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Reddit pushes further into live audio with new tools

The social media platform will start highlighting live audio chats at the top of the home feed so they're easier to find.

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Reddit's live audio chat tool will include a way to participate through text and emojis. 
Reddit

Reddit said Wednesday that it's adding new features to its live audio product, a sign that the social media site is experimenting with giving users more ways to chat about different topics. 

The company, which could go public as soon as March, unveiled its live audio chat product, Reddit Talk, nearly a year ago in April. Now Reddit said it'll start highlighting live audio chats at the top of home feeds as part of a test. The feature could make it easier for users to find live audio chats. Users will also be able listen to recordings of Reddit Talks and participate in the chats on the web version of the social media platform. Reddit Talk users will be able to use text and emojis during a live audio chat as well. 

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Reddit will showcase live audio chats at the top of the home feed. 

Reddit

"[Reddit] is where people come to have conversations about things that they're passionate about. So enabling them to have it in a new multimedia way is really important for us," Tim Rathschmidt, who leads consumer and product communications at Reddit, said in an interview. 

Live audio chatting started to grow in 2020 while people distanced themselves from their family and friends during the coronavirus pandemic. Following the popularity of social audio app Clubhouse, major tech firms including Reddit, Facebook, Twitter, Discord and Spotify jumped on the bandwagon with their own live audio products. 

The rising popularity of live audio has also made moderating content such as coronavirus misinformation and hate speech tougher for social networks. In December, The Washington Post reported that Twitter wasn't policing its live audio chats even though Taliban supporters, white nationalists and anti-vaccine activists have used the tool because it doesn't have a way to scan audio in real-time. Clubhouse has also been filled with anti-vaccine content.

Reddit allows only moderators in certain communities to start a live audio chat, partly because of content moderation concerns. Rathschmidt said there aren't any plans to extend the live audio feature to Reddit users outside of moderators but that "it's not out of the realm of possibilities."

Since 2020, the hype surrounding live audio has quieted down. In April, Clubhouse had 922,000 downloads globally, a 66% drop from the 2.7 million downloads in March. Downloads then jumped during the summer after Clubhouse released an Android version of the app.

Reddit declined to say how many people use its live audio product. In the last three months, though, Reddit has seen more than a 250% growth in daily active listeners of Reddit Talk, the company said. The tool has been used in more than 1,000 subreddits where people discuss topics such as cryptocurrency, movies and relationship advice. A subreddit for Reddit Talk currently has about 360 members.