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Social media giant, Facebook, is going big on audio features. The company introduced a host of new audio-only functions that will be coming to the central Facebook app in the coming months. While the features will be split across Facebook initially, the company said it will create a central space for audio content to be hosted on the platform. The company is also adding monetization features from the get-go, giving it a leg up on competitors Clubhouse and Twitter, which have been dabbling in the social audio space for a while now.

“We’re working to make audio messages easier to record, and more fun — including the ability for people to send familiar sound clips to their friends that range from sound effects like crickets chirping to quotes from popular songs," the company said in a blog post. The features include out and out copies of Clubhouse or Twitter’s Spaces, others are new features that are unique to Facebook.

Live Audio rooms for Groups and Messenger

To start with, Facebook will allow users to host live chat rooms on Facebook Groups and Messenger, which is the central idea behind Clubhouse. The company said 1.8 billion people use Groups every month and the company will test rooms with these Groups initially. The feature will also be available for public figures, who can host conversations with others on the platform.

The company said Live Audio rooms will come to Messenger “this summer", which should mean they’ll go live around the June-July mark.

Short-form audio through Soundbites

Additionally, Facebook is also adding a new short-form audio feature called Soundbites, which will allow users to record short voice messages and post them to the platform. The company will start testing the feature “over the next few months" by giving access to a few creators.

Podcasts for Facebook

Next, the company is taking a page out of Spotify and Apple Music’s playbook, by allowing podcasts on the platform. According to an earlier report by Recode, Facebook will tie-up with Spotify for this feature, instead of creating its own podcast hosting platform. The company said over 170 million people already connect to podcast pages on Facebook, and they’ll soon have a way to listen to episodes directly through the main Facebook app, even when it is running in the background.

Facebook will also be adding ways for users to discover podcasts they might like based on their interests and have features for them to make comments and recommendations. Podcast creators will also be able to find new listeners through the Facebook app.

Audio filters and voice effects

Facebook’s audio features will also include filters like smart noise reduction, that removes background noise and other voice effects. The company said it is building a “set of audio creation tools" like it did for photos and videos. “We’ve been investing in audio technologies — such as speech-to-text and voice morphing — for a long time and will make them available in an audio creation tool directly inside the Facebook app," the company said. It says it can enhance audio quality even when recordings are made on a busy street corner.

In addition, Facebook will offer access to music from its own collection that creators can add to their tracks or mix audio tracks with other sound effects and filters.

Monetization for audio

Lastly, in what could draw creators directly to Facebook and give the company a leg up over Twitter and Clubhouse, monetization features will be available right away. Facebook is allowing users to support creators by donating Stars, a virtual item they can buy on Facebook to show support for a cause. It will also introduce the ability to charge for access to Live Audio Rooms, subscription features and single access payments.

For Soundbites, the company is creating an Audio Creator Fund that will be used to support “emerging audio creators". The company didn’t disclose the amount in this fund. All of Facebook’s audio features will also work with each other, meaning creators will be able to convert a Live Audio Room into a podcast after it’s concluded, or take snippets from a conversation to create a Soundbite and so on.

Social audio platform Clubhouse, which provided the kickstart for the social audio space, had introduced its first two monetization efforts in the last few weeks. The company announced the Clubhouse Creator First programme, which is an accelerator for creators on the platform. It also announced a payment feature that will allow users to send money to creators directly from the platform. Twitter is yet to add monetization tools in its Spaces platform.

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