I have been listening, off and on, to various rooms on Clubhouse, yesterday and today, and to me, it feels as if the wheels are starting to come off the bus.
A brief recap of recent drama that has erupted on the social audio app includes:
1. The Black woman, introduced a month and a half ago at one of the company’s townhalls as the new face on the Clubhouse app icon (which they rotate regularly) who was, without any explanation, replaced, causing a high degree of controversy within Clubhouse’s Black community that is still ongoing, despite Clubhouse’s rather ham-fisted attempts at damage control;
2. The Clubhouse Creator Program sent out mass rejection emails to all 5,000-odd unsuccessful applicants yesterday, leading to many rooms full of salty people discussing and digesting the news, and speculating as to who the successful 60 shortlisted applicants were (the speculation is rife, with a good dash of hearsay and gossip);
3. After announcing a brand-new partnership with the NFL, an ex-NFL player who hosted the most popular NFL room on Clubhouse discovered that his club name and logo were abruptly removed without notice, and the company forced him to change his club name and logo.
In short, the staff at Clubhouse can’t seem to do anything lately without inciting drama and ill will among its user base. Many people have commented that the treatment of the woman in item 1 and the man in item 3 above was particularly shabby. Clubhouse can’t seem to put a foot right lately; perhaps the hyper-charged growth over the past 13 months has led to problems within the company?
The singular strength of Clubhouse (the ability for users to spin up rooms at will, to discuss, debate, and argue about any topic) is leading to the platform’s worst nightmare: a user base that is angrily accusing Clubhouse of being tone-deaf and ignoring them. The content creators of Clubhouse are, by and large, feeling betrayed.
Between its increasingly unhappy userbase, and competition from Twitter, Facebook, Discord, and many other companies that are now planning their own drop-in audio apps, things are suddenly not looking quite as rosy at Clubhouse as they were only a couple of months ago.
“I think the app is changing. People may spend an hour or two on there instead of six straight hours. It feels more like people will tune in for programming occasionally, as opposed to using it as an online community to cure the loneliness of quarantine,” one super-user of the platform told me, who still loves using Clubhouse, but also now sees its limitations. “The app still has the rare ability to put you in direct contact with people you look up to. However, it also now feels like home to more chaotic, polarizing conversations—that make it feel like ‘audio Twitter.’” The user added that the platform has become “a bit of a cesspool of racism and anti-Semitism and shady marketing groups.” For some people, that actually might sound like a fun party—but for most of us, it sounds like an app that deserves to be lingering in the bottom of the app store.
OUCH. Will Clubhouse survive its growing pains? Stay tuned!