With alternative audio social tools rising fast, Clubhouse has found itself in an increasingly uphill battle to maintain audience attention, pitted against far better-resourced opponents who are looking to tap into the trend that it originated, and essentially stunt the app's growth in order to keep their own users from drifting.
Which, of course, makes sense, but for Clubhouse itself, that means that it's at risk of losing out entirely, as fewer people download the app, and it struggles to open up access to every interested, potential user - while Twitter and Facebook, at the flip of a switch, are able to provide the same types of tools to millions of people, shutting Clubhouse's window just a little more with every update and expansion.
Given this, the longer-term prospects for Clubhouse are not looking great, unless it can find another, more unique angle.
Which is now becoming the app's focus - this week, Clubhouse has made several announcements which point to that next key shift, and could help Clubhouse carve out a more specific, differentiated niche, and enable it to maintain its growth, despite the increased competition.
First off, on Wednesday, Clubhouse announced the first recipients of its 'Creator First' grants program, through which it will fund the development of a range of original programming from Clubhouse creators.
Clubhouse announced its Creator First funding program back in March, which will see it provide support, resources and equipment to assist in the development of a range of original audio concepts. Clubhouse will also ensure that participants in the program are provided with at least $5000 in guaranteed monthly income, while it will also assist in securing sponsorship and brand partnership arrangements to establish a more sustainable funding flow for these unique shows.
That will help the app secure more original, quality programming, while also ensuring that these popular creators keep sharing to the app, a key step in establishing audience connection, and keeping listeners coming back, even with more audio broadcasts now competing for attention.
Clubhouse is also taking its original content push another step further with the hiring of Kelly Stoetzel, the former head of conferences and speaker curation at TED, as well as former Google engineer Justin Uberti, who had been heavily involved in Google's audio and video product offerings.
As reported by Variety, Stoetzel, who's worked at TED for the past 17-years, will be tasked with recruiting more 'thoughtful people' to the platform:
"...including authors, scientists, academics and other creatives to use the app’s interactive audio rooms. She’ll also work with high-profile folks already on the platform, including Malcom Gladwell, Adam Grant, Amy Cuddy, Guy Raz, Dr. Bernice King and Frances Frei."
Stoetzel's experience, and connections, could help Clubhouse secure a range of high-profile, original broadcast partnerships, and could play a key role in ensuring the app remains relevant, despite other platforms offering more reach.
Uberti, meanwhile, will help improve the quality of the in-app experience, and ensure that Clubhouse users are getting optimal audio and engagement benefits within its Rooms.
In combination, these new developments point to the app's increasing focus on quality over quantity, which is a good thing, because there's simply no way that Clubhouse will be able to scale fast enough to compete with the reach benefits offered by other tools.
By honing its focus on more specific use cases, however, Clubhouse could carve out a more specific audience offering, and much like Snapchat, it could then remain a relevant platform moving forward, even as other platforms look to steal its thunder, and quash its growth.
This appears to be the best way forward for Clubhouse, and these new developments do bode well in this respect. Vine, for example, waited too long to offer creator funding, which eventually saw its top stars, and their audiences, move to other platforms, while Snapchat, as noted, suffered a slowdown in momentum after the release of Instagram Stories, but has since regained it through niche focus.
Clubhouse would benefit from following that same blueprint, and with these latest updates, it does appear to be slowly steering itself in that direction.
Will that see Clubhouse stick around for the long term? It's still early days, but it does seem like a step in the right direction.