Welcome to the Club

Back in high school, all the cool kids sat at a certain table during lunch and it was the hopes and dreams of many that one day they would have the opportunity for a seat at that illustrious table. Nowadays, the cool kids’ conversations are not taking place at the lunch table, but they are happening in the Clubhouse. But this Clubhouse is not an actual place… it’s an app. Clubhouse is an invitation-only social media app for iOS, that facilitates groups of people, of up to 5000, to engage in auditory conversations. But, if we’re not in high school anymore, why are we creating apps that are so exclusive? Why can’t everyone sit at the same table without having an invite? Clubhouse claims that they have remained exclusive and invite only to ensure that they are able to efficiently manage and monitor the growth of their user base and continue to gradually improve the app to support a larger audience. Essentially, they didn’t want to become overwhelmed with new users and not have the capability to service those users adequately. So, don’t feel bad if you haven’t gotten an invite into the Clubhouse yet, because Clubhouse is just making sure that they are ready for you when you do.

Lunchtime Cleaning Practices Scrutinized At Schools
The cool kids’ table

Clubhouse was created in the Fall of 2019 under the name “Talkshow”, but caught lightning in a bottle when it rebranded and dropped on the iOS operating system in March 2020, the same month that a global pandemic hit. While everyone sequestered inside, and was no longer gathering at the lunch table, they found a common ground at Clubhouse. By January 2021, Clubhouse’s CEO Paul Davison announced that Clubhouse’s weekly user base was around 2 million individuals, and by February 2021 the app had 8.1 million downloads.

Yesterday, Clubhouse concluded their Series C round and was valued at $4 billion. So, why is this app so popular and why is it so valuable? Within Clubhouse, users can follow other users or they can follow topics of interest. And once you’re in the Clubhouse, you then have the opportunity to join a plethora of chat rooms. These rooms could be a couple friends just talking about their days, or it could be a room full of thousands listening to a prominent figure in society. The reason so many people are enjoying this app is because they feel like they are a part of the conversation and feel a much more intimate connection to the experience, as opposed to listening to a previously recorded dialogue or reading an interview. Clubhouse also seems to have an appealing prestige to it. It has members that range from Elon Musk to Drake to high level politicians. Well known celebrities obviously attract many users to the app, but the platform that the app creates is what keep people listening. Each “room” is also temporary, so when the conversation is over, everyone is dismissed, and this temporary nature discourages “social media echo chambers” where people with similar views continuously gather to agree over and over with each other. The adaptability and flexibility of this app allows it to cater to many different users and seems to heed the words of the world-renowned philosopher and fighter Bruce Lee, “Be like water my friend…” Another aspect of Clubhouse is the networking feature. Clubhouse is great at facilitating natural and serendipitous connections between people who can help and learn from each other. The app’s rules also make sure that these conversations are not to be transcribed or recorded, which allows users to let their guard down and have relaxed and natural conversations. This is a major aspect of the app, because if users feared that the words or ideas they talked about in these “rooms”, they would not be able to be open and genuine and the app would suffer. This privacy is a double-edged sword though, as Clubhouse has run into problems with racism and misogyny amongst users, with a lack of protocols on how to handle these situations. Twitter similarly is dealing with those issues as these companies want to create an open space that encourages free speech, but when that speech becomes hurtful and hateful, something needs to be done. How Clubhouse handles these situations will help determine just how popular it gets.

Clubhouse's new direct payments let you toss a coin to creators, and they  get 100 percent - The Verge

Users haven’t been the only ones taking notice of Clubhouse. Other major media companies such as Facebook, Twitter, Discord, and Spotify have followed suit, and started creating similar products to compete with Clubhouse. While Clubhouse was able to create an early and large market share, the big boys are coming to play and Clubhouse must be willing to adapt and grow, in order to continue their early success. Clubhouse has been successful because they have created a platform for honest and informative conversations amongst people who can benefit from each other’s perspective. The only thing left for them to do is open the club to everyone else, because when they do this, they may grow to be the size of the companies that are about to become their competitors.

https://theconversation.com/meet-clubhouse-the-voice-only-social-media-app-setting-the-internet-abuzz-154066#:~:text=Many%20early%20users%20raved%20about,rather%20than%20use%20a%20keyboard.

https://www.theverge.com/2021/4/19/22391551/facebook-audio-podcasts-clubhouse-competitor-spotify-live-rooms

https://mashable.com/article/what-is-clubhouse-app/

6 comments

  1. ritellryan · ·

    I had heard about and seen article regarding clubhouse, but never to this level of detail. With regard to being invite-only, while they say it is to make sure their infrastructure is set up to handle the amount of people, it also gives the air of exclusivity that makes people want to be a part of it even more (think of waiting in line to go at a bar). With the rise of the podcast industry in the past few years, I am not surprised this has grown. I did not realize that they were almost like “live” radio programs though, which is interesting. It allows you to listen while doing other things, which has its benefits, and I do love the concept of things being private and not leading to an echo chamber. It sounds like a lot of positives that can outweigh the negatives, but obviously only for certain uses.

  2. olivia_levy8 · ·

    Great blog, I haven’t been on Clubhouse yet but have been hearing about it a lot, so this blog helped me understand its history and more about the app. It is interesting that a rebranding lead to a huge increase in traffic for the app, that was a great strategy move on their end. I tweeted this week about Reddit coming out with a “Clubhouse Copy” called Reddit Talk. I am curious to see how this will stack up against Clubhouse. I definitely think that half of the allure of Clubhouse at the moment is the “You Can’t Sit With Us” aura. Thanks for sharing more about Clubhouse!

  3. We’ll see if clubhouse has staying power. My personal take is that it’s sort of a pandemic novelty that will disappear when the novelty wears off. I’ve certainly been wrong before, though.

  4. lisahersh · ·

    Thanks for providing such an in-depth description of Clubhouse! I’d seen about it on Twitter and it’s been brought up in class a few times, but I honestly had no idea what its appeal was (other than the “elite” status those who are on it get). I think any sort of “temporary” platform has issues surrounding users feeling like they can say racist, hurtful, misogynistic, etc. views as they believe it provides them some level of protection from the moral backlash. I know this is an issue Snapchat has struggled with too (some instances even involve BC: https://www.bcheights.com/2017/10/16/senior-admin-statement-condemning-racist/).

  5. Loved the post! I think that Clubhouse will likely get a big lift as people look for the next big thing in social media. When you look at the other apps out there not many have had the buzz that clubhouse has had. Will be interesting to see what plays out.

    -Ben

  6. Andrae Allen · ·

    Great post! I enjoyed the way you organized your thoughts and ideas about this topic. It is interesting how rapidly Clubhouse has grown in just a few months, but like your headline states is to hear to stay and how its leaders eventually seek to monetize its popularity. With the addition of Clubhouse into the pool of social media apps, are you concerned about your screen time?

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