This is why radio broadcasters should be wary of Facebook Live Audio
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Ira Glass at the 73rd Annual Peabody Awards. Photo credit: Peabody Awards / flickr

Ira Glass at the 73rd Annual Peabody Awards. Photo credit: Peabody Awards / flickr

It is counterintuitive, but virality may be exactly what radio does not need

In theory, Facebook Live Audio is a great new service for those of us who prefer talking over writing, and of course, radio professionals.

For the past few years, radio broadcasters have mourned not being able to partake in the content sharing upsurge on Facebook. In response, several have come out with their own audio clipping and sharing tools in the last year, such as This American Life‘s Shortcut and Audible’s Clips, as well as newcomers Clammr and Clyp. NPR has employed creative ways to increase web traffic, but largely through textual means, such as its fact checking tool.

Facebook’s Live Audio could make radio much more shareable, allowing broadcasters to stream for up to four hours at a time. And for those who just want to share snippets, Live Audio can theoretically store live broadcasts, similar to how it is able to record Facebook Live Video. In this way, radio professionals could use Facebook’s new audio tool to join the sharing revolution.

But think twice before you decide to embrace Facebook’s platform any more than you currently do. Facebook could hurt, not help, your business and this is why.

It could kill radio’s key financial advantage: how much it charges for ads

First, the main reason Facebook probably launched this service was to create another advertising channel. If digital audio advertisers are buying ads in Facebook Live Audio broadcasts, this can only hurt radio’s bottom line. As Recode reported in November, only Facebook and Google experienced growth in digital advertising in the first half of 2016. Every other digital advertiser combined experienced a collective 3% decline. Let that sink in.

Meanwhile, audio advertising rates have skyrocketed. The Columbia Journalism Review noted that, “Podcast ads are selling for $20-$45 per thousand listeners — a number known, in ad-sales parlance as CPM. That’s far more than either radio, network tv, or web ads, which tend to have CPMs in the $1-$20 range,” though radio ads for mega hit series like This American Life can charge $5o to $60 CPM.

So please, if you think migrating to Facebook Live could kill your advertising niche, don’t start using it.

It is counter intuitive, but virality may be exactly what radio does not need

It’s not an original statement to say that the internet has forced most digital news publishers to one of two content extremes: Either write news faster than everyone else, or produce excellent coverage. The age of the 800-word AP story covering a local event has largely been sidelined by clickbait and hot takes, and occasionally great, in-depth reporting.

The reason many people increasingly value audio broadcasting, myself included (I am an avid podcast listener), is that radio goes for depth. I immensely value the production time NPR puts into many of its wonderful shows, as well as other independent outlets such as Gimlet Media.

If broadcasters feel growing pressure to create shorter audio stories to increase shareability on Facebook, I worry that this will have disastrous consequences for the beauty of this medium. Radio is experiencing a renaissance. Don’t let Facebook burst your glorious bubble.

Featured image credit: Peabody Awards / flickr

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Laura Rosbrow-Telem

About Laura Rosbrow-Telem


I am a social entrepreneurship enthusiast: This is what happens when a former social worker becomes a tech journalist. I mostly write about startups, technology, peace and justice issues, cultural topics, and personal stuff. Before Geektime, I was an editor at the Jerusalem Post and Mic.

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  • Simon Rushton

    I thought CPM was cost per million and CPT was cost per thousand.

    • CPM stands for ‘cost per ‘mille’…mille is the LATIN word for thousand ( i know, weird )
      CPT could stand for ‘cost per transaction’