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Facebook’s Removing Support for Podcasts, Just 10 Months After Launching New Podcast Features

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Facebook's Removing Support for Podcasts, Just 10 Months After Launching New Podcast Features

It’s things like this that sow distrust among creators and businesses on Facebook.

Today, Bloomberg has reported that Facebook is removing its podcast support and display options, which it launched in June last year, as it shifts focus away from audio options.

As reported by Bloomberg:

Facebook is pulling out of podcasts and plans to remove them altogether from the social-media service starting June 3. Facebook will stop letting people add podcasts to the service starting this week, according to a note sent to partners. It will discontinue both its short-form audio product Soundbites and remove its central audio hub.”

Facebook first previewed these options last April, as part of a broader push on social audio, in the wake of Clubhouse’s meteoric rise in early 2021.

As you can see, Meta promoted a range of upcoming podcast options, including on-page display tools and direct connection options, which would enable Facebook users to tune in to podcasts without leaving the app.

Meta then officially launched its podcast support tools in June, with various launch partners.

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Facebook podcasts

Meta promoted the option as a way to showcase your podcast content to its billions of users, and engage with fans in the app, helping to grow your community.

But now, less than a year later, it’s pulling the plug entirely, leaving any creators who had been using these tools to build their audience out in the cold.

Meta provided a brief statement to Bloomberg, noting that:

“We’re constantly evaluating the features we offer so we can focus on the most meaningful experiences.”

As noted, Meta has a history of pulling the rug out from under creators and brands, whether through reduced Page reach, its ever-changing emphasis on video, pushing creators to use Stories, etc.

And every time, that erodes trust in The Social Network, and serves as a reminder for creators not to build on ‘rented land’. Because Meta can and will change the rules of the game whenever it feels like it. The bottom line is that if you’re relying on its apps to support your community-building efforts, you can expect, at some stage, that it’ll shift focus, and leave you in the lurch as a result.

Of course, Meta has only shown interest in podcasts, really, for a few months, so you would assume that the vast majority of podcasters would have already focused their audience growth efforts elsewhere, as it hasn’t become a key element of the Facebook experience either way.

But even so, it’ll likely bring spark flashbacks for business users that have made various strategic switches at Zuck and Co’s whim, only to be eventually faced with reduced reach and engagement as the company looks to the next shiny object on the horizon, which it can use to suck in more users.

Meta also apparently doesn’t plan on alerting users to the podcast change, opting to leave that up to the publishers instead, while Live Audio Rooms will be integrated into Facebook Live, giving users the option to go live with just audio or audio and video.

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So why the change in focus?

I suspect that this, from Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg in the company’s most recent earnings call, may have something to do with it:

“After the start of COVID, the acceleration of e-commerce led to outsized revenue growth, but we’re now seeing that trend back off. However, based on the strong revenue growth we saw in 2021, we kicked off a number of 2 multi-year projects to accelerate some of our longer term investments, especially in our AI infrastructure, business platform, and Reality Labs. These investments are going to be important for our success and growth over time so I continue to believe we should see them through. But with our current business growth levels, we’re now planning to slow the pace of some of our investments.”

That last line is what I think could be at play here – with costs rising, as it looks towards the metaverse, Meta is now re-assessing its various bets, and streamlining its focus, in order to ensure it manages expenses, and keeps revenue ticking over.

And within that, I suspect that audio is just not as big a deal as some thought it could become early last year.

Some audio elements are still seeing good performance, and Clubhouse itself may well be on a path to establishing a market niche. But clearly, Meta didn’t see a lot of interest or value with this on Facebook, which is why it’s now changing path.

As such, in isolation, this is probably not a big deal, and probably won’t have a huge impact across the board. But again, it is an uncomfortable reminder of how Meta’s focus can shift, and why you shouldn’t get too comfortable with, or reliant on the platform.

There’s massive opportunity for reach and engagement on Facebook, but that always comes with a caveat – that it could all be gone in a flash if the company changes tack.

