When Clubhouse made its debut, there was something very intriguing about this exclusive voice-only social platform that allowed access to only those who had an invite.
As the universal truth stands, everyone wants access to anything exclusive. This interest and intrigue worked well for Clubhouse, attracting quite an interesting and elite user base where conversations on various topics like Hollywood, new technology, cryptocurrency, music, etc., flowed with ease across rooms.
Exclusive to iOS at first, Clubhouse eventually rolled out to Android as well, and then finally dropped the invite-only access which led to a spike in users.
Clubhouse said that ever since the platform was made available on Android, it had more than 10 million new sign-ups. However, it also led to one more thing -- a downward spiral of active users that the platform is now trying to stem.
Vernika Awal's case is an apt illustration. The 29-year-old food writer and blogger from Noida was once quite active on the voice-based social networking site. But in less than a year, Awal grew disenchanted with Clubhouse and ended up deleting it.
When she first started using the app in December last year, during those initial few months, she loved spending time on it. "The rooms were very well curated and the community guidelines of each room were very clear and surprisingly people would adhere to them too. I’ve spent close to 90 minutes at times attending and exploring some really interesting rooms and also discovering like-minded people," Awal said.
So what led to this disenchantment? For Awal, as Clubhouse transitioned from being a niche little app to something more mass-based, thereby pushing the app's userbase north, room recommendations within the app began to change drastically. When the app began to roll out new features, it left Awal confused.
"I used to host a food lovers' group where we’d talk about food, history and culture, but soon we began to lose interest. Now it’s been two months since I deleted the app after not being active on it for close to three months before that," Awal said.
Awal is not alone. Plenty of other users expressed issues with the app, particularly its room recommendations. Initially, on opening the app, users would see rooms aligned with their interests or rooms similar to the ones they have been a part of in the past. Lately, most of the recommendations have been completely arbitrary, and worst of all, rather cringe.
Certainly, not all is well with Clubhouse, and the company is scrambling to do everything it can to solve it. Over the past few months, it has introduced a slew of new features on the platform, such as a messaging feature called Backchannel, and more recently, support for 13 local languages, including five Indian ones.
Conceptually, a voice-based social interaction app is no longer as intriguing as it was when it first launched. Twitter did take a page out of Clubhouse’s manual to create Twitter Spaces, and Facebook also followed suit with Live Audio Rooms.
So clearly the blame doesn't lie with the genre of voice-based social media platforms per se. But, at the same time, a crucial nugget of fact that shouldn't be overlooked is that both Twitter and Facebook have a lot more to offer to its users than just spaces where people can interact by talking, and that’s why they have less to worry about, while Clubhouse’s offerings, in comparison, are limited.
Eye on India
In what looks like another push towards a revival, Clubhouse has been, of late, trying to be consistent with its new feature additions, which includes an option to record live rooms. The company is also making a concentrated effort to consolidate its space in India.
Clubhouse’s push for India started with the addition of language support for Kannada, Malayalam, Hindi, Tamil, and Telugu, amongst others, and it has also introduced its first-ever Indian face for the app icon -- Anirudh Deshmukh.
Deshmukh is an "architect-turned-singer, songwriter, composer, and more", and has a 72,000-strong club on Clubhouse, called Anirudh, where he hosts his nightly show 'Late Night Jam'.
Clubhouse said that the main idea was to allow people across the globe to discover rooms more easily in languages they are most comfortable in and added that rooms like ‘Late Night Jam’ have witnessed participation from users across countries and time zones.
According to the company, there is a strong global interest in rooms created in India and the platform says that it has witnessed a massive participation of people from outside India logging in to listen to and engage with rooms created here.
"We continue to see potential with India as a user, as well as creator market. In fact, we launched our first Creator First Program outside of the United States in India, with six very unique creators in India. While this is the first cohort of winners for Creator First India and we hope to announce more cohorts in the coming months," Clubhouse said.
With the focus on the country increasing on both the user and creator front, Clubhouse argues that it is building a team dedicated to delivering for the Indian community on the platform.
Additionally, it has also hired its first India-based employee, Parijat Kaushik, who was formerly with ByteDance.
"With so much happening over the past year at Clubhouse, it has been incredible to see all the creativity, conversation and contribution that we've witnessed on the platform, specifically from the India market -- which has also been one of our top markets across the world in the recent past," a Clubhouse spokesperson told BusinessToday.in.
According to Clubhouse, the number of daily rooms created on the platform has gone up from 3,00,000 in May 2021 to more than 7,00,000 in September. It also added that the daily average time spent on the app has increased from 60 minutes to more than 70 minutes this summer.
Although it is quite evident that Clubhouse has indeed lost some of its street creds, thanks to disgruntled users, the company remains hopeful and is focusing on what it considers as wins.
"As we continue to make Clubhouse more and more accessible to billions of people around the globe, we're incredibly grateful to be able to build a product that is inclusive for everyone, including a really diverse Clubhouse community in India. With the appointment of our first ever international hire from India, we hope to continue to thrive along with the incredible Clubhouse communities and also gradually scale our operations in the upcoming year," the spokesperson added.
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