Don’t Count Out Clubhouse Just Yet

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Cheyne Gateley/VIP

Clubhouse, the social audio app that caught fire over the pandemic, seemed sturdy on its rise to Silicon Valley stardom the last time we covered the app in February.  

The company was fresh off raising $100 million and getting a $1 billion valuation. Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg had just participated in talks on Clubhouse. The app’s user base had just reportedly doubled, and seeing headlines like, “Forget TikTok. Clubhouse Is Social Media’s Next Star,” were commonplace.  

Yet cracks in Clubhouse’s armor have quickly crept up. 

After a period of consistent growth that saw monthly U.S. iOS downloads of Clubhouse skyrocket nearly 1,470%, from 74,000 in November to 1.2 million in February, downloads of the app fell, respectively, by 49% and 54% month-over-month in March and April, Apptopia data shows. 

Apptopia also estimates a similar trend has occurred with the average number of U.S. daily users Clubhouse counts every month. 

The combination of these data points helps explain why you’re now more likely to encounter headlines like, “The Clubhouse Party Is Over.” 

But predictions that Clubhouse is already on its way out could be premature.  

The company was able to accomplish its great growth story up until February without availability on Android, but that changed in the U.S. earlier in May. Within a couple weeks, the Android Clubhouse app was available globally. 

This Android availability is likely helping push Clubhouse’s lifespan (at least a little) further. Android accounted for 41% and 72% of the mobile operating system market share in the U.S. and globally, respectively, per Statcounter

And Clubhouse on May 23 announced 1 million Android Clubhouse user sign-ups, implying there was some pent-up international demand for the app on non-iOS devices. 

This international user base for Clubhouse on Android may be more important for the platform’s future than it seems.  

U.S. COVID cases and deaths are now the lowest they’ve been since last summer. Meanwhile, countries such as India and Brazil are still particularly struggling to keep the virus in check.  

Some consumers in these countries with surging COVID cases may still gravitate toward staying home (and connecting with others via apps like Clubhouse) until vaccination rates significantly ramp up. 

Currently, there are 86 vaccine doses per 100 people in the U.S., per Our World in Data. That figure is 27 per 100 for Brazil and 14 per 100 in India.  

The global availability of Clubhouse on Android also seems particularly big because it allows a great deal of folks in certain countries like Saudi Arabia (where Android use eclipses iOS use) another avenue to express ideas in a way platforms like Facebook and Twitter can’t. 

The ephemeral audio focus of Clubhouse likely makes it harder to monitor for unwanted criticisms when compared with text- and visual-based platforms like Facebook and Twitter. Clubhouse’s recent entrance onto the social media scene also may mean it’s monitored less stringently by certain foreign governments than entrenched social players Twitter and Facebook. 

Remember that The New York Times weeks ago reported Clubhouse was booming in countries with authoritarian governments, and the Economist in April reported Clubhouse had become a hit in the Middle East in recent months.  

Countries such as Oman and China have outright banned Clubhouse, but some users seeking free speech in countries where the app is not yet banned could still take their chances. 

For example, Clubhouse was ranked as the fifth most popular social networking app in the App Store in Egypt on May 23, the same rank it held on April 23, per Apptopia. 

All of this isn’t to claim Clubhouse will be around forever. It’s perfectly possible that the platform still flames out, but it’d be surprising if it happened this year.  

It’s true that the reach of Clubhouse in the U.S. is not large when compared against social media incumbents like Facebook or Twitter, which have moved quickly to offer Clubhouse-like features.  

But being copied by bigger platforms doesn’t automatically lead to obsoletion. Snap, which had its Stories feature copied en masse by rivals years ago, in April reported Snapchat’s year-over-year daily user base growth in Q1 was the highest it had been in over three years. 

This is a reminder that similar features on different platforms can still both be attractive to one consumer as long as the content being posted via those similar features is different.  

So while some might end up using Facebook’s Clubhouse-like feature to listen to live talks held by Facebook groups they’ve long been part of, they could still find value in Clubhouse for things like its tech influencer talks.  

Spotify CEO Daniel Ek during his company’s Q1 earnings call essentially dubbed live audio experiences as the next version of Stories, in terms of being the new feature that makes sense for major platforms to adopt.  

So even if Clubhouse cannot get the meaningful boost from global Android usage it appears in need of, the app could still eventually be acquired and given fresh life by its parent (which may not be Twitter anytime soon).