Not all of 2020’s gifts that keep on giving into ‘21 are bad. Take Clubhouse, a social audio platform that has reached a fever pitch within my podcasting circles.
I've been on the platform for almost two weeks now, and I don't hate it. No, I don’t love it, but I am intrigued by the possibilities of social audio. And since the future and present of podcasting is the raison d’etre of Podcast Pontifications—and also because many have been asking for my hot take—I'm going to dive in and answer the five the most-pressing (or at least most-asked) questions I have encountered from other podcasters who are curious how Clubhouse will disrupt podcasting.
Clubhouse For Podcasting Dummies
To me, Clubhouse is the ‘21 version of the party line. Only we're not holding a phone to our ears, and the phone isn’t attached to the wall by a twisty 3.5’ cord. Instead of calling a number, the iOS-only app allows us to see several real-time conversations—rooms—happening right now. If one looks interesting, we click to join and are immediately dropped into the conversation.
It could be one person talking to an audience, but most often there are several people “on stage” offering opinions, answering questions, or just conversing with one another. If you wish to join in, there’s a hand-raising mechanism. If the moderators allow it, you’re brought on stage and your voice is heard by everyone in the room.
Oddly enough, it’s not as chaotic and cacophonous as you might think. Exceptions aside, there’s very little talking over one another. It just… works.
Clubhouse is a social audio experience and has many of the features you’ve come to expect from social platforms. You have a profile. People can follow you and you can follow others. You can create your own room and invite friends to join. So it’s sorta social.
Most striking is the audio-only nature of this platform. Not audio-first. But audio-only. No scrolling chat room with snarky texts overlaid onto the conversation. No private back-channels between moderators or attendees. Heck, you can’t even send emojis while someone is talking to demonstrate your love or ire. All communications with other people on Clubhouse are 100% audio. That’s a little weird. But it’s also something that podcasters should be super intrigued by. I know I am.
Podcasters Ask The Darndest Things About Clubhouse
Before I get to the questions, I need to thank my friend and fellow podcasting consultant Jonathan Baillie Strong for inviting me to the platform. He’s so enamored with the idea of social audio that he’s starting a newsletter to cover the space. The first episode hasn’t yet gone live as of this recording, so sign up at SocialAudioInsider.com to stay current on this fast-moving space. Because it’s much, much bigger than just Clubhouse.
1. Is Clubhouse the future of podcasting?
In a word, no. In nine words, Clubhouse—or something like it—is in podcasting's future. But so are many other things. It’s tempting and likely comforting to think of podcasting as a static thing that was made perfect in 2006. But you already know what I think of that short-sighted view of podcasting. So while I don’t think social audio is podcasting’s eventual, pre-determined evolutionary form (and that’s not how evolution works anyhow), I do think that social audio is going to exist along with podcasting, and both will evolve over time.
2. Is Clubhouse a distribution channel for my podcast?
A smart play in podcasting is to distribute your podcast on every channel. And the natural inclination of podcasters—one I’m guilty of myself—is to find ways to distribute our podcast’s episodes on platforms where they don’t quite fit. YouTube, for example. Or audiograms. So while it’s technically possible to push your episodes out on Clubhouse, it’s a bad fit. There’s nothing inherently social about publishing the audio file of a podcast. And brute-forcing your latest episode into a room on Clubhouse isn’t going to make it so.
3. Will Clubhouse kill podcasting?
Buggles aside, did video actually kill the radio star? Last time I checked, in-ear-only music remains the way most people listen to music, either from a music app or via their stereo. Did podcasting kill radio? I may have contributed to the hyperbole of the early aughts, but no podcaster from back then is all that surprised that radio is still with us today. And Twitter didn’t kill long-form journalism, as was also predicted.
So, no. Clubhouse or the next social audio platform is not going to kill podcasting. Podcasting still lets you listen to what you want when you want. Listening to or participating in a conversation in Clubhouse happens in real-time, to the exclusion of every other conversation happening at that particular time. Even if (when) replays are enabled, I predict they will be infrequently used, if past evidence of similar attempts holds true. “I guess you had to be there” is brought to life on Clubhouse.
4. As a podcaster, should I invest my valuable time building my brand on Clubhouse?
I know you’re busy. You already spend dozens of hours a week on your podcast, your job, your family, and other things important to you as a person. And yes, like any social platform, Clubhouse can be a huge time-suck if you want to get anything substantial from the platform. Worse, you’re building a brand on someone else platform, and that platform could either fold or be displaced by someone bigger. Hi, Twitter Spaces!
Remember Plurk? How about Meerkat? Or Quibi? Each of those good ideas was displaced by something else, namely Twitter, Snapchat, and… well, maybe Quibi wasn’t such a good idea. But I remain confident that social audio is going to be with us for a while, and the current dominant player is Clubhouse. So you might as well get your feet wet. But you should also stay very adept and be able to shift quickly if (when?) the tide changes.
5. How can podcasters use Clubhouse?
Well, that's what many podcasters are actively experimenting with right now. They're inventing this space as they go along. And starting tomorrow, Friday, January 15, 2021 at 10:00a MT, I’m going to join them. Tomorrow, I’m extending the Podcast Pontifications brand to Clubhouse. No, that doesn’t mean I’m going to record an episode of Podcast Pontifications on Clubhouse. See “bad idea” from earlier in this piece.
Instead, I’m going to embrace the social nature of the platform, inviting others to offer their insights on the future of podcasting and answering questions about concepts brought up on Podcast Pontifications in real-time. Current platforms don’t make it easy to do that. But I have high-hopes that Clubhouse or another social audio platform just might.
Or it might be an exercise in futility. Who knows? But I’m trying it tomorrow. January 15th, at 11:00a Arizona time. That's 1:00p in New York and 10:00a in Los Angeles. If you’re on Clubhouse, I invite you to join me for the first Podcast Pontifications on Clubhouse. Follow me—evoterra—and you'll get a notification when the room goes live.
And if you’ve signed up for a membership on BuyMeACoffe.com/evoterra, you get special treatment in that Clubhouse room! Shoot me a note if you want more info about that. And if you’re not already a member, sign up!
Spread the word about Podcast Pontifications and the event on Clubhouse tomorrow among your podcasting friends.
And if you can’t join me then, I shall be back on Monday with yet another Podcast Pontifications.