When bars, restaurants, and even speakeasies are closed, we found a way to go invite-only clubbing 24 hours a day. The iPhone-only (Android as of yesterday), invite-only app, Clubhouse, became the hottest ticket in town. When Top 40 playlists on Spotify began to drag, it saved users with intimate connections and conversation, like-minded communities, and celebrity drama.
It had a line out of its virtual door, and the tech giants were quick to notice.
Top venture firms handed it a recent Series C fundraising round that brought the valuation to $4B and every social or chat-driven company announced their version. While Clubhouse accelerated the audio conversation zeitgeist, several others are now vying to be the loudest voice in the room. Here’s your breakdown in the rivalry for virality from Twitter, Facebook, Slack, Discord, Reddit, Spotify, LinkedIn, and everyone’s favorite shark, Mark Cuban.
First, Twitter tried to absorb the competition and reportedly considered a $4B bid on Clubhouse earlier this year. As that deal seemingly flew away, they launched Twitter Spaces. Unlike Clubhouse’s iOS-only platform, they were quick to open Spaces up to Android (and, soon, desktop users). Now, we’ll have to see if they can get it #trending anytime soon.
While the core functionality feels familiar, the difference comes in the context. Twitter Spaces takes advantage of the hosts’ already-embedded follower counts and engagement. While all of the Twitterati can certainly recapture portions of their audience on Clubhouse, it may be easier for them to sit in their existing community.
What they said: On their new Twitter handle (naturally) @TwitterSpaces, they shared in the announcement:
Facebook: Live Audio (TBA)
What’s cooler than Clubhouse’s 10 million users? Facebook’s 2.8 billion users. And their popularity and existing social & community graphs may give them an upper hand when it comes to their new audio offerings.
The product, still under development, is slated to be called “Live Audio Rooms,” and will work across existing Facebook and Messenger groups later this summer. It already plans to compete with Clubhouse’s upcoming monetization offerings with single purchase and subscription options for creators.
Beyond duplicating the featureset, Zuckerberg noted their approach to audio might involve multiple paths, including podcast features, audio clipping, and an integration with Spotify to allow users to more easily play & share music on the platform.
What They Said: In a recent press conference, Mark Zuckerberg officially changed his Facebook status to “In a Relationship with Audio.”
"We think that audio is of course also going to be a first-class medium, and there are all these different products to be built across this whole spectrum."
Slack: Audio Channel
Slack is on the frontlines of employee communication and wants to add an #audio Channel to your workspace. Slack’s CEO Steward Butterfield recently announced — on Clubhouse — that they were building a Clubhouse-like feature where you can drop in and out of live team conversations.
The goal is to create a more fluid conversation forum throughout the day, whereas most Zoom calls have a specified start and end time. That won’t stop co-workers from sending a notification anyways. Slack’s featureset might include on-the-fly video and could come close in schedule to their reported Stories product.
What They Said: In our favorite statement so far, Butterfield said:
"I cannot f*cking do eight hours of Zoom calls per day for the rest of my life."
He put his tie back on and continued:
"I've always believed the ‘good artists copy, great artists steal’ thing, so we're just building Clubhouse into Slack, essentially. Like that idea that you can drop in, the conversation's happening whether you're there or not, you can enter and leave when you want, as opposed to a call that starts and stops is an amazing model for encouraging that spontaneity and that serendipity and conversations that only need to be three minutes, but the only option for you to schedule them is 30 minutes. So look out for Clubhouse built into Slack."
Discord: Stage Channels
Slack popularized our new method of channel-based chat and collaboration and Clubhouse has brought on the audio renaissance, but it’s Discord that’s the less-gossiped-about product that already does both of those things for its own massive audience. Video game communities and groups of friends use the app to talk, primarily in drop-in, drop-out audio rooms that echo the feeling of walking in and out of different parts of a house party.
