8 min read
VoiceFirst on Clubhouse: Industry Leaders Muse on Booming Social Network
Clubhouse, the new audio-chat social network, has been making headlines recently. Valued at $1 billion in a recent $100 million funding round, the new iOS app boasts over ten million downloads and lists celebrities like Oprah Winfrey and Elon Musk among conversation hosts. So did Clubhouse turn out to be a success? What does the rise of the audio-first social network mean for the voice industry? Should we expect more similar projects to emerge? We addressed these questions to voice industry leaders and here’s what they think.
Founder & CEO at Voicebot.ai
“We don’t know yet whether Clubhouse will be a long-term success but they are clearly successful today in two core metrics: time to scale and enthusiasm. The sense of separation from human contact due to the pandemic surely has helped drive early adoption and use because people have fewer time conflicts and are looking for ways to re-engage with other people through conversation. However, the Clubhouse team has also done several things right. The app design is excellent and drives the discovery of both rooms and other people. Also, the team took their time last summer and fall observing the use of a small group of users and figuring out what features and culture to cultivate that proved appealing when it was time to start scaling the user base.
I don’t see the voice community as unique in its embrace of Clubhouse. People in all communities have been separated physically for a long time and Zoom calls with work colleagues are not fulfilling the human need for connection and conversation. However, the rise of social audio will lead to more focus on audio strategies which includes voice. This will have a spillover effect and lead to renewed interest among consumer companies around their voice assistant strategy alongside spaces such as Clubhouse.
There will be other success stories in social audio beyond Clubhouse. However, they will result from the feature addition to an already large social media community or a tightly focused offering for a niche community. The niche services, however, will need to offer more than just conversation and discovery. If that is already available on the social networks with scale it will be important to have features that draw users beyond the conversations they can already have elsewhere.”
Founder at Digital Assistant Academy
“Clubhouse is going to bring in much more collaboration among the voice industry as a whole. For example, a lot of people are now doing their [voice industry] events in Clubhouse — [without the new audio social network], we wouldn’t be collaborating as much. So I feel that Clubhouse is helping to make more meaningful connections and have more meaningful conversations… helping get the community closer. Otherwise, it would be very difficult to get hold of someone on Linkedin, so Clubhouse is helping bridge that gap.”
Business Development Manager at Oaktree Products
“One of the big reasons for its success is that there are hundreds of millions of AirPods and other hearable devices that have proliferated in the market over the last 5 years. Part of what makes Clubhouse work so well is how frictionless it is. A big contributor to this feeling of a frictionless experience is the frictionless nature of hearable devices. It’s just so easy to “dip in and out” of the audio internet.
I think social audio networks like Clubhouse (and Twitter’s soon-to-be-released competitor, Twitter Spaces) provide the opportunity for people to communicate more naturally. So much gets lost when we’re simply typing to one another, and I think the voice enthusiasts naturally are understanding that these social audio networks might facilitate more empathetic conversations. That’s what is most exciting about them to me.
Regarding competition, Clubhouse has a nice head start but I’m very bullish on Twitter Spaces. I also think we underestimate how much time people might be willing to spend on these types of audio-based applications. I think there will be lots of niche applications that spawn from Clubhouse that specialize on different functionality and cater to different audiences.”
Brand Evangelist for North America at ReadSpeaker
“With [Clubhouse] coming out in 2020 and then really opening up in 2021, it came during a time where people were craving interaction during a pandemic. Live audio interactive group conversations isn’t something you get in a comment section of a social post and most people need a break from constantly being on video all day. The other piece I think is really important about Clubhouse is that you’re not being judged on how you look but rather on what you have to say. It equals the playing field a bit so that anyone can contribute and it’s really about their voice and contribution rather than other labels people may have put on someone… Voice is about how we interact with each other too. When it comes to the voice technology community, one of the biggest things we need is for the general public to understand what it is. At its core, voice is a form of communication. It helps us share how to think of voice in some of its simplest forms like talking to someone on the phone, or even how I’m using my voice to write out my response to this question you asked me or even thinking about when we make a phone call to a company and a computer-generated voice answers.
I think [Clubhouse] will expand the definition of voice. We no longer will think of voice as simply a device in our home to ask for the weather or to set a timer but we will begin to think about voice as a form of communication whether with an AI or with another human being.”
Co-Founder at VUX World
“There are a few things that make Clubhouse unique. It’s live and in the moment which means that FOMO is built in. What conversations are happening right now that you’re missing out on? It’s (mostly) ephemeral, so if you miss it, it’s gone. That means people can be more candid as they know they’re not being recorded. That makes for deeper conversations and higher quality content, which increases the draw towards it. Interactive podcasting hasn’t successfully existed prior. Anchor tried it but it wasn’t anywhere near as slick. Something like this has been on the cards for a while… Then there’s people’s unfilled need for social interaction due to lockdowns across the globe that might be furling some of it. And don’t forget the exclusivity element. Invite-only, iOS only. It’s simply not available to everyone… yet.
