In this episode of Thinking in English I want to talk about Clubhouse. Clubhouse is a social media application that has become incredibly popular over the last few weeks. Entrepreneurs, investors, and creative people are using the site to host discussion and conversations for thousands of listeners. However, it is an exclusive platform and all users need to be invited before they can join. What is Clubhouse? Why is it so popular at this moment? What does the future hold for the application?

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To take (something) by storm (phrase) – to be very successful in a particular place or among a particular group of people

Jazz took London and Paris by storm in the 1920s

Exclusive (adj) – limited to only one person, a few people or a group of people

This room is for the exclusive use of guests 

Moderator (n) – someone who makes certain that a formal discussion happens without problems and follows the rules

He was the moderator for the presidential debate!

To gossip (v) – to talk about other people’s private lives

Stop gossiping and do your work

Entrepreneur (n) – someone who starts their own business, especially when this involves seeing a new opportunity 

He is a talented entrepreneur who has started over one hundred businesses!

Nuanced (adj) – a quality of something that is not easy to notice but may be important 

The actor gives a beautifully nuanced performance in a tricky role 

Dialogue (n) – a serious exchange of opinion, especially among people or groups that disagree

We have held a number of meetings, and the dialogue is ongoing

Capacity (n) – the total amount that can be contained or produced

The stadium has a seating capacity of 50,000

Over the last few weeks, a new social media application has taken the internet by storm. Millions of people are trying to access it. And a variety of successful and well-known people are already regular users of the app. This app is known as Clubhouse. Clubhouse is a social networking  app based on audio-chat where users can listen in to conversations, interviews and discussion between interesting people on a number of different topics. It is sort of like listening to a podcast, but it is live and more exclusive. The exclusive part is that Clubhouse is invite only! You have to be invited by an existing member; it is not possible to just make an account like other social sites! I want to spend the rest of this podcast looking at clubhouse in more detail, and assess its chances for success and the future of the platform. Before I get into this episode, I just want to say that I don’t currently have ‘clubhouse,’ so if anyone does have the app and wants to give me an invite – hit me up on Instagram! 

Clubhouse is designed for ‘talkers’ and ‘listeners.’ All the users can do both, however there is no guarantee that anyone will listen to your talk. The app has hosted conversations and discussions by Tesla owner Elon Musk, world famous talk show host Oprah Winfrey, and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. For listeners, there is a whole range of different chat rooms on various topics. There are chat rooms for social media advice, foreign language practice, investment tips, and really any topic you can think of! The speaking events and conversations are set up like a virtual stage. There is a host and a set of moderators who control the direction of the conversation, who gets to speak, and when they get to speak. Audience members can ask to say something, but are only allowed to if they are given permission by a moderator!

Apparently, the experience you have on Clubhouse depends on how you use the app, and what rooms and subjects you decide to follow. Sometimes it can be like you are listening to a live podcast, others like an industry-specific panel at convention, or even sometimes feel like a group of colleagues gossiping in the cafeteria! The most popular talkers tend to be already successful people in social or professional circles, with the largest chat rooms usually led by creatives, entrepreneurs, and investors! Whereas platforms like twitter are designed to give every user the same abilities, Clubhouse is more exclusive and closed. Your only recommended things you are already familiar with! 

The most notable feature of Clubhouse is its exclusivity! As I previously mentioned, Clubhouse is invite-only (at least for now)! You need to receive an invite from an existing user and it is only available through Apple’s iOS app store. Each user is only given four invites to hand out. This exclusive style of business is not new – for years members clubs, country clubs, conventions, and even dating apps have used the same business model. It makes users feel special as they are part of something other people cannot join!

What is the appeal of Clubhouse? The founders see real and nuanced conversations as the main selling point. Unlike the aggressive and, to be honest, uneducated debates you see on other platforms, they want Clubhouse to be a nicer and more open community. Before the app was banned in China, it made global news after Chinese, Taiwanese, people from Hong Kong, and ethic minorities living in China held discussions on topics normally banned in China. According to some participants, the discussions were well informed and offered hope for dialogue between groups of people who rarely get the opportunity! 

Despite this, there have been concerns about the app. How Clubhouse intends to deal with harassment, hate speech, or misinformation is still not clear. There have already been issues last year with racism and anti-Semitism last year. As Clubhouse grows, it will likely experience more of the problems that large social media platforms have! 

What is Clubhouse’s future? The owners claim they are working on making the app available to more people and android users. However, for now, it remains exclusive. It has a lot of potential for growth. There are already people willing to buy invites to the app if they don’t know any current users. More regular users are trying to access the site – in fact, students from Korea and China have talked to me about Clubhouse in the last week! Elon Musk’s talk on January 31st completely filled the chat room capacity. The app has over 3 million downloads and more than 2 million users. This is really encouraging! In fact, it is apparently valued at $1 billion already.

On the other hand, will Clubhouse stay around for the long term? Will they be able to create a community of regular users who will regularly listen to conversations? They probably will need to rely on the people talking, rather than what they are saying, to attract audiences. Perhaps the app has found a role in our society that is currently struggling with the pandemic. The internet has become the most important thing in so many people’s lives over the last year: we need it to zoom our families, do our jobs, and buy our essentials. Perhaps listening to conversations is something we have been missing? Whether or not this will last is still to be seen!

Final Thought

Would you want to join this kind of app? Why do you think it is so popular right now? It sounds like there are lots of opportunities to listen to interesting and useful content. It does, however, seem to need big names and big stars to attract new members and interest. If those big names stop appearing, will they be able to last? I’m not a member of Clubhouse, so if any of you are members please invite me!

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By Tom Wilkinson

Host and founder of Thinking in English, Tom is committed to providing quality and interesting content to all English learners. Previously a research student at a top Japanese university and with a background in English teaching, political research, and Asian languages, Tom is now working fulltime on bettering Thinking in English!

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