Facebook Live Audio elbows in on radio and podcasting

The service is starting with five high-profile broadcasters and will open up to more next year.

Facebook spent much of 2016 tricking out its Live video broadcasting feature, most recently opening it up to footage shot with 360-degree cameras. But it seems they've been busy bringing another streaming option to professional organizations and amateur users alike. Today, the social titan is launching Live Audio for a select group of publishers, with plans to open it up to everyone next year.

The sound-only service could bring content like podcasts into News Feeds just like Live does for video. As Facebook's announcement post points out, this could be useful for folks in low-connectivity areas to broadcast more data-efficient media. Should their signal get low, hosts could theoretically switch to audio for a seamless stream.

Facebook envisions that Live Audio will be used as a semi-professional stage for esteemed events like book readings and interviews with its Live service's viewer interaction bolted-in. Currently, the first organizations cleared to use it are: BBC World Service, talk radio broadcaster Leading Britain's Conversation (LBC), book publisher Harper Collins and authors Adam Grant and Britt Bennett.

Currently, Android users can keep listening to a Live Audio broadcast while using other services, while iOS users must stay within Facebook's app to continue hearing it. The social platform plans to open the service up to other publishers and users next year, though it didn't specify the rate it would be expanding broadcasting privileges.