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The Death of Clubhouse

Tanya Cruz
Written By
Tanya Cruz
Published On
Jul 10, 2023
The Clubhouse logo

Let’s rewind to the start of 2021 — the one-year anniversary of what felt like a worldwide shutdown was fast approaching and many were hitting their peak of zoom-meeting fatigue while others were daydreaming of times where the word “social distancing” wasn’t a part of their daily vocabulary. This was the perfect storm that allowed the social media app Clubhouse to rise to fame, and what ultimately contributed to its downfall. Here’s how the “next big thing” died before it barely started. 

What is Clubhouse?

Clubhouse is a drop-in audio social media app where users join virtual “rooms” to have discussions around a variety of topics. This town hall-style forum features “speakers” who would talk “on stage” while others could join the “room” just to listen as an audience member. 

Those who wanted to contribute to the conversation would have to raise a virtual hand to be given permission by the room moderator to go on stage and chime in. And that was that — the concept was simple but as the best social media platforms do, Clubhouse provided users with a sense of belonging, togetherness and dialogue during a time when no one could physically be together. The best part? You could participate in the comfort of your matching sweatsuit at home with no need to be “camera-ready”.

A letterboard with “Clubhouse” written on it next to a phone

Clubhouse’s Success

A big part of Clubhouse’s initial success was its exclusivity factor. Up until May 2021, the app was only available to iPhone users, leaving team Android out on the fun. For those who were able to get in on the hype early, they could only do so through the app’s referral program which required people to get invited by another user in order to gain access. Major celebrities got in on the action too — Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, Oprah and Drake were just a few of the star-studded appearances on the app, adding to the platform’s rise to fame. 

The conversations on Clubhouse were exclusive too, since they weren’t being recorded for broader use outside the platform, users would eagerly tune in in order to catch conversations unfold in real time. 

Clubhouse’s Downfall

But as the numbers show, the exclusivity factor lost its lustre quickly. At its peak in February 2021, Clubhouse had over 9.6. million installs but took a 66% dip by the end of April. With a delayed Android launch, and the same speakers and conversations circulating around the app, it started to create an echo chamber of thoughts, opinions, and so-called “expert advice”. While that’s not unheard of for social media platforms, had Clubhouse opened its virtual doors to the wider public sooner, some argue the platform would have stood a chance. But their challenges ran deeper than that. 

Moderating community discussions proved to be incredibly difficult on the platform. Since none of the rooms were recorded, it made it difficult to regulate conversations. According to multiple reports, rooms with anti-vaxxers and COVID-19 conspiracists ran rabid, as well as reports on conversations that spread anti-Semitic, racist, or misogynistic views. 

But perhaps Clubhouse’s biggest downfall was the return of the “new normal” itself. As the year wore on, and vaccine roll-outs came into play, many parts of the world began loosening up COVID restrictions. Larger group gatherings were permitted so instead of people blasting out their Clubhouse invites on social media, they were sharing photos and stories of their long-awaited reunions with their family and friends. 

Clubhouse’s premise required active participation from its users and when it peaked during the height of lockdowns, it made sense because people had nothing better to do than marvel at the hot new social app. But once lockdowns started to lift and cities across the world started seeing some semblance of “normal”, the appetite for in-person conversations trumped the need to continue having them online.

Wooden letter blocks spelling out the words “new normal”

What’s Next For Clubhouse?

Now the question that remains is — will Clubhouse resurrect from its social death? While they don’t have the activity they once had, the platform has tried to roll out features to entice users to stay long-term. 

In April 2021, it released features that allowed users to tip speakers and in September 2021, it introduced users to the ability to record and replay conversations, as well as download 30-second clips to post on other social media platforms. 

As the world continues to work towards its new normal, Clubhouse’s Chief Executive Officer Paul Davison hopes the app will regain a loyal following of commuters who drop in and listen on the go. For others, Clubhouse will be nothing more than a footnote in social media’s history textbook. Only time will tell, but like all the best social media marketers, we’ll be watching.

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