Some Disappointed by Facebook’s Waning Podcast Interest

After a year of experimentation, Facebook appears to be cooling on podcasting. Last April, the company launched podcasts for U.S. users in addition to Live Audio Rooms and the Soundbites short story feature. Now, Facebook seems to have shifted its priorities to online shopping and the metaverse, according to reports. The news has come as a disappointment to some in the podcasting industry, who valued the exposure and potential advertising revenue that came along with Facebook integration. During its brief focus, Facebook’s podcasting efforts were lauded by some content providers.

Political programmer TYT Network told Bloomberg that Facebook is second only to Apple in terms of its most successful platform, having since September “contributed ‘hundreds of thousands of additional monthly listens,’ according to chief marketing officer Praveen Singh,” who said “That’s double the audience TYT gets on Spotify.”

A spokesperson for the Meta Platforms subsidiary told Bloomberg Facebook continues working on podcasts, even while it accelerates priority initiatives like Reels and Feed. “The company is seeing good engagement for its audio products, according to the spokesperson, who declined to provide specifics,” Bloomberg reports.

Facebook’s audio foray came at a time when the industry was white hot, with live audio platform Clubhouse hitting a $4 billion valuation. “Spotify Technology SA had a market value of more than $50 billion a year ago, double what it is now, and Inc. was signing major audio deals. So when Facebook said it was introducing audio experiences, no one was entirely surprised,” Bloomberg writes.

But after sponsoring the Podcast Movement conference in August, “Facebook didn’t sponsor the conference’s offshoot event in March and didn’t send a single person to attend, according to the event’s attendee list,” Bloomberg noted, adding that “some initial Live Audio Rooms partners are no longer hosting conversations, and their deals were not re-upped.“

As COVID-19 measures lighten and “people begin to see other people IRL again, Facebook has reportedly lost some interest in bringing the sound of people’s voices to the masses,” Protocol reports, explaining “it was always going to be an uphill battle for supremacy on the audio front, even for a company with billions to spend.”

Spotify said in October that it overtook Apple to become the podcasting market’s U.S. leader, while Clubhouse and Twitter Spaces continue to dominate in live audio. “Apple, of course, hasn’t given up on getting the crown back,” Protocol writes, noting that “it has a better shot of doing that than Facebook coming to usurp both the podcasting heavyweights.”

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