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It’s possible I might have underestimated Clubhouse’s impact on podcasting. Not that I’ve ever been a Never-Clubhouser. I’ve always talked about Clubhouse as an audio-only medium podcasters should explore. And while I still don’t think Clubhouse will kill podcasting, my perspective on Clubhouse and its potential influence on the larger podcasting landscape has shifted.
2020: The Year Podcasting Got Anchored
Last year, 2020, was rather infamous for a lot of reasons. Buried under current events straight out of a Michel Crichton novel was podcasting’s most impressive growth spurt ever, as more than one million new podcasts were unleashed to the directories, effectively doubling the number of podcasts available in a single year.
The vast majority of those new shows were powered by Anchor. Not some. Not most. Nearly all. By their own counting, one million podcasts powered by Anchor launched in 2020.
Why did that happen? Not a small portion of the credit goes to a big awareness push funded by parent-company Spotify. But also: it’s easy to start and publish a podcast on Anchor. Like really, really easy.
It didn’t matter that we cranky podcasters were preaching the fire-and-brimstone against Anchor-hosted shows, citing subjective “control” and “quality” issues at every opportunity. We were busy casting shade from the shadows of our SM7Bs, yet people continued to flock to the service. If “flock” is a big enough term.
We podcasters don’t have to like Anchor-created podcasts. Persnickety listeners who proudly proclaim they prefer to listen to podcasts over all other forms of listenable media don’t have to like Anchor-created podcasts. The opinions of those who sit in the middle of that Venn diagram do not matter.
But this article isn’t about Anchor in 2020. It’s about Clubhouse in 2021. Hold my beer...
2021: From Clubhouse To Flood-house?
Clubhouse, the audio-only, drop-in social platform is currently tracking 10 million active weekly users. Not monthly users. Weekly. Like all social apps that skyrocketed, Clubhouse provides its users an all-in-one create/consume experience. It requires no special skills to move from consumer to creator, and the app all but begs you— you and every other user—to do just that. And that’s a big part of why Clubhouse is growing so incredibly fast.
Anchor’s app also provides a similar create/consume experience, but with one additional feature: distribution. Distribution to Spotify, yes. But also, distribution to every other podcast directory with a click of a button.
Clubhouse could do that with a few lines of code. And they could do it tomorrow.
Imagine how straightforward it likely would be for Clubhouse to enable distribution, turning every “club” into its own podcast, and then distributing that podcast to every single podcast directory automatically.
Suddenly, my bold prediction of one million Clubhouse-created podcasts by the end of 2021 doesn’t seem all that far-fetched, does it?
So why did I say in the title of this article that these predicted shows would not be from podcasters? If that happens, wouldn’t that by default make podcasters out of the creators of those distributed rooms? Technically, yes. But practically, no. At least, not as you or I define the term “podcaster” today. Like creators who rely on Anchor, most of them won’t be interested in the geeky details of LUFS, RSS namespace additions, or other minutiae that some people (looking at you, me) are looking forward to boring others with at a cocktail party when we can safely gather again.
I coined the term PINO—podcaster in name only— to describe that type of podcaster. Not as a dig, but as a nod to the fact that not everyone wants to be a podcaster. Some people just want to produce content and distribute it to anyone who cares to listen. Does it really matter how they self-identify?
There’s very little chance the podcasters of the future will look like the podcasters of the past. What I had to go through to make a podcast in 2004 is mostly irrelevant to what it takes to make a podcast today. The next wave of podcasters will look very different than the podcasters of today. And for about a million or so of them, the shows they make will probably sound different too.
How Current Podcasters Can Survive The Coming Surge
With two-thirds of available podcasts powered by Anchor and Clubhouse, it’s foolish to think the overall “brand” of podcasting won’t be affected. But “affected by” isn’t the same as “killed by”, so relax. Still, there are quite a few implications you should consider.
Explore, Don’t Abandon
No, I don’t think you should quit making your podcast the way you are today and switch to Clubhouse. You probably didn't dump your hosting company and your big mic to switch to recording on your phone with Anchor. You might've dabbled with Anchor, just as I did, and you may have even started a new show over there that fits that format. So do the same thing with Clubhouse!
If my prediction comes true and the next million shows are little more than distributed Clubhouse rooms, then listeners will be spoiled for choice when it comes to raw, unedited, rambling, gab-fests. Some of those rambling gab-fests will come from high-profile celebrities, pros, or others with large followings. A lot more will come from amateurs replicating what they see (or rather hear) the high-profile people they follow are doing with Clubhouse. You may have a different perspective, but I don’t want to try to compete in those chummed waters.
Better Curation Coming?
On the plus side, a flooded landscape could be just what is needed to drive some solid curation in podcasting. It’s hard enough to wade through the nearly two million podcasts that exist today to find something good to listen to. Imagine what that looks like at the end of the year, when we’re at three or four million, with a million or more coming from Clubhousers, not podcasters.
Speaking of Clubhouse, I’ll be hosting a room and joined by others to discuss podcasting’s accessibility problem tomorrow, February 26th at 10:00a Los Angeles / 1:00p New York City, and I’d love for you to join me. That was the topic of yesterday's episode and it seems to have struck a chord. So we'll collectively pick up the conversation and let anyone interested (and on Clubhouse) chime in. And yes, I get the irony of using a less-than-fully-accessible platform to talk about podcasting’s accessibility problems. If you want to be added to the guest list, just shoot me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org and I shall do so.
And if this idea struck a chord (and perhaps fear), please go to BuyMeACoffee.com/evoterra and toss a virtual coffee my way.
I hope to see you tomorrow on Clubhouse. Enjoy your weekend, for I shall be back on Monday with yet another Podcast Ponfifications.