Why Clubhouse Could Be the Next Big Thing in Audio

It’s paying people to be interesting online

Key Takeaways

  • Clubhouse, the audio-only networking app, is paying creators to build its audience.
  • Observers say the new program could be a way for Clubhouse to take on the audience for podcasts.
  • Users are flocking to Clubhouse because it offers a window to a broader world, observers say.
Person texting on their cell phone while working at their desk
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The popular audio-only social networking app Clubhouse may be making a move on podcasts. 

Clubhouse announced it would pay a select group of "creators" to help it build its audience. Dubbed Creator First, the program is aimed at assisting the content producers in monetizing their efforts. Experts say the move seems to be an effort to start a rival to traditional broadcasting companies and podcasts. 

"The new Creator First program is a great way to get some fresh voices to create live audio content on Clubhouse," Scott Kirsner, CEO and co-founder of Innovation Leader, a network for business transformation, said in an email interview. "But it's going to be a while before Rachel Maddow or Howard Stern have to worry about being dethroned by a Clubhouse show with a massive audience."

Join the Club

Clubhouse is an iPhone-only voice-chatting app that lets users host and join different conversations. When you open the app, you see a list of "rooms" you can join or you can create your own. Each room contains a different topic, often hosted by an expert.

The appeal of Clubhouse, observers say, is how it provides a window to a broader world. 

"At this late stage of the pandemic, I think we're all tired of talking to our co-workers on Zoom and our families in person," Kirsner said. "What's really nice is that you don't need to be staring into your camera like a Zoom zombie. You can put on some headphones and hop on the Peloton or take your dog for a walk."

The app’s new Creator First program has the potential to be a launchpad for talent on the app, Justin Kline, co-founder of Markerly, an influencer marketing platform, said in an email interview.

"During its first year, Clubhouse room topics and hosting privileges have been dominated mainly by celebrities and media personalities using it to connect with everyday users and, of course, drive buzz around their own companies and work," Kline said. "Creators and social media influencers are incredibly powerful thought-leaders in their own right. Just look at the success of any number of influencers on TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube."

"It's going to be a while before Rachel Maddow or Howard Stern have to worry about being dethroned by a Clubhouse show."

Despite its burgeoning name recognition, however, Clubhouse could use some pizazz in its content, Kirsner said.

"Today, a lot of Clubhouse conversations can be rambling and unfocused," he added. "The quality varies from the kind of dull chit-chat you'd have in the waiting room at the dentist's office to really good stuff that you might pay thousands of dollars to hear at a conference like SXSW or the World Economic Forum."

Growing Number of Audio Alternatives

Other companies are trying to follow the success of Clubhouse by offering their own audio-only chat apps, Kline pointed out. Twitter recently rolled out Spaces, which allows users to initiate an audio stream that followers can join to listen and participate, depending on which settings the hosts apply.

And Instagram also has thrown its hat into the ring, in a slightly different way.

"Instagram is a notoriously visual-heavy platform, so the audio-only model doesn’t translate as well, but their recent announcement around rolling out 'Live Rooms' that allow for more users to go live on video together can be considered a similar offering that fits Instagram’s interface," he added.

Woman talking into phone
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There’s also Stationhead, a social audio app that lets users call guests to join the show and integrates with Spotify and Apple Music. Stationhead was happy to throw some shade on its rival Clubhouse.

"The issue with the new program is that it assumes people are going to Clubhouse to listen to content, which is not the case," Ryan Star, CEO of Stationhead, said in an email interview. "Clubhouse's primary value proposition is that it is a tool for networking and promoting, like a Linkedin live. When you open Clubhouse, you will find brand builders and over-the-top executives trying to get closer to the stage." 

By contrast, Star claims that Stationhead "is for real people and real experiences—giving back to the creator and putting them first, allowing them to monetize their own radio show while building community, exploring shared interests and connecting directly with their fans through the call-in feature."

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