Why Clubhouse Is So Hot Right Now

Facebook and Spotify are terrified

Key Takeaways

  • Clubhouse is an invite-only app for drop-in, live audio chats, like an online panel discussion.
  • It is the only audio-only social network.
  • Other social networks are worried because listening takes away from time you’d usually waste on them.
A Clubhouse in the sunshine.

Clubhouse is still invite-only and still only available on the iPhone, and yet Twitter, Facebook, Spotify, Instagram—even LinkedIn—are going crazy trying to copy it. 

Clubhouse is the only audio-only social network. Many liken it to podcasting, but that’s off the mark. It’s more like leaving the radio on in the background; only you can speak up if you want to. And this hands-off, eyes-off, always-running format has gotten other social networks seriously worried.

"If you're listening to a chat on Clubhouse, you're most likely not watching Instagram Stories, scrolling TikToks, or listening to a podcast on Spotify," tech economist and adviser Will Stewart told Lifewire via email.

"Clubhouse has shown the ability to capture significant chunks of one's attention away from other platforms during prime screen time."

What Is Clubhouse?

Clubhouse is simple. A user creates a chatroom, and others can join. A speaker takes the virtual stage, and a moderator can allow others to speak after they virtually raise their hands.

Rooms can be open or invite-only, and participation is optional. You can just listen. Right now, Clubhouse still requires an invite to join. 

A group of people standing around having a conversation.

Thomas Barwick / Getty Images

Chats are not saved, but they kind of are. For moderation purposes and to check things out later if a chat turns ugly, discussions are recorded. But these recordings aren’t available to users and are supposedly deleted after a short time.

Of course, any listener could easily make a recording of the audio stream and post it elsewhere. In fact, that happened with a chat about Steve Jobs’s stories.

Clubhouse is not a podcasting platform, despite that claim being made repeatedly. (I put out a public request for comment, and many respondents put clubhouse into the podcasting category.)

A podcast is a pre-recorded, usually edited audio show that you can listen to at any time. A Clubhouse chat is a live, one-time chat or presentation, with no editing and all the fluff of live audio.

However, Clubhouse still poses a threat to podcasts because you can’t listen to anything else if you’re listening to Clubhouse.

Why Is Clubhouse So Hot Right Now?

Social media requires engagement. If you’re not flipping through photos on Instagram or reading about burning 5G masts on Facebook, you’re not looking at ads, and your activity isn't being monitored and analyzed.

"Given that it's literally based on people chatting, it's arguably the most 'social' social media. It feels more authentic and spontaneous."

Any time a new social media platform gets popular, it gets copied or bought. Instagram aped TikTok with Reels, Facebook purchased WhatsApp, and so on. 

Clubhouse is a particularly nasty threat because you don’t have to read or look at it. Spotify is worried because audio programming is direct competition, but Twitter and Facebook might be even more threatened.

"Clubhouse is the only platform where you can participate without looking at the screen. All the other social media platforms require you to look at your screen or your phone," podcaster and founder of NoDegree Jonaed Iqbal told Lifewire via email.

"For Clubhouse, you can keep your eyes off and do other things while still engaging with the platform."

Why Do Users Like Clubhouse?

Clubhouse’s strength is that it can keep you company. Some folks turn on the TV or radio for background. Clubhouse is that, only with more specialized subjects.

You can tune in and let it drift by. That’s a pleasant diversion at any time, but right now, a bit of companionship is especially welcome. 

"Because in the absence of informal 'hangs,' networking events, and the like (essentially wiped out by the pandemic), apps like this can fill the void," Scott Simonelli, CEO of audio-intelligence platform Veritonic, told Lifewire via email.

Someone relaxing at a table in front of a patio door listening to audio through headphones.

Westend61 / Getty Images

Voices are so much more nuanced and personal than the written word, and talking is something we’re wired to do. 

"Given that it's literally based on people chatting, it's arguably the most 'social' social media. It feels more authentic and spontaneous," says Simonelli.

Zoia Kozakov of Women in Innovation agrees. "I would say that the gold rush is actually more of a by-product of the zoom fatigue that the world is collectively experiencing," Zoia told Lifewire via email. "Clubhouse enables socialization without having to be 'on.'"

The combination of hands-off, background listening, optional participation, and the fact that listening 'steals' time away from other social networks has made Clubhouse hot, hot, hot. Will it survive, or will audio hangouts become just another feature of the usual networks?

In the end, it might be down to the character of the conversations on different social networks. Just like you may go to Twitter for news, Facebook for family and disinformation, and LinkedIn when you get fired, maybe people will go to Clubhouse when they want some amateurish audio wallpaper.

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