No matter how you look at it, the going is certainly getting tougher for audio social pioneer Clubhouse.
Over the last week and a bit, Facebook announced a slate of new audio social products across its various surfaces, Reddit added 'Reddit Talk', its own take on the format, and Instagram launched audio-only IG Live streams, providing more alternative options for Clubhouse's key functionality.
And then today, Twitter delivered another full-handed slap to Clubhouse's face, with the expanded launch of its audio Spaces offering to all Twitter users, on iOS and Android, who have more than 600 followers.
Clubhouse, as a reminder, doesn't yet have an Android app.
You would imagine that the mood around Clubhouse HQ is pretty tense, but for now, the app continues on its own path, moving forward with its own development plans, and into the next stage of its expansion. Or 'renovation', I guess, because it's a Clubhou... never mind.
That expansion, of course, will primarily focus on a full roll-out, which will involve opening up the app to all users and releasing an Android version.
There's nothing new to report on the former as yet, but on the latter, Clubhouse is progressing to the next stage of its Android app development.
As reported by TechCrunch:
"The company announced during its weekly town hall event that its Android version has entered beta testing with a handful of non-employees who will provide the company with early feedback ahead of a public launch."
Clubhouse confirmed the test in its weekly Town Hall notes:
Town Hall Highlights— Clubhouse (@joinClubhouse) May 2, 2021
???? Continued work on Android, payments, & lots of plumbing
???? Fixed bugs in a second release after last Sunday’s update
???? Watch Clubhouse HQ for an update on the Creator First Program Weds @ 9am PST
???? @anuatluru confirms she is still watching Survivor
The fact that Clubhouse doesn't haven't an Android app has now become a much bigger impediment, with competitors launching their audio tools across all versions of their apps. That could make it a much harder sell for Clubhouse to eventually get Android users across - why would people switch to a new app for audio social meetings when they can get the same functionality in the tools they already know and trust, and within which they already have their established connection networks?
This could become the defining question in the lifecycle of the Clubhouse hype machine, which has used its invite-only FOMO factor to build a significant presence, but may end up losing out entirely due the very same restriction.
Given this, Clubhouse needs to work fast to expand quickly, while also improving its discovery algorithms in-step, and maximizing creator incentives to avoid losing its top broadcasters to these alternative tools.
Which is another element of focus. As you can see in the above tweet summary, Clubhouse is also still working on payments, another means to incentivize its top broadcasters to remain active in the app, in addition to its Creator Accelerator Program, which provides participants with support and $5k in monthly payment for the period that they're a part of the scheme.
These are key elements that Clubhouse needs to get right, which will dictate where it goes next.
Will it be able to stand up in the face of rapidly rising competition, or will the challenge prove too great, and leave Clubhouse as the next Meerkat, an app that rose fast, then declined just as rapidly, before shutting down completely at just 17 months of age?
It's still too early to call, but Clubhouse's window does appear to be closing. It needs to prop it open with some big moves soon.
In addition to this, Clubhouse is also looking to add:
- New prompts for listeners to follow a club after they've joined a room and tuned in for "a few minutes"
- An improved RSVP flow for individual events, separate from following a Club or speaker
- A new addition for profiles which will list upcoming events to better promote participation
These are obviously smaller, but still helpful tweaks - and it's worth also noting that Clubhouse has a dedicated, passionate user base, who have formed strong communities within the app.
Given this, Clubhouse may still be able to hold its own, and carve out its own niche.
Again, its next moves will be critical in this respect.