TechnologyWhat Happened to Clubhouse? The awkward silence of a social network...

What Happened to Clubhouse? The awkward silence of a social network that was going to change everything

Clubhouse on the Apple App Store.Unsplash

When Juanjo Rengel arrived at Clubhouse in early 2020, he missed other types of content in Spanish. “It was all marketing talks, gurus, how to enhance your Instagram bio, how to use LinkedIn …”, explains the Malaga speaker. Analysts and experts were still singing the praises of the audio social network, born just over half a year earlier, where users met in chat rooms to have conversations about anything. In March, Rengel inaugurated the Clubmorning, the first morning in Spanish on the platform. He broadcast dozens of programs, had artists such as Rayden or Veintiuno as guests, received the Antena 3 newscast at his home … “It seemed like it was going to be a very cool thing,” he recalls. But on May 6, he closed the project, discouraged by the slow growth of the platform, the requirement to maintain a daily program and the little hope he had of making this effort profitable. “I stopped by a couple more times to see what was there and I never went back in.”

The short but intense life of Clubmorning It occurred in parallel to the explosive but fleeting peak of popularity of the social network that saw him born and die. In February 2021, the application registered 9.6 million downloads. In April, shortly after reaching a valuation of 4 billion euros, it dropped to 900,000 downloads. Although it has continued to add users, Clubhouse has not been able to repeat the marks it achieved in the initial fever. According to the data that the analytics firm Sensor Tower has provided to EL PAÍS, the application had generated a total of 34 million downloads until October 31. In the first half of 2021 alone, TikTok was downloaded 383 million times.

“It is the story of another application that has a short-lived success. Sometimes we think of Facebook and Twitter and platforms that have been around for 15 years and we don’t realize how many social networks have fallen by the wayside, “he explains. Miquel Pellicer, an expert in Digital Communication at the UOC, who has not entered the application again for months. “I was a fairly active user of Clubhouse and I think it is still a very good proposition, but the formulation of success has many derivatives.”

What happened to the audio social network that was going to change everything? It is still there and it has not given up. The platform now competes with the bets of the big shots in its race to lead the world of social audio: Twitter launched Spaces, Facebook launched Live Audio Rooms, Spotify did the same with Greenrooms … Even Discord and Reddit have taken off their own channels of conversation in the style of the one that was the fashionable application in early 2021.

However, within the Clubhouse, they still have the strength to survive in the inhospitable ecosystem of young social networks. “We have a lot to do, but the Clubhouse is dramatically older than it was in January. The rooms created daily have gone from 300,000 at the beginning of the summer to 700,000 now, ”a company spokesperson told EL PAÍS. “We believe we are still in the early stages of social audio and are excited to stay focused on our community and building for the long term.”

This week they have opened the possibility for creators to record the audio of their rooms to share it at another time, either in the same application or by uploading it to other networks. The new recording function, baptized as Replay, is one more in the trickle of news that has made the platform more flexible, born under the rigors of limited access to those iPhone users who have received an invitation. The application did not arrive on Android until May 9 of this year. Just three days after Rengel fired Clubmorning.

The arrival of the citizens of Android revitalized the neighborhood a bit. In June, they registered 7.7 million downloads. But opening to users without an invitation, which occurred in July, did not have the same effect. Gone are the days when credentials to access the trendy social network were so highly prized that they sold on eBay for more than $ 100. So even cybercriminals wanted to jump on the bandwagon by creating malicious programs to pass themselves off as Clubhouse.

Clubhouse CEO Paul Davidson recently admitted to Bloomberg that the initial smash hit was more of a poisoned gift: “I think we grew too much, too fast earlier this year. What we want to do is stay on the path of stable and gradual growth ”.

Disgruntled users

The History Club – history club – of Jason steinhauer It was one of the first successes of the platform and it has not stopped growing since then. In February it had 30,000 users and now it has 102,000. But even this communication-loving historian is not keeping up with the pace he had a few months ago. “In part it is because I am writing a book and working on a consulting project, so I have less time to prepare and present a weekly program,” says the creator, who is missing more tools to communicate, measure the interest of his followers and communicate with them on and off the platform.

By the time Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg and Kevin Hart made their stellar Clubhouse appearances, Steinhauer had already been behind the scenes for six months. “They were useful in fabricating hype and fear of missing something. But they never came back and the media’s attention was focused on other issues, ”he reasons. At the end of the cycle contributed, in his opinion, the end of virtual life imposed by the pandemic and the appearance of some incidents of anti-Semitism and hate speech on the platform, which until now had stood out for the good manners that reigned among its users.

For the father of Clubmorning, the absence of ways to obtain professional and economic benefit from the social network was an important part of the problem. “I liked what I was doing, but I had the intention that at some point it could become a job. And it was all very stagnant, “he explains. “I think that in Spain the platform was abandoned a lot. If they had opted for Spanish content, something could have been done. But the monetization promises were always very slow. “

The reality is that according to the Sensor Tower data, the Spanish market was always residual for Clubhouse. The downloads of the application in the country have remained relatively stable past the peak of popularity, but they represent only 0.3% of the total accumulated globally.

Will Clubhouse follow the same path as other failed applications of the moment, such as the now-defunct Vine? “We are always killing social networks, but these are evolutions. It is true that the project will surely disappear, but the concept of voice adapted to networks will continue to be important ”, assures Pellicer, who sees good omens in the rise of voice assistants or podcasts.

Rengel is not so clear. “In this sense I am super-negative. And look, I saw it as a supreme opportunity. Those of us who live it know that the feeling was real. But now I see very little way out for him ”, he admits. In his memory are the three months of Clubmorning and, especially, the final program: “We were like 200 in the room, which at that time was a move, and it was super nice because almost everyone agreed to applaud live.”

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