Facebook on Monday began testing a live audio streaming service that will let people essentially broadcast radio-style on the leading online social network.
Partners working with Facebook to test “Live Audio” included BBC World Service, book publisher HarperCollins, British talk radio station LBC, and authors Adam Grant and Brit Bennett.
The new feature comes as an alternative to a Facebook tool that lets people stream live video at the social network.
“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,” explained product specialist Shirley IP and software engineer Bhavana Radhakrishnan in a blog post. “Our new Live Audio option makes it easy to go live with audio only when that’s the broadcaster’s preferred format.”
An audio-streaming option promised to be useful in areas where telecommunication networks have trouble handling the larger data demands of video streaming, according to the post.
Listeners can discover live audio content in the Facebook News Feed, ask questions and leave reactions in real time during broadcasts. Facebook said it would be testing Audio Live with partners in coming weeks and then roll it out more broadly next year.
The company envisions that interviews, book readings, new songs, and many other audio-centric use cases will benefit from this, and the need for video will no longer be a hindrance to people who want to share things with the world live. Of course there’s another benefit: If you start a live video broadcast and internet connectivity drops, you can switch to audio so that the stream never stops.
How much this will affect the likes of Sound Cloud, iTunes, and others remains to be seen, but featuring this content on Facebook Pages along with videos and other media could invigorate a fan base. Of course, it may just wind up being a preferential thing for users; some may prefer iTunes since they can download the audio.