Facebook on Monday said it is adding podcasts and “live audio rooms” in a push to get people talking and take on the fast-growing audio-based app Clubhouse.
“We think a lot of magic happens at the intersection of audio formats, as well as at the confluence of text, audio and video,” Facebook app chief Fidji Simo said in a blog post.
Facebook’s plan to weave audio offerings into the social network comes as it works to prevent losing users to Clubhouse.
Facebook has seen a steady rise in users opting for voice, from audio calls at the social network to leaving spoken messages using WhatsApp of Messenger.
The Silicon Valley titan is building new audio creation tools Simo described as “like having a sound studio in your pocket.”
The tools will let people create short-form Soundbites such as jokes, anecdotes, or spontaneous thoughts, according to Simo.
“While we’re big believers in the power of short-form audio, we also know that some stories and conversations deserve more airtime,” Simo said.
– People talking –
More than 170 million people are connected to Facebook pages centred on podcasts, and some 35 million users are members of podcast fan groups, but listening to one required leaving the social network.
“Within the next few months, you’ll be able to listen to podcasts directly on the Facebook app — both while using the app or when the app is backgrounded,” Simo said.
Facebook also planned to begin testing Live Audio Rooms, expected the feature to be available to all users by the middle of this year.
To make its audio offerings sustainable for the long term, Facebook is building in ways for people creating content to make money, according to Simo.
Creators hosting Live Audio Rooms will be able to get paid directly by fans, and Facebook plans to add the option to charge for access, Simo said.
Safety and privacy safeguards are also being added to audio features, according to the social network.
The news came a day after Clubhouse said it closed a new funding round as the popular live audio app struggles to scale up in response to demand. The latest round gives the startup a valuation of some $4 billion, according to sources.
Launched last year, the San Francisco-based platform is looking to establish itself as the standard-bearer for digital audio and has already inspired copycat products.
Facebook’s move is “a natural response to a competitive threat,” tech analyst Rob Enderle of Enderle Group.
“If you do nothing, you could become MySpace,” he added, referring to a pioneering social network that faded into oblivion after Facebook arrived.
Facebook’s pattern has been to either buy startups the pose potential threats or to copy features that are attracting users, the analyst noted.
While riding the hot trend in audio-centric online socializing is smart of Facebook, squashing Clubhouse could add to scrutiny it already faces from antitrust regulators, according to Enderle.
“When a competitor comes along providing your customers something that you aren’t, you don’t have a lot of choices in how to respond.”
Okonjo-Iweala announces four WTO deputy DGs
Director-General of the World Trade Organisation, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, on Tuesday, announced the appointment of Angela Ellard of the United States, Anabel González of Costa Rica, Ambassador Jean-Marie Paugam of France and Ambassador Xiangchen Zhang of China as her four Deputy Directors-General.
This was contained in a statement titled, ‘DG Okonjo-Iweala announces her four Deputy Directors-General’.
“I am very pleased to announce the appointment of four new Deputy Directors-General at the WTO. It is the first time in the history of our Organisation that half of the DDGs are women. This underscores my commitment to strengthening our Organisation with talented leaders whilst at the same time achieving gender balance in senior positions. I look forward to welcoming them to the WTO,” said Okonjo-Iweala, a former Nigerian Finance Minister, who broke the 26-year record of the global institution to emerge the first African and female DG.
Ellard, international expert on trade and international economic policy, has a distinguished career of service working at the US Congress as Majority and Minority Chief Trade Counsel and Staff Director.
González, a renowned global expert on trade, investment and economic development, served as Minister of Foreign Trade of Costa Rica; as Director-General for International Trade Negotiations; as Director-General of the Costa Rican Investment Promotion Agency; and as Special Ambassador and Chief negotiator of the US-Central America-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement.
Also, Paugam has held senior management positions in the French Government on trade, most recently as Permanent Representative of France to the WTO. He has also held a number of senior positions in the French Ministry of Economy and Finance, including as a member of the Executive Committee of the French Treasury.
Zhang currently serves as Vice Minister in the Ministry of Commerce of China. He has long and extensive experience on WTO issues, international negotiations, and policy research. Ambassador Zhang served until recently as China’s Permanent Representative to the WTO and previously as Deputy Permanent Representative.
COVID-19 resurgence, threat to oil demand recovery – OPEC
The resurgence of the COVID-19 pandemic in many countries is posing a threat to economic and oil demand recovery, the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries has said.
It disclosed this at the 16th OPEC and non-OPEC ministerial meeting of the Declaration of Cooperation, which took place via teleconference on Tuesday.
In a document on some of the deliberations at the meeting, the organisation stated that participants highlighted the continuing recovery in the global economy, supported by unprecedented levels of monetary and fiscal support.
They noted that the recovery was expected to pick up in the second half of the year, but observed that the resurgence of COVID-19 across the globe could hamper economic and oil demand recovery.
OPEC said, “The ministerial meeting emphasised, however, that COVID-19 cases are rising in a number of countries, despite the ongoing vaccination campaigns, and that the resurgence could hamper the economic and oil demand recovery.”
The meeting also emphasised the ongoing positive contributions of the Declaration of Cooperation in supporting a rebalancing of the global oil market.
This, according to the organisation, was in line with the historic decisions taken at the 10th (Extraordinary) OPEC and non-OPEC Ministerial Meeting on April 12, 2020 to adjust downwards overall crude oil production, and subsequent decisions.
The meeting further reviewed the monthly report prepared by the Joint Ministerial Monitoring Committee, including the crude oil production data for March 2021.
Participants welcomed the positive performance of the participating countries, as they noted that overall conformity to the production adjustments was 115 per cent in March 2021, reinforcing the trend of high conformity by the nations.
OPEC said the meeting expressed its appreciation to the participating countries that performed beyond expectation in March 2021, with total over-conformed volumes of 1.23 million barrels per day.
It, however, noted that some participating countries had yet to achieve the minimum expectation of 100 per cent conformity and to compensate for overproduced volumes.
Close international airports, increase COVID-19 testing, experts tell FG
In a bid to avert the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, experts have advised the Federal Government to close international airports for two weeks and increase COVID-19 testing capacities.
The President, President Academy of Medicine Specialties of Nigeria, Prof. Oladapo Ashiru, in a statement on Tuesday said, the low-level transmission in the country was largely due to the lockdowns going on in Europe and some countries.
He said, “There is the urgent need to enforce the use of PTF regulations of social distancing, washing of hands, the use of hand sanitisers and the wearing of facemasks.
“In view of the current trends regarding the third wave, The Academy of Medicine Specialties and our Rapid-Response initiative group of the Academy of Medicine Specialties feel that we should close our international airports to all flights for at least two weeks. This third wave is affecting not only India but France, Germany and Italy. The Federal Government should be proactive.
“Nigeria cannot afford to have a third wave. Only a small percentage of the population have been vaccinated. Furthermore, all the theories speculated for our immunity such as heat, sun, and other endemic immunities also applies to India,” he said.
Also, a medical virologist at Adeleke University, Dr Oladipo Kolawole, in an interview with our correspondent said, Nigerians should be warned to adhere strictly to the non-pharmaceutical measures to prevent COVID-19.
“Everyone needs to be careful to avoid something like the third wave of Spanish influenza between 1918/19. However, testing has reduced, so we may not accurately picture what is going on. More COVID-19 tests should be carried out to understand the epidemiological trend to know the circulating variants in the country. International travels should be well monitored and coordinated, putting in mind countries affected by the third wave as it demands,” he said.
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