facebook's need to find new ad formats

The post does not contain any information on plans to introduce paid-for media opportunities in the new feature, but given Facebook’s previous modus operandi, as well as incentives to sustain its stratospheric revenue growth rates, this is likely to follow.

On the social network’s last earnings call, its leadership warned of a significant revenue growth slowdown to come in 2017, with the latest rollout likely an attempt to introduce budgets formerly reserved for radio, etc.

The digital audio advertising sector is primed to heat up in 2017, with the medium making significant strides when it comes to inclusion in brands’ media plans, with adtech outfits including AppNexus, The Trade Desk and Rubicon Project inking significant deals with Spotfiy as it pursued the rollout of its global programmatic offering, as exclusively revealed by The Drum. Spotify’s ambitions in this space were also underlined by the recent appointment of Publicis Groupe adtech veteran Marco Bertozzi.

The future of audio advertising?

Research published earlier this year forecast US marketing and media professionals will allocate an average of 11.6% of their ad budget and inventory to digital audio placements by mid-2017, doubling the share of investment made just two years earlier.

A study of media professionals commissioned by The Trade Desk claimed that respondents said 7% of their ad budgets or inventory were set aside for digital audio as of mid-2016. However, in the next 12 months, respondents claimed their investment in the format would likely grow to 11.6% (see chart below).

Chart: eMarketer

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Sean Larkin

All by Sean