Why Clubhouse's Audio-Only Format is So Popular

Party lines make a comeback

Key Takeaways

Clubhouse, an audio-only social app, is taking off due to a longing to connect with others, experts say.

The iPhone-only app lets you start or listen to conversations on topics ranging from sports to technology.

Clubhouse is proving to be a popular place to network and often features chats with celebrities.

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The online audio app Clubhouse is becoming a social sensation thanks to people being at home more, observers say. 

Clubhouse, which lets strangers chat via audio, rather than video or text, has reportedly surpassed 8 million iOS App Store downloads. The invite-only social app often hosts celebrities who will interact with regular people.

"Clubhouse is the perfect social app for the times we’re currently living in," Amit Wadehra, senior vice president of digital at communications consultancy Ketchum, said in an email interview. "When many of us are working from home every day and constantly looking at our screens, Clubhouse is the way we can engage from an audio-only perspective."

Convenience is essential, Wadehra added, saying, "We can engage in a room while we’re folding laundry or cooking dinner, which makes the app very appealing from the fact that it’s very easy to be engaged while still multitasking."

No Video Allowed

The iPhone-only app lets you start or listen to conversations on topics ranging from sports to technology. No text messages, photos, or videos are allowed. The only things you see are users’ profile pictures or bios when you hear their voices.

Clubhouse has skyrocketed in popularity since its release last year. Adam James, a jazz singer based in Los Angeles, has been using Clubhouse for two months. He said in an email interview that "it's definitely an entirely new and powerfully inspiring collective experience." Being audio-only is part of its appeal. 

"This makes conversations more intimate," James said. "It sparks the imagination because people aren't 'presenting' themselves on camera, as in other apps."

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Chatting without video appeals to many people who no longer feel the need to change out of their pajamas, thanks to the lockdowns.

"There are people who are camera shy and don’t prefer to use live video or online meetings that require you to be on camera," publicist Jane Tabachnick said in an email interview. "There is also a lot of 'Zoom Fatigue,' which is partly due to having to participate in multiple meetings or events where you are sitting at your computer."

Clubhouse is proving to be a popular place to network, social media expert Erin Corn said in an email interview. 

"Traditionally, people would have to pay to attend high ticket conferences to have access to many of the speakers that participate on Clubhouse, and even then, the conversations were scripted and highly curated," she said. "On Clubhouse, conversations are organic, and anyone with a Clubhouse account has access to conversations and the opportunity to contribute."

"Clubhouse is the perfect social app for the times we’re currently living in."

Digital marketing expert Jeremy Knauff said in an email interview that the app is proving particularly popular with entrepreneurs. 

"With Clubhouse, a brand new entrepreneur has the opportunity to speak directly with giants...as well as prospects, people in the media, and even potential partners—from all over the world," he added.

Alternatives If You’re Not in the Club

For those who haven’t been invited to Clubhouse yet, there are alternatives. Twitter Spaces, for example, is similar to Clubhouse, though it only allows 10 people to have speaking capabilities at one time, whereas Clubhouse has no limitations.

"Due to the fact that Twitter Spaces is built on an existing popular platform, one that is available to both iOS and Android users, it is more accessible," Tabachnick said. "It also offers more interaction capabilities with emojis and cross conversations between the audio and text features."

There’s also Discord, which allows users to create separate "channels" similar to Clubhouse rooms, participating in either voice or text. But Knauff believes there are no real competitors to Clubhouse.

"People are on Clubhouse specifically because it's a different environment—not just because of the functionality," he said. "This app is where the attention should be because it has the user base and momentum."

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