Is it a sign of the podcasting apocalypse (#podcastalypse?) or just a smart business consolidation in the face of an overcrowded audio market (that could be reeling itself back in as pandemic restrictions wane)?
Perhaps Facebook’s news that it is dropping its podcast operation is both.
Podcasting has been the hot thing for awhile, and nothing stays 🔥 hot 🔥 forever in our short-attention-span media world.
The recent news that Spotify won’t renew the Obamas’ podcast/the Obamas won’t renew their podcast deal (pick your spin) might have been just the leading edge of a reexamination of overly generous celebrity deals along with podcast resource commitments that have been made over the last couple of years.
(Harry and Meghan Markle look nervously around as Netflix’s closed gates recede in the rearview mirror.)
Bloomberg is again onto the story: “Facebook is pulling out of podcasts and plans to remove them altogether from the social-media service starting June 3.” The piece added, “Facebook will stop letting people add podcasts to the service starting this week, according to a note sent to partners.”
Facebook won’t completely eliminate audio-video material, but it will no longer provide a ready-made, separate operation to highlight such content.
Podcasting continues to be one of the fastest growing channels in digital media. Advertising revenue attained a new high in 2021, racing past the $1 billion mark for the first time ever to reach $1.4 billion. Revenues are expected to almost triple by 2024 to more than $4 billion, making it clear that podcasting and digital audio aren’t slowing down anytime soon. Gain insights into this burgeoning medium with a selection of articles hand-curated from the NAB Amplify archives:
- The Podcast Advertising Market Tops $1 Billion for the First Time
- Why the Podcast Medium Keeps Shapeshifting
- Understanding the Podcast to TV Pipeline
- Has the US Hit Peak Podcasting?
- When Podcasting Collides with Commercialization
According to Bloomberg: “In the note to partners, Facebook said it doesn’t plan to alert users to the fact that podcasts will no longer be available, leaving it up to the publishers to decide how they want to disclose that information. Live Audio Rooms will be integrated into Facebook Live, meaning users can choose to go live with just audio or audio and video.”
(Live Audio Rooms were positioned as FB’s answer to Clubhouse.)
Bloomberg had previously hinted, a few weeks ago, that Facebook was rethinking the podcast effort. That story noted the eager efforts the company made to attract podcasters to the platform.
It had even helped in sponsorship of a podcast industry show, Austin-based Podcast Movement. However, Facebook’s pod team was a no-show at a recent industry event. The writing was on the wall.
The Verge got a meatier explanation from Facebook’s Adelaide Coronado, who said, “After a year of learning and iterating on audio-first experiences, we’ve decided to simplify our suite of audio tools on Facebook.” Those tools will include Soundbites and the Audio hub.
And Coronado provided the obligatory it’s-all-part-our-omniscient-plan-that’s-best-for-everyone boilerplate: “We’re constantly evaluating the features we offer so we can focus on the most meaningful experiences.”
Is FB Pivoting Back to Video?
Bloomberg also theorized that TikTok’s video hegemony was rattling the Facebook brain trust, so the company is going to push its Reels video creation platform, which has been growing in Facebook user interest, while the audio suite languished.
TechCrunch quotes a Facebook email to that effect: “Your voices and stories have inspired us and we remain committed to helping you reach and grow your audiences. … For example, we are seeing podcast-related content being developed in video, Reels and Live to engage and grow audiences.” TC notes that the email then directs users to learn more about using Reels.
READ MORE: Facebook Is Shutting Down Its Podcast Service, Discontinuing Other Audio Products (TechCrunch)
It should also not be forgotten that Facebook users likely already have numerous podcast sources outside of Facebook. Walled gardens do have their limitations.
Or there may be an alternative angle, not wholly inapposite. If one squints a little and puts on a Zuckerbergian “metaverse” hat, this move makes some long-term sense. In the metaverse, goggles or not, all media is immediately accessible. The concept of a podcast or a separate platform hosting that material is moot.
But Wait — TikTok Is Actually All About Audio?
🔊 SOUND ON 🔊 is a huge part of TikTok’s appeal, contends Global Head of B2B Marketing Carly Zipp.
In a keynote delivered to the 2022 NAB Show in Las Vegas, Zipp told attendees that the company attributes its success to the immersive nature of its content. And it’s not the video format that she thinks makes for tuned in users.
Rather, the audio component — for the uninitiated, many if not most viral videos feature pop-y music or sound effects — is what’s necessary to truly suck users in and take them from passive viewing to true, multisensory engagement.
Watch Zipp’s address, below, to learn more tips about being a successful TikTok creator.
Emily M. Reigart also contributed to this article.