Editorial: The Competition for Social Audio Is Getting Interesting

Twitter versus Clubhouse: who will win the battle for social audio?

I’ve written twice this week about Clubhouse (here and here), and I remain endlessly fascinated about social audio apps in general, and the two leading apps, Twitter Spaces and Clubhouse, in particular. It would appear that the competition between Twitter and Clubhouse is beginning to heat up, with Twitter working aggressively to add users and features while Clubhouse seems to be experiencing some growing pains. While Clubhouse has the early lead, Twitter is making slow but steady progress, particularly in support for Android users.

Late this afternoon, I listened to a Twitter Spaces room where the future of Twitter was discussed at length, and it is clear that the new push is towards attracting content creators and providing ways to effectively monetize the platform for them. Twitter product lead Kayvon Beykpour tweeted today about just how far Twitter Spaces has come in only four months:

Anyone of Twitter with more than 600 followers can now host their own Twitter Spaces room, which anybody on Twitter can listen to and join in, without any limit on how many people can be in the room (Clubhouse rooms are capped at 5,000 people). Also, Twtter Spaces supports both iOS and Android devices, although Clubhouse is expected to roll out Android support sometime in the next month.

Also, Clubhouse does not have a direct message ability, relying instead on people putting Instagram and Twitter links in their bios so that people can contact each other. Of course, Twitter already has direct messaging built into the platform (although celebrities and other people can choose to turn that feature off).

All this means is that social audio is still anybody’s game to win. While Twitter Spaces is lagging behind Clubhouse in terms of overall features, Twitter has something that Clubhouse does not: a much larger potential audience (192 million users). In other words, once Kayvon and his team work out some of the bugs and add more features, they could potentially have a hit on their hands. And Facebook, with 2.8 billion user accounts and deep pockets full of profits from advertising, has the potential to come in and steamroller over both Clubhouse and Twitter Spaces.

(By the way, the Twitter Spaces room I was in crashed abruptly…it would appear that there are still quite a few bugs to iron out!)

Stay tuned; things are about to get really interesting!

Clubhouse: The Honeymoon Is Over

Clubhouse users are unhappy
(Photo by Andre Hunter on Unsplash)

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.

Vanity Fair magazine, in an April 23rd, 2021 article titled The Clubhouse Party Is Over (archived version), says:

“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!

Pandemic Diary, April 23rd, 2021: Clubhouse Follies

Today is officially Day 373 since I began working in self-isolation from my home for my university library system on March 16th, 2020. All the summer courses at the University of Manitoba will be taught online and remotely, as in previous semesters, although the university is planning to conduct at least some of the smaller courses in-person come September (dependent upon the current pandemic situation, of course).

I have been on Clubhouse for (double checks) eight weeks now, and things are definitely getting a bit weird. Every second room seems to be about manifesting your first million dollars, or NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens), or BitClout. And Clubhouse is starting to descend into endless petty tit-for-tat squabbles like the following:

*sigh* Could somebody please call these aggrieved people a WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH-mbulance? 😉

And yet, at the same time, I have started two clubs (one for Winnipeggers and Manitobans, and the other one is called Ask a Librarian), and become a moderator for a third club founded by somebody else, the Virtual Worlds club.

And, in addition to running my own weekly rooms in those clubs, I willingly put up my hand, come up on stage, and speak in many rooms (not in the NFT rooms or the petty squabbling rooms, though). In a weird way, Clubhouse is like a comforting blanket I can wrap around myself whenever I feel the need of company. There’s always a conversation happening somewhere!

I particularly enjoy the daily News News News room, where everybody contributes to (and discusses) the headlines. For example, someone will talk about a breaking COVID-19 story, and a doctor or scientist in the room will provide some expert commentary. It’s fast becoming my favourite way of consuming the day’s news stories, particularly since I no longer watch the broadcast TV news!

News News News is the crowdsourced morning news show I never knew I needed!

And it will be interesting to see how Clubhouse will change when they finally open up to Android users (the app is still for iOS devices like iPhones and iPads only). Speaking of iPads, I finally decided to order myself a shiny new iPad, going through the Apple website rather than make a potentially germy trip to my local Apple store in a shopping mall at the other end of town! It should arrive in about a month. In the meantime, I am enjoying my Netflix, Amazon Prime, and OUTtvGO streaming content on my desktop computer and my trusty iPhone.

