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What Is the Clubhouse Hype Really About?
February 24, 2021

The author of one of my favourite books, 1984, George Orwell, once said the following in his book, “He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past”. An almost instructive quote from Orwell, this quote could be applied not only to the dystopian world of 1984 but to the entirety of human history — history being, as we know, the development of our current technology and a subjective narrative crafted by those privileged enough to write it.

The first time I read this book as a young girl, I did not understand much of it, but after reading the book again after I turned 35, it struck me how true it was. What we are born within our lives becomes a big part of how we actually relate to the world. The technology we come in contact with between 15 and 35 is an exciting and an important part of our career, but after 35 something happens. We might become a little conservative to put it more mildly. We realize that we all are not the same, and we are a little more restrained with what we spend our time on. A lot because by that time we have we developed our habits, we know what we do and don’t like, and we do not want to be bothered with too many new things, neither to question why certain things in the society work as they do. I will be honest with you, TikTok is not a thing for me. I have the app, I studied the phenomenon to understand the present, and I am there to keep the track of what is happening in my children’s world. I know it’s a phenomenal platform for advertising, especially to reach young women, but I don’t feel connected to it, as I felt with Twitter which I discovered at the age of 25.

The first time I’ve heard about Clubhouse was during the summer of 2020, and I was not so impressed. I thought the name was a bit strange, and I did not really bother to familiarize myself with yet another “app that will revolutionize the world”. During the fall of 2020 however, it appeared a little bit more in my sphere, and the app has become a unicorn by now (valued at over 1 billion dollars) and during January 2021 it started to also explode here in Scandinavia.

What then is the Clubhouse? Some say that it is Twitter in audio form, others say a digital home party, and third, simply say it’s an audio chat. Clubhouse, like exclusive clubs, has the marketing strategy “invite-only” and if it is hyped enough, it is the best form of marketing strategy for a launch of a product. Very successful examples of this type of marketing strategy that you may remember were Gmail and also Spotify. That the Clubhouse app is explosively growing right now throughout Asia, in China in particular. There, the growth took place mainly because they could initially talk openly about things that are happening there, and the invitations were sold when demand was enough high. Unfortunately, the restrictions have already been introduced in China by now, and the app is moving towards being completely censored so I have heard.

To describe Clubhouse, I would explain it as a kind of exclusive live podcast, where hosts discuss a topic or an interview similar to the one Elon Musk set up and participated in. You can follow people, but also topics. And the more people you follow and are interested in, the smarter the recommendations you will get about discussions to take part in. The disadvantages of Clubhouse today are that everything has to be live. Due to the fact that we all live in different time zones and for us that are located in Europe, most broadcasts from the USA are difficult to actually take part in. Since everything is live, there is also no “on-demand” but the call disappears if they are not recorded and posted, for example on YouTube. However, I do think that feature will come, where you can share conversations that are open. Nowadays, I’m really stuck and really like the app. The other day I was invited to discuss a recently published book, by Seth Godin, and that is exactly the charm of this type of social media. It makes the world small and accessible. Suddenly I can get in touch with famous people or those with power, quickly and easily.

As of February 24th, 2021, Clubhouse has over 6 million users and is growing rapidly, not least among adults, unlike TikTok which is growing mainly among the younger target group. From February 9 2021 to February 23rd, the number of users has increased by 4 million. The founders recently wrote in a blog post that the goal for 2021 is to make the app accessible and open for everyone. Regarding advertising, the offer will probably be similar to that for podcasts, but the question here is what will happen in the future with the platform? Of course, no one really knows – maybe it’s just a hype that dies. But, what interests me more is the voice and sound as a phenomenon in itself, and how it can become a social media alone.

Already a few years ago, I discussed during ASW in Las Vegas, that voice will be very underestimated in the near future and I still stand by it. Voice is a phenomenal medium that is perfect for our multitasking time we all live in, where I can do the dishes, cook, or take a walk and still very much enjoy the content. No one needs to see me, I do not need to think about how things around look like but just fully participate with my voice. And I strongly believe that in five years, people will look back and say, “Shit, why did I not understand the importance of voice before”.

If we look at today’s children, it can sometimes strike me that while I was growing up with the Knight Rider series, they actually live in it. Self-driving cars, talking to your watch, and so on. It is a generation where the only reality they know of is a constantly connected world, filled with touch screens and augmented reality. They are born with tablets in their hands and that naturally shapes their understanding of how technology works. A two-year-old does not understand the concept of a TV with remote control and will probably point and touch the screen.

I remember a few years ago when I got my first Apple watch, and how I walked around constantly talking to Siri and asking if it could play the music, what the temperature is somewhere or even used it as a quick lookup encyclopedia and of course, my children watched mommy walking around and saying “Hey Siri”. That became normality. I remember talking to my parents not so long ago and they told me that my five-year-old was walking around the house and talking to her arm while saying “Hey Siri, can you clean up my room”. Of course, we laughed at it, but I could not let go of the idea that this is my daughter’s reality of how the world actually works. That this is perfectly normal for her.

Another aspect of voice as a medium on a social platform is the fact that it is much harder to be a troll. We, humans, tend to be more meanwhile we are behind our keyboards than when we actually need to say something directly to each other. As by now you may have understood, I have an enormous belief in the voice as a medium, in smart speakers, interesting podcasts that contribute to society regardless of the topic, and now also in social media. The sound revolution is here and in my opinion, has only just begun, and Clubhouse is just a first taste of it.