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TikTok Rolls Out Comment Downvotes to All Users

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TikTok Rolls Out Comment Downvotes to All Users

After testing them out in the live environment over the last six months, TikTok has today announced that it’s rolling out comment downvotes for all users, as a means to flag inappropriate responses to video clips.

As you can see in this example, TikTok’s ‘Thumbs Down’ comment downvote option will be displayed at the far right of each comment, providing a quick and easy way for users to tag such, in order to help TikTok identify negative behaviors in the app.

Which is the key focus – rather than being an audience response element, like downvotes on Reddit, TikTok’s approach is actually to use the indicator as a means to weed out negative behaviors.

As TikTok explained back in April:

“We’ve started testing a way to let individuals identify comments they believe to be irrelevant or inappropriate. This community feedback will add to the range of factors we already use to help keep the comment section consistently relevant and a place for genuine engagement. To avoid creating ill-feeling between community members or demoralize creators, only the person who registered a dislike on a comment will be able to see that they have done so.

So dislike counts won’t be public, as they are on Reddit, with the purpose, again, being to help TikTok’s moderation team get on top of negative trends, as flagged by its users.

How it will likely work in this respect is that downvoted comments will be displayed to TikTok mods in ascending order, based on total downvote activity across the app, which will then enable them to them wade through the list and pick up on rising negative trends, providing another way to detect and address such in their process.

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That could also help to limit the use of the feature for ‘brigading,’ or using it as a means to launch targeted attacks on people or opinions based on alternative motivations. You can imagine how, for example, people might try to use this feature as a means to downvote conflicting political opinions into oblivion, but as the downvotes themselves don’t impact public display, and are only an indicator for TikTok’s moderation team, that’s less likely to become an issue.

Which would be part of the reason why TikTok’s comfortable pushing ahead with a full launch – and it may well be a good way to help keep things more civil, and more positive in the app.

TikTok actually first began its comment downvote experiment back in 2020, with some researchers spotting the feature in early testing.

TikTok comment downvotes

Both Facebook and Twitter have also been experimenting with comment downvotes for similar purpose, not as a means to better surface or hide user responses, but to help identify negative behaviors based on what users think is bad, which effectively then helps to improve automated algorithms to detect such in future.

Which could be a better use of the option – though it is worth noting that Reddit’s public downvote system does help the platform highlight more relevant conversations and topics, based on actual responses from humans, as opposed to algorithmically identified trends that are guided by clicks, Likes, dwell time, shares, etc.

The problem with algorithmic trends is that divisive, negative content is amplified via this process, because sparking an emotional response, like anger, drives more people to comment and share. The algorithm then takes as an indicator that more people might want to see it, based on engagement response. The system itself has no way of determining the intent of the content, it only goes on binary signals – which means that triggering more reactions, however you can, is the best way to maximize exposure.

That doesn’t happen on Reddit, because such posts are rapidly downvoted into the doldrums of the app.

Giving actual people the chance to drive exposure in this respect may be a more beneficial approach overall, but the bigger players will never go with it because it also makes users less likely to comment, likely because they’re also concerned about their own remarks being downvoted to the pit.

Previous analysis has suggested that more than 98% of Reddit’s monthly active users don’t ever post or comment in the app, which is likely a key consideration that would limit take-up of such in other apps.

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So they go with automated algorithms instead, which also then enables them to wash their hands of any responsibility for whatever type of content gains traction and doesn’t across their networks.

Negative content drives more engagement, and thus, more reach in their apps? ‘We don’t know, it’s based on how users respond, factoring in all forms of engagement, so we’re not responsible for whatever that leads to’.

It does seem that a human-moderated process, via public downvotes, could improve the flow of information in this respect. But the impacts on engagement could also be significant.

In any event, TikTok’s comment downvotes are not designed to help guide the conversation, and could be a valuable supplementary measure to detect rising negative trends.

TikTok says that comment downvotes are being released globally in the app from today.



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