Nov 19, 2021, Business

What actually happened to Clubhouse?

Aneta Skoczewska Business Consultant

You’re probably not the biggest fan of 2020, but there’s one thing you have to admit. This catastrophic year gave a real motivational kick to many new tech ideas that just waited for their moment to bloom. One of them was an inconspicuous audio startup Clubhouse – a clannish little app for the chosen ones. Yes, you heard me right. You could use it only with an invitation and on an iOS device. Elite enough? Probably so, because after a few months upon its official launch, the company was valued at $1 billion! The idea came out so big, that it was nearly instantly copycatted by brands such as Facebook, Twitter, Slack or Spotify. Even the invite codes (which were generally free) were sold for hundreds of dollars on eBay. But as you probably know, nothing lasts forever and the app was no exception. 

The hype’s got real

If you didn’t get an invite or you got one but couldn’t use it on your Android device, you probably missed the opportunity of experiencing the power of Clubhouse. And it was like a true internet revolution happening in front of our eyes. 500,000 live conversational rooms created each day, 10 million active users, big players like Mark Zukerberg or Elon Musk hopping aboard, hundreds millions dollars of venture capital money. It was all quite impressive for a less than a year old social app available only on iPhones.  

A quick rescue operation

The hype was intense, but didn’t really last that long. In 2021, the Clubhouse owners decided to expand the platform for Android users too, but it barely made a difference. The thrill ran out and people moved on to more occupying, post-quarantine activities. As a result, the number of sign-ups and installs drastically dropped and the Clubhouse has fallen from the pedestal of being one of the top downloaded social media apps. 

What went wrong?

Why has the Clubhouse fame never reached the level of social media giants like Facebook, Twitter or Instagram? There are several reasons that come to mind.

1. The product of pandemic

It hasn’t been irrelevant that the app gained such huge popularity during the strictest lockdown. Sitting at home, having nowhere to go, and not being able to meet with others resulted in an increased need for contact. And Clubhouse was indeed a place that provided us with what we missed most – a tad of normality. But as the pandemic slowed down, more and more people got vaccinated, and we were able to participate in real meetups, conferences, concerts, and events of any other kind, the app started to feel too claustrophobic. We left our phones behind and focused on real-life relationships, not needing as much of an online contact anymore. 

2. Not a perfect market fit

Imagine that Facebook, Instagram and Spotify disappear. Just like that, in a second, forever. Would you freak out or lead a normal life, not worrying about your brand, social life or a legit source of music? It’s probably closer to scenario no. 1, right? And what would you do if it happened to Clubhouse? Would you even notice that it’s gone? Yup, I thought so. 

3. Difficult to find what you need

Clubhouse doesn’t really give you much choice when it comes to browsing for interesting content. You have to dive into a particular conversation to check if it really suits your needs. And sometimes, even after giving it a five-minute trial, it’s hard to tell if the meeting is worth your time or not. A quick update with a possibility of adding relevant tags to each chat would do the trick. But nobody cared enough to implement the changes.

4. More of a feature than an actual product

It’s a common opinion that as a product alone Clubhouse lacks a real added value. However, whilst looking at it as a feature, it may create a great business opportunity for companies that need an additional space for discussion. Podcasts are great, but they lack interaction with the audience. An audio functionality like Clubhouse could be a missing link here. 

5. Only for the big ones

If you were a big player company, a famous entrepreneur or a celebrity, you didn’t have to wait for your audience to come along. But if you’re an unknown creator, even with a fascinating topic in mind, there’s a risk that no one will enter your room – and it’s quite demotivating. There were probably many people who wanted to make it big, but didn’t even have a chance to present their point of view. And as you may guess – they all left the Clubhouse with a negative experience and never came back. 

6. Didn’t focus on the Gen Z

Contemporary internet users have a short attention span and the majority of technology consumption is in the hands of Gen Z. Thus, if a newly launched app wants to conquer the virtual world, it should walk past the Millennials and Boomers, focusing mostly on the youngest and most demanding audience – the Zoomers. And what did they think about the Clubhouse? Well, they quickly got bored and left. 

Will Clubhouse be able to bounce back?

The Clubhouse went from the internet’s darling to its reject when people started to perceive it as a colossal waste of time. Nobody likes that in today’s busy world. The problem laid in both the platform’s technical shortcomings as well as an overall lack of purpose and refinement. It was fun while it lasted, but without a great deal of rethinking or even reinventing the concept from scratch, the app may not survive.