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Audio-Focused Social Media Gains Popularity

Looking for New Ways to Connect

Social media platforms focused on audio are gaining attention from both users and investors. Many consumers are experiencing “Zoom fatigue,” meaning they are tired of looking at screens all day. As a result, podcasts, audiobooks, and audio chat platforms are gaining popularity.

After nearly a year of social distancing measures, people are hungry for ways to connect with others. Many feel that speaking and hearing another person’s voice offers a deeper virtual connection than simply typing and reading messages.

Clubhouse’s Climb

One audio platform generating significant buzz is Clubhouse. The app allows users to make a virtual room for a discussion about a topic featuring specific speakers. Users can find everything from discussions about bitcoin to guided meditations to stand-up comedy in these rooms. Celebrities like Elon Musk, Drake, and Lindsay Lohan have used Clubhouse to connect with listeners.

Monthly downloads of Clubhouse hit 2.4 million in January—up from just 2,000 in September. The app raised $100 million in funding last month, bringing its valuation to $1 billion less than a year after it launched. Agora (API), the Shanghai-based software company which powers Clubhouse, has also seen a boom in investor interest. The company’s shares have climbed more than 150% since mid-January.

Competition on the Horizon

Larger social media companies are taking note of Clubhouse’s success. Twitter (TWTR) recently launched a voice feature for tweeting, and is in the process of experimenting with an audio chat-room feature called Spaces. Facebook (FB) has also said it is doing preliminary tests of audio features.

Emerging social media companies with unique offerings face several difficult challenges. The majority of advertising money still goes to established companies like Facebook (FB) and Google (GOOGL). Additionally, companies with new ideas tend to be concerned about social media giants copying their business models. Facebook, which has been known to create features that are similar to rival platforms, recently came under regulatory scrutiny for these practices. The outcome of these discussions could impact Clubhouse and the future of audio social networks in general.

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