Clubhouse is taking social audio to the next level

Lately, many people are hanging out in a Clubhouse. But what makes this new social audio app so irresistible? It may come back to a worldwide pandemic, something called "ephemeral audio", and a FOMO – or is it a PTBT?


A comment by NMA's Managing Partner Nico Lumma.

When Clubhouse took off over half a year ago in the States, nobody in Germany really paid any attention to this new audio-only phenomenon that was big among the Silicon Valley tech crowd. But a week ago Clubhouse started to get a lot of attention and traction in Germany. This probably has a lot to do with the fact that barbershops and salons had to closeon Dec 16 all across the nation and everybody becomes less and less presentable for Zoom calls.

Clubhouse is establishing a new format rather quickly: ephemeral audio. The basic insight behind this that people like to listen to other people talk about a subject. We have seen this concept before in political talk-shows, or the pre-game and post-game analysis in sports, experts discussing televised parades of kings, queens and other dignitaries, and so on. Clubhouse takes these talks to a different level with its audio-only approach: listeners can become active participants by raising their hand and being picked by the hosts to join the stage.


A nice distraction for the Generation Airpods

Clubhouse has very low barriers of entry and is geared towards the Generation Airpods: we're all getting used to having audio around us and use earplugs or headphones for this all the time. And Clubhouse is certainly benefitting from a pandemic that has been going on for a year now and has led to people practicing social distancing and being at home almost permanently. People miss discussions with other people beyond work and family. This is where Clubhouse comes in and offers a nice distraction for a lot of people.

Right now Clubhouse is invite-only and also only available on iPhone, but the company just announced that they raised a substantial amount of money in their Series B round that will value this very young company at over 1 billion US $. Of course, this evaluation reflects the potential of the company and not the current status with roughly 2 million users. It's easy to ímagine how Clubhouse can make money in the future with paid talks, advertising in talks and a subscription fee for users who want more features and a better experience.


A lot of pundits argue that the biggest strength of Clubhouse is FOMO - fear of missing out. Since everything is live and won't be accessible as a recording, users have to be in Clubhouse to find out what's going on. There's certainly some truth to that and it is astonishing to see how many people have so much time right now to hang out in Clubhouse.

I would argue that PTBT is also a great feature of Clubhouse: pretending to be there. You can linger around in the different rooms and people see that you are there and you don't have to do anything, not evening listening to anything people say, but you are present nonetheless. In that regard, Clubhouse is a lot like an endless conference about everything and nothing - it depends what you get out of it and it is totally up to you.

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