James Cridland

Clubhouse: podcasting has nothing to fear, but other industries might

“The thing that amazes me about Clubhouse”, says a friend, “is that everyone has to have a take. They can’t just quietly use it. They have to have an opinion in it.”

So, here I am, with a few opinions on Clubhouse, since it seems everyone else has to.

It won’t kill talk radio

Talk radio superficially seems easy. Have a Bloke (and it’s almost always a Bloke) who has an Opinion. Bloke states the Opinion to either a) ensure he gets a ton of people phoning Bloke to agree and to add an Important Point; or b) make every listener angry at the Opinion and phone Bloke to inform him that “Bloke Is Wrong”, whereupon Bloke argues the toss and wins the argument. Repeat until end of show.

The reality is that the part of Bloke is quite difficult to play, since in many cases it involves making an exaggerated viewpoint. The part of Producer is vital, since you want a good mix of “Bloke Is Wrong” calls to get a debate going. “Important Points” are fine, as long as “Bloke Is Wrong” gets a good airing. That then ensures more calls making both Important Points, highlighting Bloke Is Wrong, and often That Caller Was Wrong Innit. This leads to a far sparkier show: but it requires Producer to massage and schedule the calls.

Clubhouse has none of this. There’s no way for Producer to exist on Clubhouse, and Bloke (and it’s almost always a Bloke on Clubhouse too) quickly discovers that the listener who disagrees has quickly surmised that Bloke is a Bloody Idiot, and has left the room. So the very technique that makes talk radio work makes it not work on Clubhouse.

It won’t kill podcasting

For simplicity, there are two types of podcast (and given I write Podnews, this is a very simplistic view).

The first type is a earnestly-produced, highly-researched Piece of Art. An aspiring, or ex, public radio producer decides they will do a Piece of Art about fire sprinkler systems. It’s a six part series, called something like 95% Hidden in The Ceiling, and it takes about eight months to research and produce. The Piece of Art is a totally wonderful soundscape with some really very knowledgeable interviews about sprinkler systems, and contains an earnestly-read midroll for a hot sauce manufacturer. It’s a great listen.

Clubhouse doesn’t compete with Piece of Art.

And then there’s the other type, characterised by Dave Jackson, a podcast consultant, as “two mikes, one brain”. Toby invites his mate Robbie over for a beer in his studio, which was a converted garage/basement/dentist facility/morgue. With zero preparation but two live microphones and a Facebook live link, Toby and Robbie talk for about ninety minutes about Things Of Importance. Robbie and Toby have Views about the Things of Importance, and once they have made these Views known, and have uttered the sacred text “Have you got anything else to talk about?” “Me neither”, either Toby or Robbie takes the recording, cuts the beginning so it starts nicely, and puts it online as a podcast without any further edits, even the bit where Toby decides he should check his emails, and the bit where Robbie sneezes.

The majority of listeners to the Toby and Robbie show are subscribed to the podcast. The few that watch the show live might chime in in the comments, but neither Toby or Robbie read them, other than occasionally excitedly saying “Hey, Gary’s watching!”, an exclamation that won’t make much sense in the podcast.

Clubhouse doesn’t really compete with Two Mikes One Brain. The interaction from the twenty viewers is largely ignored anyway; but Clubhouse doesn’t replace the podcast experience. And since there’s no opportunity for the Producer, it’s unlikely that shifting from Facebook Live to Clubhouse gives much opportunities either.

It might kill some conferences

You could spend $450 on a conference ticket, and $300 on a plane ticket, and $149 on a hotel room, to be able to be in the same room as noted serial-entrepreneur Larry Cee. He’ll be on a big stage, you’ll be the other side of the room, and you’ll be watching on the big screen helpfully put next to the stage.

Or you could just stay in bed and use Clubhouse for free to listen to Larry Cee, inexplicably one of the richest men in the world but seemingly broadcasting from a microphone situated in a really echoey room which simultaneously sounds as if it’s underwater.

If Larry Cee was the only thing you came to the conference for, then Clubhouse will surely kill the conference.

However, the conference also included a bunch of vendors who you could meet and talk to; and some friends in the industry who you like chatting with; and you bumped into that guy in the corridor who does that thing, and you’re thrilled to have talked to him. And you learnt some dodgy gossip that can’t possibly be true at the hotel bar. And the conversation you had with the other guy with the weird hair was good, and six months later led to a business venture which is now making you $2,500 a month in clear profit.

Clubhouse won’t kill that bit.

So will Clubhouse kill anything?

Oh, sure. It’ll kill… time?

(there’s an affiliate link above to Dave Jackson’s website because I have one)