A year after launching its Clubhouse copycat and announcing its push into podcasts, Facebook is pulling back on efforts trying to make it in all things audio. It appears live chatting on your phone may not be the future after all. (Who could've possibly predicted this?)
With live audio fading away as 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. The company cranked out a Clubhouse clone and other audio offerings including podcasting tools, short-form stories called Soundbites and a Live Audio Rooms project that launched last April. But the platform is deprioritizing those efforts, according to Bloomberg.
Instead, it's reportedly trying to get podcasting partners excited about doing events in — what else? — the metaverse as well as ecommerce. Facebook parent company Meta has recently turned its attention to other projects, including laying the groundwork for Mark Zuckerberg's metaverse fantasies and working on short-form video as a way to compete with TikTok's rise.
The company told Protocol in an email that it is seeing good engagement on its audio products, and has been receiving feedback from creators and users on what is and isn't working.
But it was always going to be an uphill battle for supremacy on the audio front, even for a company with billions to spend. Spotify dominates the podcasting market, having reportedly surpassed Apple in October as the top podcast platform among U.S. listeners. Apple, of course, hasn't given up on getting the crown back. And it has a better shot of doing that than Facebook coming to usurp both the podcasting heavyweights.
Meanwhile, live audio is ruled by Clubhouse and Twitter Spaces. But it's not exactly a growth industry, with interest stalling out as COVID-19 restrictions relax and more people returning to normal activities instead of holing up at home talking to strangers on their phones. Clubhouse, once the live audio app that had everyone talking about it, is trying to do things that aren't just live audio to retain its stagnating user base. This week it added a Discord-esque gaming feature, and had previously added an optional text chat feature that Twitch, YouTube and Discord already had. At least it won't have to worry about Facebook trying to bigfoot it anymore.