My new iPad arrives in a month

As for COVID-19, well, our ever-arrogant, pompous, gaslighting Manitoba premier, Brian Pallister, is once again stumble-leading us into a third wave of COVID-19 infections (mostly driven by variants of concern), and into what I feel is an inevitable third lockdown, after the ones we endured last March and last November. I feel it is only a matter of time that the problems experienced in B.C., Alberta, Ontario, and Quebec land here in Manitoba, too.

I find sometimes I need to stay off the local news media because I get so angry at how the pandemic is being mismanaged by the provincial government. Our local newspaper, the Winnipeg Free Press, has been unstinting and unprecedented in its criticism and even condemnation of Brian Pallister and his government’s policies. People are not happy, and the government is unpopular, but unfortunately we still have a couple of years to go until we can vote these clowns out of office in the next provincial election. Good riddance!

I have resigned myself to the fact that I will be largely face-masking, hand-washing, and self-isolating for at least another four months, possibly longer. I received my first shot of the Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine on March 18th, 2021, but I am not due to get my second shot until July (the government has decided to get first shots into as many arms as possible, to provide at least some protection against the coronavirus, then focus on people getting their second shots).

However, at least until that third lockdown is announced, I am now going into my library every Monday (which is still closed to faculty, staff, and students), in order to do some collection weeding work. I find that getting out of my apartment one day a week does wonders for my overall mood, and I enjoy the opportunity to have face-to-face conversations with my coworkers (wearing face masks and socially distanced, but still face to face!).

Other than going in to work on Mondays, I barely leave my apartment. The only regular trips I make are to go pick up the groceries I order online from Walmart, and to go across town to visit my mother and stepfather at their seniors life-lease condo.

Anyways, I hope you all are holding up well under the circumstances, and taking good care of yourselves. Stay safe and stay healthy!

Horrible, Funny, and Weird Clubhouse Stories: Imposters, Whale Moaners, and More

I had insomnia again last night, and I am feeling depressed again this morning, on a very grey, gloomy, and overcast day here in Winnipeg.

I finally gave up on trying to get more sleep, got out of bed, and lay down on the sofa early this morning with my iPhone, to check out what was happening in the hot, new, drop-in audio chat app, Clubhouse. People, things are starting to get truly weird.


This morning, at 7:00 a.m. CST/1:00 p.m. GMT, I listened to the London Lunch Club, where they were sharing Clubhouse horror stories. There were also some funny and weird ones that were brought up for discussion! Among the tales told:

  • Someone who hung around various Clubhouse rooms pretending to work for Atlantic Records (until someone who DID work for Atlantic Records called him out publicly)
  • Rooms where people would compete on who could make the best orgasm noises (but scroll down, people, it gets weirder…)
  • People who would take their (volunteer) Clubhouse room moderator status to another level, going into complete control freak mode, and attacking the other moderators in the room
  • People (mostly Americans) who come on stage and give their whole autobiography when introducing themselves to the room 😉 “Americans, please… comprehension skills.”

But Ravina Rawal has shared some truly serious Clubhouse weirdness via Twitter:

PSA: There’s a Whale Moan Room on Clubhouse in which everyone just moans (?) like whales (?) for hours. And now this room is in a MASSIVE fight with someone claiming he started the original Whale Moan Room. So now 1000 people are having a moan-off to settle it…

But, wait, it gets even better:

So I put up my hand, got up on stage in the London Lunch Club, and told the audience about the whale moan, cat in heat, and ice cube chewing rooms, and we all just HOWLED with laughter! There were about 60 people present, and it was a cheerful start to my workday (yes, I am “going in to work” today).

P.S. Clubhouse is invite-only and for iOS devices only (no Android version yet). If you are intrigued by all these shenanigans and want to experience Clubhouse for yourself, I still have one (ONE) invitation left to give out. If you want it, please leave a comment on this blogpost, or ping me via the Contact Me page on this blog, thanks!

By the way, the London Lunch Club has a hashtag on Twitter, #TLLCCH, which you can follow if you want (somebody investigated and confirmed my report on the battle of the whale moaners, and tagged Ravina’s tweet which I shared above).

This Winnipegger wants to thank the members of the London Lunch Club for a much-needed dose of hilarity this morning!

PHHHHWAAAAAAAAAAAAAARGHHHHH!!!!