It’s been a great catalyst to bring people together. There are lots of live events and meet-ups going on already, but this doesn’t require signing up to anything or remembering. You can just open the app and likely there’s a conversation happening about voice technologies. In 3 weeks, I’ve met a whole new bunch of people and companies that weren’t on my radar previously. And being able to speak directly with the community creates a deeper relationship than liking a LinkedIn post. I think it’ll be great for our community.
Clubhouse seems to be one of those things that brings the right kind of service to the right kind of people at the right kind of time. That’s the magic combination that every company is looking for. Mix that with a little luck and good fortune and you’re on your way quicker than you can keep track of. But that requires more than features, strategy, and funding. You can focus on those things by all means, but finding a window of time where the world is perfectly ready and the conditions are ripe, is easier said than done, and you won’t always know it at the time.»
Co-Founder & Head of Product at Botmock
“I’m not sure that Clubhouse is a success just yet. We’re certainly seeing a lot of promise, given that it’s caused many people to actually change their routine, and that’s the hardest thing to do. Will this change in routine stick? We’ll see. If it’s successful, it’ll likely be because of a few things.
The last decade has seen a surge in video, and I think we’re moving out of a phase where *everything* has to be video. 99% of information you receive in any virtual social situation in the audio anyways.
Video requires two streams of your attention: eyes and ears. Audio only requires one stream of attention, so you can go about your day while listening. Podcasts have become hugely popular, but that’s a one-to-many experience. The podcaster talks, many people listen. Clubhouse is bringing us a many-to-many audio-only experience that has never really been done. And they’re doing it well, so far.”
NICHOLAS E. SAWKA
Voice Spark Live Host and Voice First Influencer
“Clubhouse is popular because it’s an alternative to our current circumstances with the pandemic. I believe that usage with the app will level out, once face-to-face meetings are able to return to normal standards. Clubhouse is currently filling a void that was created by the pandemic and that void is the need for human interaction. The free flow of information has been hindered and Clubhouse is allowing the masses to regain some of that needed interaction.
Clubhouse could act as a unifier and openningly allow for the exchange of the information between voice users at all levels. Clubhouse will also allow people to meet the faces/voices behind their favorite audio products and services. I think Clubhouse will evolve into a live FAQ for the voice community. Think of a place that is more personal than a Facebook group, that’s the power of Clubhouse. I think it’s possible that Clubhouse could turn into a vine, but it might also turn into an Instagram. If it turns into a Vine then it will slowly die and go away, but it could get bought out because of its popularity like Instagram. If it goes the Instagram route it will be because of these two factors. One they are bought out because of their popularity and or two they have something that the other players can’t duplicate(feature, atmosphere, or goals). So if I was a competing brand I would look at what a Clubhouse 2.0 looks like and try to create that. I think a good start for any platform would be to have the app be available on IOS and Android. I don’t understand for the life of me why they didn’t build an Android app version as well. It doesn’t make any sense. Quilt seems interesting but might serve a different purpose such as being a distance version of group therapy. Clubhouse is more of an anything goes type of atmosphere. Different use cases will lead different people to those apps for sure.”
Founder of Budgie, Co-Founder of Local Vocal
“We’re already seeing a few voice tech media personalities utilize Clubhouse to expand their audience and also provide a new meeting place for the existing community. I’m sure more thought leaders will emerge over time as Clubhouse’s user base grows. It feels similar to a conference, where both formal Q&A sessions and friendly hallway chit-chat can co-exist. While the Q&A might be the centerpiece, it’s often the informal socializing that leads to deeper connections.
Much like podcasting, voice searches, and basic smart speaker functionality, Clubhouse is another gateway for people to become more comfortable with voice as an interface. Clubhouse is quite complementary to voice-first experiences, as it provides the options of either passive listening or lively interaction. As the space evolves, there might even be potential for a social audio network to be streamed or interacted with through smart devices. “Alexa, raise my hand and unmute me when my name is called.” As the space evolves, voice bots will likely play a role. Their purpose could range from moderator automation or to full personalities with their own social following.
Different demographics prefer different social platforms for a variety of reasons. Just because Clubhouse is finding success with certain crowds, it doesn’t guarantee everyone will join. Quilt made the smart choice of going after a popular pre-existing niche – wellness. Locker Room is doing the same with sports. Start-ups aside, Twitter is already making headway with Spaces. While Facebook is rumored to be developing its own version. Influencers with substantial audiences on these well-established social platforms are more likely to focus there. Which provides space for new voices to flourish on the start-ups.”