Clubhouse, Spaces and the Audioverse

A few thoughts on social audio and competition

Here’s an interesting suggested topic to follow that was placed in my Twitter feed:

Content of the tweet aside, it was interesting to see Twitter promote Clubhouse (CH), the social audio competitor to its own Spaces product. At first, I was dubious, but on second thought I actually think making Clubhouse a suggested topic to follow in your feed is a smart move.

  • it’s user friendly and could solve some discovery issues for CH users, especially if they turned off CH notifications, like me (eventually).

  • it helps Twitter gather data on the overlap of CH users and Twitter users.

Twitter’s opportunity is in the overlap

That last point is important because I think there’s a hard split between CH users that also use Twitter and CH users that don’t use Twitter. My guess is Instagram is their primary social platform of choice. Twitter doesn’t need to go after all CH users. That would be a waste of resources and focus. Twitter should go after CH users that are Twitter power users and help them become active Spaces users.

One assumption I have is that there are a number of Twitter power users using CH that would prefer to spend their social audio time in Twitter because they would be able to leverage the statuses and reputations they built on Twitter. Most of tech Twitter, journalists, and established media brands fall into this cohort.

Twitter should and probably will capture most of that cohort’s social audio time due to status seeking alone. Their industry status and personal brands are inextricably tied to their Twitter followings. For other Twitter + CH users, there’s real value in decoupling your audio conversations from the Twitter feed and account. Context collapse and harassment are very real concerns on Twitter.

Horizontal attention marketplaces and incentives

Another thing to think about is marketplace dynamics and how they play out for social audio creators. Twitter and Clubhouse are horizontal attention marketplaces or HAMs after all. The best social audio creators have every incentive to multi-tenant both CH and Twitter and any other social audio app in order to build the biggest audience possible. Monetization opportunities will inevitably follow as platforms scramble to keep this creator supply engaged on their app.

Niche social audio creators will have to be more strategic about where they build an audience. Here’s where HAM’s like Twitter and CH have to differentiate: monetization and the long tail.

Twitter’s new creator monetization efforts like Super Follows are really important to their social audio strategy because they position Twitter as both top of funnel distribution and bottom of the funnel monetization. If I were to give the Twitter product team any advice, I’d say that they should go all-in on creating a third party monetization ecosystem where they control distribution and monetize it, especially as Apple and Google begin to impact the effectiveness of the mobile advertising market.

As I mentioned earlier, niche creators with smaller audiences will need to monetize on the long tail because they lack reach. Twitter can offer interesting ways to do that if they allow creators to post edited version of audio chats natively in Twitter with ads a la YouTube pre-roll and mid-roll ads.

So who will win social audio?

Now I know what you’re thinking, Clubhouse can’t offer Twitter’s distribution and it's refusing to do advertising. How can it compete with Twitter Spaces? It has two things in its favor:

  • Twitter over-indexes on journalists and tech thought leaders.

  • Many (maybe most) CH users never use Twitter.

Journalists do need new ways to monetize their content and Twitter can provide that (see the Revue newsletter service acquisition) and distribution, but I don't think news is really that compelling for most CH users. At least not traditional news sources. Niche audio creators will matter more to CH's long term success than tech thought leaders.

So who will win niche audio creators? Only time will tell, but if I had to guess, I'd say CH or another upstart.