Could Facebook be the next big platform for podcasts?

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Would you log into your Facebook account and listen to a podcast?

In some ways, it could make a lot of sense: People are spending tons of time on Facebook anyway, so why not listen to some audio while you’re there?

WNYC is experimenting with this exact concept: On Tuesday, it published a new, full-length episode of Here’s the Thing to the podcast’s Facebook page. In the 48-minute episode, host Alec Baldwin interviews Jimmy Fallon.

Facebook doesn’t allow direct audio uploads, so the podcast was uploaded as a video file; the audio plays over a static image. WNYC is calling it an “audiogram.”

The audiogram had more than 12,000 plays a few hours after posting, though it isn’t clear whether users listened to the full 48 minutes.

“Previously, we and other audio production companies were limited to linking to our owned and operated audio players or third-party players or apps,” Delaney Simmons, WNYC’s social media director, said. “This experiment is different…you don’t have to leave Facebook to consume it and the content itself is uploaded directly into a product feature within the Facebook universe.”

WNYC is also experimenting with sharing shorter “audiograms” on Twitter, as it first did last year. It’s tweeted them from @WNYC in breaking news situations, and it’s shared clips from the New Yorker Radio Hour on that show’s Twitter account.

Limetown experimented with a similar concept for its early episodes, uploading audio-based teasers as video files with static images; each got a few thousand plays. Recently, though, Limetown has begun simply linking to the SoundCloud and iTunes pages for new episodes.

“The results were strong given our overall page size on Facebook (good distribution to non-fans of the page and view count), but retention was low, as I’ve heard was fairly common on Facebook, given auto-play and the nature of the News Feed,” Limetown creator Skip Bronkie told me Tuesday. “Given this, we never released a full episode on Facebook.”

But WNYC plans to continue its Facebook audiogram experiments, testing different lengths and designs.

“We’re taking a lot of cues from the TV industry,” Simmons said. “How can we forward-promote our episodes? Can we upload audio sneak peeks, bonus clips, and Facebook exclusive episodes?”

And, she said, background listening — where a listener streams a podcast while doing other activities — is an area of interest. WNYC is already developing background listening capabilities for its own platforms, and Simmons noted that the new Facebook video player allows users to watch a video in the lower righthand corner of the screen while scrolling through the rest of Facebook.

“If a native [Facebook] audio player becomes a reality, we hope it would act similarly,” Simmons said.

  • This is kind of funny to read. Gives some insight into who is new in the space. “If a native [Facebook] audio player becomes a reality…” They used to have one. It was great cause all you had to do was link to the raw audio file. Perhaps a push from some of these more notorious networks could get them to turn it back on;)

    However, these networks need to work closer with fb to get the functionality that Libsyn and Spreaker already provide. Orrrr get an account;) They provide inline, native players for your hosted audio content.

    To the bigger question, can this work? Yes. I produce a show at work that is essentially a facebook driven podcast. In other words, the majority of listens come from facebook.

    I have been testing this for years and it was the single reason I had my employer get a SoundCloud account last year. Since Libsyn now provides this, I cancelled that account.

    Bottom line, it works. The caveat here is that we have a very large fb following (200K+ Likes). Even with that kind of following, the impact is not massive but it does make a difference.

    For example, a show we produce only gets a few hundred downloads per month via podcast channels (iTunes, etc). But when this same show is posted to fb, I see that number rise to around 800-1000 listens.

    The question remains, how much of the program does someone listen to on fb but that question is the same across most platforms. Those episodes are also short format, less then 10 minutes so I think that is a plus for content on fb. But again, hard to tell. That said, I also don’t think it matters. If advertising is your only play then yes, you might care but it’s still misdirected focus because exposure, that chance to get in front of someone who might subscribe, is the key IMO.

    Overall, I think it’s valuable to place our content on fb. The audience that is on fb is the same audience that would listen to our podcasts and therefore it’s important to reach them where they are. Certainly we’ve picked up new subscribers by posting there and we know that each sub is very important.

    In terms of workflow it doesn’t take much to put your content on fb and in fact, I think with Libsyn you can auto post via your distribution channels. However, I always create a fb player specific image to prevent the repetitive nature of these post, making it something interesting to see each time and images do insanely well on facebook so I think it helps.

    There’s definitely opportunity on fb if you are building an audience there.

  • Aaron Read

    Ray I think you highlight exactly why it’s a bad idea to get too cozy with Facebook for content distribution: FB can, and will, cut you off at the knees if it fits their business model. The old FB audio player was great for distributing pubradio content and then one day it was just gone. Oh well.

  • Aaron Read

    BTW, one thing that immediately occurred to me whilst reading this was: “I wonder how our FB fans would like it if we could automatically post our local newscasts to our FB page?”

    I already have an RSS/podcast set up that shows the three most recent newscasts on our homepage (ripr.org)…it’s an outgrowth of the system I cooked up for supplying newscasts to NPR One. It’s a little rough but it works reasonably well…and I think I can clean it up some, too. But I don’t know that having such things post automatically every hour (or even every 20-30 minutes during drive times) would be something that’d work well for the FB audience.

  • Adrian Ruben Dogar

    Hi Laura.

    Don’t rely too much on Facebook’s metrics: https://medium.com/@hankgreen/theft-lies-and-facebook-video-656b0ffed369#.l856wfn5d

    Facebook is ok for reaching and interacting with current audiences. It is difficult for audios to be shared and discovered since they don’t count with the visual support (that is valued by Facebook users). And one more thing: they will never send a paycheck to an author saying “This is a part of what we have earned based on your content. I want you to have this! Thank you!”

  • Aaron Read

    I’m sure this is a blinding flash of the obvious, but I’ll state it for the record anyways: public media has, generally speaking, always been more interested in reaching ears/eyes than in direct monetization. The operating theory was that the more people you reach, the more a percentage of those people will become regular consumers of public media content, the more a percentage of those consumers will become donors.

    It occurs to me that this business model is rapidly becoming outmoded, if not already dead. Reaching people on Facebook just encourages them to consume your content on Facebook…and it’s almost impossible to monetize your engagement on Facebook; FB makes sure of that.