Clubhouse will replace day-time TV

Clubhouse is the social network we all needed in 2020, in a disconnected world where we all created free time from the efficiencies of being in a single place (at home) someone built a way for us to keep talking. Such a simple idea, one so stimulating our socially starved pandemic world couldn’t resist. Clubhouse blew up.

The ‘first’ version of Clubhouse was actually a place for hanging out, people didn’t mind who you were and it was the private space where a lot of likeminded folks included each other, listened and took part in life and work. A couple of bumps along the way, but overall it really did act like a clubhouse :)

Sadly this gentle place was left behind once referrals kicked in. Initially, giving away your invite was treated like offering someone a golden ticket to Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, each person was a conscious choice for the one person you knew who could add to the conversation. And, this is where the magic ends, as Clubhouse then made a big mistake. Rather than doubling down on a certain behavioural segment or niche community, they allowed anyone to join and so bulldozed through the fragile early adopter's stage of network building.

In my eyes, opening up Clubhouse was driven by the market, not a strategy. The world in 2020 is one that seeks radical inclusion demanding diversity from every person in every moment.

And there is the cost, the issue with opening up a network (early) is that you’ve just handed over the definition of its culture to everyone who takes part. Linkedin, by comparison, was a closed premium place open only to the smartest people that Ried Hoffman knew until they got the ‘professional’ behaviour expected online right. Facebook stayed in Universities until they knew how to build social 101, a product anyone could use to connect. Clubhouse did not wait, it became filled with lots of anyone, and suddenly there weren’t enough early adopters to show “everyone” what good looked like. A new style of communication needs new rules.

Audio social networks remove the barriers for ‘presentation’ that video-based products require. They also lower the bar for the command of a language written networks demand. Talking is the easiest and most primary form of communication for humans, beyond touch it’s the earliest way we learn to express how we feel. Audio networks are going to be huge!

These audio networks create a “stage > audience” dynamic which biases towards influencing. This means that these networks have three areas they could own in future:

1. Education — Creating ways to share what you learn and have people ‘interact’. The virtual professor running a college class on ‘topic’. The audio lectern

2. Entertainment — Surfacing yourself as a person that others want to listen to, doesn’t matter if you are passive or active as the audience, it just matters how many are attracted (think TikTok). The audio soapbox

3. Self-expression — Social networks each create identities, this product removes visual queues and promotes ‘listening’. Many people aren’t able to express themselves well in writing or photos — audio can be a platform for many to have society acknowledge their existence, “like me just as I am”. The audio persona

Clubhouse was 1&3 in its early days, a magical place that people could meet on and feel like they really were connecting. A type of university common room for users in their freshman year. Now, with the influx of all people that place is a noisy high-school where everyone wants to be popular, it’s on the fast-track to becoming 2; the popular vote will always be entertaining

What’s interesting is that our demographics aren’t those social 20-somethings but a more mature (millennial) audience. What does talk-based entertainment look like for most of them in an always-on medium? Well, today that’s in the form of talk-shows where the public gets to take part, complete with an MC makes them entertaining.

My guess is that Clubhouse will become the modern day-time tv, people will leave it on in the background and the more reality-style content will draw a majority crowd. We’re about to enter the world of interactive Judge Judy.

Clubhouse’s culture is now firmly on the path for attention-seeking emotionally-led conversation i.e. ranting and reacting. It’s built to amplify the emotive moment we stop and store at, and it’s going to be a big success.

But on a personal reflection, it really did start as something else, a gentle place to meet and share time with others.

My hope is that we see many more attempts, the innovation is done, now the world needs more version one Clubhouse disruptors to help bring us that little bit closer together. One day we might even have a virtual, local, version in every town; the digital coffee shop and bar to socialise in our communities.

If you have other ideas I’d love to hear them, let’s grab a coffee: jay.interactive@gmail.com

Digital and product thinking

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