Those who have been skeptical of the social audio format from the start may have found themselves a bit torn over the past few months.
On one hand, tech giants like Facebook and Spotify launched their own social audio products in June. Discord also made it easier for its users to find live audio rooms in May, and all this activity is not exactly indicative of a content format dying out.
But social audio skeptics have started to taste vindication elsewhere. That’s because Clubhouse, the originator (that many now love to hate) of the social audio format, has seen its monthly growth rate on U.S. mobile devices plummet since the beginning of the year.
Apptopia shared data with Variety Intelligence Platform showing that U.S. downloads of Clubhouse in July, the most recent full month, reached 417,513, down from roughly 1 million in January.
Moreover, whereas U.S. downloads of Clubhouse were roughly 1 million or more in January and February, that metric only cracked 500,000 twice from March to July.
Put another way, the month-over-month growth rate of U.S. Clubhouse downloads has decelerated in every month since December 2020 besides May 2021.
That’s hardly the domestic growth that Silicon Valley-based venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, which valued Clubhouse at $4 billion in an April financing round, would like to see.
And the dropping U.S. mobile downloads figures may seem especially concerning after the app embarked on paths that would naturally be viewed as major growth accelerants: expanding to Android devices globally in May and abandoning its invite-only format in late July (Clubhouse had around 10 million users on its waitlist in late July).
But let’s pump the brakes a bit before we completely declare Clubhouse a graveyard. I said as much in late May, when the first wave of “The Clubhouse Party Is Over” rhetoric really started to heat up, and certain things said in that months-ago VIP post still seem relevant.
For example, I in late May mentioned that the international user base for Clubhouse might be more important than it seems as Android availability rolled out.
That seemed to show itself particularly in June, when global downloads of Clubhouse jumped 172% to over 6 million, likely mostly thanks to the platform’s new availability on Android globally.
June was the first month that global downloads of Clubhouse had approached where the metric had been in February. That’s a picture you wouldn’t get by analyzing Clubhouse in the U.S. only.
Moreover, the global Android boost for Clubhouse was suggested when the company told The Information that it added 6 million users during the month of June and told Wired in July that the number of rooms made daily grew by over 200,000 since May.
Sure, global downloads dipped precipitously in July, and the figure likely won’t get near 6 million in August.
But the massive global downloads jump in June still foreshadows how a compelling app update could significantly boost Clubhouse in foreign territories even as the U.S. market is cooling on the product.
It also suggests that investing more in international growth is a smart move for Clubhouse.
A market that is of particular interest to Clubhouse’s future is India, which accounted for 35% of Clubhouse’s global downloads in July, much higher than the 19% the U.S. accounted for last month.
And in India during the week of Aug. 16-22, Clubhouse ranked no lower than no. 10 among the App Store’s social networking apps, compared with the week of Jan. 4-10, when Clubhouse ranked as low as 102 in that category.
Moreover, Thailand and Egypt, two of the top five markets for Clubhouse downloads in July, have similarly seen Clubhouse’s social networking App Store rank jump from January to August.
In Thailand, Clubhouse was ranked as low as 830 in that category from Jan. 4-10 but wasn’t lower than no. 5 August 16-22. Clubhouse's rankings in Egypt for those January and August time frames in the social networking category ranked lowest, at 899 and 12, respectively.
This all isn’t to say Clubhouse isn’t facing an issue with user retention in general. Of course, it’s hard to ignore the volatile growth trends of Clubhouse’s downloads globally and in the U.S.
Instead, the numbers above suggest Clubhouse still has a path forward even if it’s not as viral of an app as it once was.
To capitalize on this growing popularity among some users abroad, Clubhouse could step up its payouts to influencers in these overseas regions as some U.S. consumers cool on the platform.
The company has already funded certain Clubhouse creators and helped them find sponsors, but the amount of money ($5,000 per month for three months) it gave shows in its first Creator First accelerator likely isn’t enough to get some bigger creators excited.
If Clubhouse is able to commit a more healthy stipend to non-U.S. based creators in future iterations of its Creator First program (which expanded to India and Brazil in June), more creators internationally with big followings would be incentivized to join the Clubhouse platform.
Clubhouse could then even start to promote the top trending shows from these new international creators from countries all over the world near the top of the feeds (or hallways, as Clubhouse calls them) of users.
That could help U.S.-based Clubhouse users find high-quality content they’d not encountered previously and help it boost user retention domestically.