Facebook Live Audio Only

You have to hand it to Mark Zuckerberg and the boys and girls over at Facebook, they just keep shifting the social media landscape, one giant leap forward at a time.

Behold their latest innovation, Live Audio, which Facebook announced Monday via a release:

We know that sometimes publishers want to tell a story on Facebook with words and not video. We’ve even seen some Pages find creative ways to go live and reach audiences with audio only by using the Facebook Live API or by adding a still image to accompany their audio broadcast. Our new Live Audio option makes it easy to go live with audio only when that’s the broadcaster’s preferred format.

…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, 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.

If you’re thinking “Sure, of course that should be an option; they’re already offering more than just audio, right? Isn’t that sort of a regression in technology? And furthermore, isn’t all of this just a fancy way to offer personal audio broadcasting, which has been around in some form or another for years online, and decades if you include radio? In fact, isn’t all of this something that Facebook reasonably could have been doing for a while now, only to have them package it as the next great stepping stone for social media?”

Kind of, yeah, absolutely. This innovation falls under the category of technical innovation best described as “moving forwards by looking backwards.” Take texting, for example. Sending short, typed or written messages isn’t actually all that different from pager technology, yet at first we moved to cell phones. As it turned out, people enjoy sending those messages more than they enjoy full conversations, for a variety of reasons. Or podcasts, which are essentially just radio programs on demand.

And, admittedly, there is one fairly viable reason this separate feature could represent a real improvement:

We also know that publishers sometimes go live from areas that lack strong network connectivity. Though we alert the broadcaster if their signal is low, Live Audio presents another option for connecting with audiences in real time from low-connectivity areas.

Considering how many important stories people have told from all over the world via channels like Facebook Live, Periscope, and others, that’s a potentially impactful feature for users in third-world countries, or even rural areas of developed nations, where broadband access is actually still hard to come by. An FCC report from January of 2016 noted that 39% of the rural population in the United States did not even have the option of broadband Internet access. That’s one of the reasons why you’ll see long lines at Redbox kiosks in small towns; renting streams or downloading movies just isn’t an option for a large group of people, much less uploading a Facebook Live stream.

It very well could serve a purpose, for both media professionals looking for a new outlet for content and the personal Facebook user who wants to stream, well, anything.

Still, this is certainly not the next big new thing, like the Facebook Phone. That one’s here to stay.

About Jay Rigdon

Jay is a columnist at Awful Announcing. He is not a strong swimmer. He is probably talking to a dog in a silly voice at this very moment.