Last year, Discord doubled their base to 140 million and hosted 1.4 trillion minutes of voice chat. To further their growth, they recently unveiled a Clubhouse-like feature, Stage Channels, that let users easily broadcast live audio conversations to listeners. Unlike Discord’s core chat functionality, there is a distinct host-and-listener nature to these rooms, serving better for structured events.
What they said: In a recent statement, Discord’s CEO Jason Citron shared:
"We are humbled and honored by the growth we’ve seen among so many incredible and diverse communities that have made Discord their place to hang out. As we look to 2021, we’re excited about what we have in store and plan to use this funding to help make Discord even better."
Reddit: Reddit Talk
Would you upvote this? Reddit recently unveiled a Clubhouse clone, Reddit Talk, that targets subreddit communities for an audio experience. Reddit’s spin: community moderators are the only ones allowed to initiate talks at the moment, and are likely to be supermoderators in the same way they are for their broader communities.
They’ll have the ability to change the color of their rooms, and invite, mute, remove or ban participants. Importantly, these mods will continue to set the pace for what gets talked about, how rules are enforced, and the general style and vibe for each of their communities.
The downsides might be deep: remember that it’s often moderator scandals that bring down entire popular communities with for-profit scams, inconsistent application of rules, or disagreements with their communities. However, the upside might be key for Reddit’s ability to compete with Clubhouse: these moderators are hyper invested in the growth and success of a subreddit, and so their incentive to make sure the conversation is flowing -- and good -- is high.
What They Said:
“We believe that there is more to offer here by letting users have real-time live voice discussions with others in their communities — maybe talking about a sporting event while it’s on TV or listening to a casual chat or AMA with field experts.”
Audio innovation is always music to Spotify’s ears. In 2018, Spotify opened podcasting to all users and listening grew on their platform by 175% by the end of the year. They recently acquired Betty Labs, a sports-centered audio app whose core technology and team will enable Spotify creators to connect with audiences in real-time. Spotify will reportedly keep the live audio arm focused on music, sports, and cultural programming. Keeping music on the forefront of their product offerings is seemingly instrumental to their success.
What They Said: In a recent press release, Spotify shared that:
“Through this new live experience, Spotify will offer a range of sports, music, and cultural programming, as well as a host of interactive features that enable creators to connect with audiences in real-time. We’ll give professional athletes, writers, musicians, songwriters, podcasters, and other global voices opportunities to host real-time discussions, debates, ask me anything (AMA) sessions and more.”
... Mark Cuban?!: Fireside
Yes, everyone’s favorite Shark is diving into the ocean of audio competition with an app called “Fireside” with former Node partner Falon Fatemi. The app is designed to facilitate live conversation, but with the ability to natively record, broadcast, and monetize conversations. It features a built-in analytics tool to evaluate content performance and has raised a 7-figure seed round to get started. No word yet if Mr. Wonderful plans on collecting royalties.
What They Said: Cuban shared on his Fireside profile:
“Fireside is the future of podcasting. Our goal is to make discussion, debate, and discourse in a public forum a thing of celebration and beauty.”
LinkedIn has sent you a connection request.
While we don’t know much about it yet, LinkedIn is planning their own Clubhouse competitor, which isn’t surprising given the popularity of career content on Clubhouse and the explosive growth of all things content on LinkedIn. Stories, Groups, and Events might get shade from tech’s insider crowd, but the company’s 740 million members grew LinkedIn’s sessions 30% year-over-year in 2020, and some 21 million people attended an event on the platform.
What they said:
“We’re doing some early tests to create a unique audio experience connected to your professional identity, and we’re looking at how we can bring audio to other parts of LinkedIn such as events and groups, to give our members even more ways to connect to their community.”
The mass-adoption of Clubhouse’s audio premise isn’t unprecedented. One only wonders when Snapchat will announce its Clubhouse competitor, after seeing almost all of the companies above copy its popular Stories feature to tremendous success. It seems that tech leaders have decided drop-in, drop-out audio might be the next feature that is “hear” to stay.