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Is Clubhouse Dead?

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Isadora Teich wrote this article

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In March, Spotify announced that it was working on plans for a Clubhouse competitor. What’s interesting is that they weren’t exactly building it from scratch.

We have seen a lot of large companies take on pandemic trends lately. Apple is about to launch a Watchparty type feature in iOS 15, for example. While this looks great, it has two big problems.

For one, it’s missing access to Netflix. And for another, it may be happening just a little too late. As the pandemic starts to wind down around the world, will people still be clamoring for virtual watch parties?

While Clubhouse has been one of the buzziest newish apps of the year, is it a one-hit-wonder, or something that others will replicate and find success? Is this a new market that companies can take on, or a passing trend? And, will Clubhouse itself survive a market flooded with imitators?

Let’s take a look.

Big Players Are Convinced That Users Want More Live Audio

In the spring, Spotify acquired Betty Labs, the creator of Locker Room. Locker Room was initially a live audio app geared toward sports fans. Spotify planned to expand Locker Room into a live audio app for everyone.

According to Gustav Söderström, chief research & development Officer at Spotify:

“Creators and fans have been asking for live formats on Spotify, and we’re excited that soon, we’ll make them available to hundreds of millions of listeners and millions of creators on our platform. The world already turns to us for music, podcasts, and other unique audio experiences, and this new live audio experience is a powerful complement that will enhance and extend the on-demand experience we provide today.”

Whether or not people have been demanding companies make their own versions of Clubhouse or not, absolutely everyone is doing it. Around the time that Spotify announced its acquisition of Betty Labs, both Twitter and Facebook were also working on Clubhouse competitors.

The Launch of Spotify Greenroom

On June 16th, Spotify released Greenroom. They did so with little advertising or fanfare, and simply encouraged people to sign up and figure out how they want to use the app. Users of Locker Room will still be able to use it to talk about sports, but will see a wider variety of topics and communities, as well as an updated look.

One interesting feature Greenroom has is native recording, which will allow users to record chats and distribute them later as podcasts.

Also, you can access it via your Spotify login, but don’t need one to use Greenroom. This is a large departure from Clubhouse, which banks more on the appeal of things being ephemeral and exclusive.

In other words, Clubhouse does not record conversations and when they are done they simply disappear. Also, most people can’t even access it.

The other big difference is that Clubhouse is infamously invite-only, which makes it unique for a social media platform and perhaps is a big part of its appeal.

In 2020, the company really soared. In January of 2021, the company was valued at $1billion after massive growth the year before. Last year, it grew from having 1500 users to more than 600,000.

Will All Of These Apps Blend Together?

Clubhouse is exclusive in several ways. For one, only iPhone users can access it. For another, you have to be invited by someone or go on a waitlist to join, and users only get limited invites. This may be a part of why it drew the attention of celebrities, including Elon Musk.

Exclusivity made it unique, buzzy, and more exciting for users than simply logging into Facebook, which most of the world’s population does every month already.

However, it is interesting to note that Clubhouse may have plans to do away with one of the biggest things that made it unique. The creators announced in a blogpost earlier this year:

“We’re working hard to scale Clubhouse as fast as we can and open it up to everyone soon. In the meantime, anyone can join with an invite from an existing user, or sign up for the waitlist so we can welcome you in soon.”

Can an app be both exclusive and inclusive simultaneously?

As other companies race to build apps like Clubhouse and Clubhouse works to become more like traditional social media platforms, will they all blend together and become somewhat of an audio app mush?

The Social Media Mush Theory

Does it seem to anyone else that over time all social media platforms seem to blend together and become almost indistinguishable?

For example, after the success of Snapchat, Facebook and Instagram added the Stories feature. Facebook has changed from a simple place where your friends update statuses to that mixed with the news cycle, and a Tumblr-like stream of people sharing eachother’s statuses and posts.

After the success of TikTok, Instagram added its Reels feature to compete with TikTok.

YouTube is also trying to take on TikTok with a relatively new YouTube Shorts feature, which is considered to be pretty lackluster.

Do people actually want these things and use them? Or do they prefer having a clear delineation and using certain platforms for certain things?

In the case of stories specifically, some argue that other platforms taking up stories killed their originator, Snapchat. Over 500 million Instagrammers alone use Instagram Stories every day. 70% of Gen Zers and over half of millennials use it and in 2020, half of all influencer marketing campaigns occurred on IG Stories.

While people online have been musing about the death of Snapchat for years, the numbers actually tell a different story. According to data from Statista, Snapchat has been steadily growing its global presence every year since 2014. It currently has 265 million daily active users.

Likewise, other apps taking TikTok’s features have done nothing to stop people from using TikTok. As of January 2021, TikTok was closing in on 700 million active global users and was the 7th most used social media platform on earth.

So, How Is Clubhouse Doing?

It is interesting that despite Snapchat’s steady good performance over more than 5 years, so many people are of the opinion that it’s dead because it’s not cool anymore. Unfortunately, Clubhouse seems to be in the opposite boat.

People still think it’s cool, but its numbers are less than stellar.

While it reached an impressive milestone this February, of more than 8 million downloads, it only registered about 900,000 downloads in April. Between March and April alone, downloads dropped 66%.

It simply is not keeping up with all of the companies that are copying it. LinkedIn, Twitter, Telegram, and more are all offering to do exactly what Clubhouse does but without any caveats. There is no waiting list, they aren’t invite-only, and Android users can access them.

Clubhouse Needs To Expand Past The iPhone if it Wants To Take Over the World

Being iPhone only is more or less a death sentence to any app that wants to expand beyond North America. According to Statcounter, the global market share looks like this:

-Android: 72.2%

-iOS: 26.99%

This is often shocking to Americans because, in the US, the majority of people use Apple products.

In the US, identity is so deeply intertwined with consumerism that more people are likely to buy into Apple as a way to show status through luxury brand association. Apple’s brand is tailored to speak to English-speaking young professionals who value a slick look, and it does so incredibly effectively. iPhones especially serve as a status symbol and class marker around the world.

It is also important to note that global poverty excludes most of the world from using even old iPhones or old Macbooks, and often any technology at all. If whatever you are trying to sell is inaccessible to most of the world’s population, your growth has a pretty low ceiling.

However, there are definitely plenty of luxury products and experiences that exist only for a certain demographic. Is making your app like that a good call?

Final Thoughts

So, is Clubhouse dead?

Not at all.

Numbers show that it retains users pretty well, and everyone isn’t abandoning the app.

However, its growth is definitely slowing in the face of many competitors who offer more inclusive versions of what they do. Twitter’s live audio platform specifically has been doing very well, while Clubhouse flounders.

It is fair to say that Clubhouse’s future is unclear, and if they don’t make some big changes fast, it is possible that they will have a rocky future.

What do you think? Are you a Clubhouse fan? Or have you tried out any of its competitors yet?

Comment below.

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