If you haven’t heard already, audio — or social audio, as pundits have taken to calling it — is turning out to be the new sexy beast in social media. With the ubiquity of wireless earphones and the ongoing global pandemic keeping most people at home, the clamor for audio platforms has gotten louder, no doubt sparked by the recent spike in popularity of Clubhouse, which has managed to attract bold-faced names to the platform.
Spurred by the audio app’s success, social media giants have gotten in on the audio messaging boom: Twitter has Spaces while Facebook practically launched all but the kitchen sink in its bid to once again be the biggest player in the room.
What is Twitter Spaces?
Similar to Clubhouse, Twitter Spaces lets users host and join in real-time audio conversations. These are hosted within “spaces” or audio chat rooms.
Unlike Clubhouse, which is strictly invite-only at the moment, Spaces is open for all. Spaces allows a maximum of 10 speakers but does not limit the number of listeners. At its current status, it is available on iOS and Android. More updates can be expected as soon as it is officially launched.
Facebook’s audio toys
In a move that practically everyone saw coming, Facebook launched its own audio-only toys. One is Live Audio Rooms, which is similar to Clubhouse in that it also lets people host, listen to, and participate in real-time audio conversations.
Another one — Soundbites — lets users create and upload short-form audio clips like poetry, random recordings and other amusing clips. Think TikTok but audio. Facebook will also be launching Podcasts in the app, allowing you to listen to podcasts while using the app. Meanwhile, its suite of audio creation and editing tools, including AI-based noise cancelling and voice effects as well as captions across all audio products, allows content creators even more space to explore and see what they can think of next.
The other players
It is no surprise that the audio boom has crossed over different platforms as well — let’s look at two. Not one to be left behind, Spotify has acquired Locker Room, which will allow the app to branch out beyond music streaming and podcasts. Previously a sports audio app (hence its name), Locker Room will undergo a rebrand, name change and a redirect similar to where Clubhouse is going, though the buzz says that it will differ from Clubhouse in that it allows anyone to start a conversation, not just approved creators.
Similarly, Discord, once only used by gamers and teens, will also be undergoing a rebrand and a new tagline (“Your place to talk”) in an effort to get a slice of the social audio pie.
Boom and boon
While the audio boom creates opportunities for creators and accessibility to consumers, it is not without its own challenges. Its greatest boon would definitely be content creation, as it gives a whole new generation of creators more room to play and experiment, though it’s too early to tell how these new toys will impact the social media landscape in the long run. And already, people are looking to audio’s next frontier — conversion of text to audio. But before that happens, one of the challenges in the foreseeable future would be how to monitor and fact-check real-time audio conversations or even prevent harassment and bullying, issues that have been surfacing as early as now. Then again, that’s a topic for another day.
As with every trend, especially in tech, the advantages are huge and exciting, its drawbacks equally impactful. It is important to not only ride the (sound)waves but also help steer them towards a healthy and safe direction. At the end of the day as the audio boom gains momentum, the hope is that it amplifies relevant voices and cancels the unnecessary noise.