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Audio Social Is Here To Stay

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Avatars with headsets listening to audio content from various social media platforms.

Posted on 04/07/2021 at 05:00 PM

Entering The Ring: Audio Social Spaces

Audio social spaces are here to stay. This time last year, app developers Paul Davidson and Rohan Seth set sail into uncharted waters. In April of 2020, the pair released Clubhouse, an audio app that allows users to join conversations with just a few friends or thousands of strangers. 

The platform doesn’t allow status updates, you can’t share photos or video, and there is no timeline. This platform, the first of its kind, is a truly voice-focused social experience.

Released in the first harrowing weeks of the 2020 global shutdown, Clubhouse saw immediate success with major industry influencers like Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk, Oprah Winfrey, and more finding value in the exclusive (invite-only) space. Within just one month of release, the app was valued at close to one hundred million dollars. It comes as no surprise that Clubhouse’s first anniversary would be celebrated in the company of more than six new competitors.

Illustrative banner highlighting communication through voice-social platforms

The continued growth of audio social services comes as a natural follow-up to the rise of podcasting, as consumers become more comfortable listening without a screen. Much like podcasting, businesses should consider the benefits of being an early adopter of audio social spaces. The Clubhouse app will need a strong defense to protect its grip on audio spaces. Social giants Twitter, Spotify, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Discord are among those stepping into the ring. 

Each new service offers unique audio features. Read on to learn more about current and upcoming audio social services. 

Twitter: Spaces

In March 2021, Twitter launched Spaces— a feature reminiscent of early internet chatrooms or phoneline chat parties, hosting exclusively audio content. In contrast to Clubhouse’s invitation model, Spaces opens the door for the public to host audio conversations. If a user hosts a Space, any of their followers can follow, listen in and join the conversation as a speaker.

Available on: Twitter for iOS

Discord: Stage Channels

Discord has been a market leader in private voice channels for years but moving toward larger community channels has been a change of pace for the platform. The new feature, called Stage Channels allows users to broadcast live conversations to a channel full of listeners. Stage Channels are available on community servers and allow hosts the ability to control who is speaking.

Available on: Windows, macOS, Linux, iOS, Android, and your browser of choice via the web app.

Spotify: Locker Room

Earlier this year, Spotify announced that it acquired the live audio app Locker Room from Betty Labs. Locker Room already has an established unique market share among sports fans with live-streamed conversations with athletic icons and sports journalists. The app also features audio spaces dedicated to specific teams and fandoms.

Available on: iOS and Android

Spoon

A veteran in the audio arena, Spoon is an audio live streaming platform from South Korea that combines music, podcasts, soundscapes, and audio dramas. The platform gets its name from digital gifts (called spoons) that listeners can send their favorite creators to show support. The creators are then able to redeem the spoons for money. Spoon might be new to American streaming culture, but it has been a champion for Korean and Japanese audio content creators since its launch in 2016. 

Available on: iOS, Android, and through their website. 

Stereo

Stereo joined the audio sphere in August of 2020 with a focus on connecting thought leaders, influencers, musicians, politicians, and educators with interested audiences. Users are able to choose from a variety of discussion topics; joining conversations as a guest or starting their own. After hosting a “show,” users of Stereo are given the option to download an audio file of the conversation, thus making it perfect for repurposing content as video overlay or podcast segments. One unique feature Stereo offers is the use of avatars. On their FAQ page, Stereo writes,

“...the use of animated avatars instead of pictures or videos makes Stereo a uniquely safe place for discussions and opinion exchange free of appearance-based stereotypes. The avatar builder lets Stereo users create a highly customizable personal brand without compromising their privacy.”

Available on: iOS and Android

Fireside

Initially launched by Mark Cuban and Falon Fatemi in 2016 as a podcast hosting and RSS service, Fireside is a dynamic audio hosting and distribution platform built “by podcasters, for podcasters.” Unlike other audio streaming services, Fireside has self-branded as highly data-oriented, boasting comprehensive listener metrics. Most notably, Fireside measures podcast success by the number of unique downloads, rather than the number of subscribers.

Available online for website hosting. Compatible with most third-party streaming services including Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, TuneIn, iHeartRadio, and Google Podcasts. 

Looking forward

 

LinkedIn

LinkedIn has already begun expanding services for creators and thought leaders. Among the new features, LinkedIn has confirmed its efforts to build a social audio experience that would facilitate professional connections. In a statement to TechCrunch, LinkedIn spokesman Suzi Owens said,

“We’re doing some early tests to create a unique audio experience connected to your professional identity. And, we’re looking at how we can bring audio to other parts of LinkedIn such as events and groups, to give our members even more ways to connect to their community.”

Slack

As recently as March 2021 Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield has indicated that Slack has plans to roll out new audio-centric features for professional and recreational users alike. Butterfield announced the new feature during an interview on Clubhouse saying,

“Yeah, I’ve always believed the ‘good artists copy, great artists steal’ thing, so we’re just building Clubhouse into Slack, essentially. Like that idea that you can drop in, the conversation’s happening whether you’re there or not, you can enter and leave when you want, as opposed to a call that starts and stops. 
It’s an amazing model for encouraging that spontaneity and that serendipity and conversations that only need to be three minutes, but the only option for you to schedule them is 30 minutes. So look out for Clubhouse built into Slack.”

Facebook

Buzz surrounding Facebook’s contributions to the audio streaming world has only grown stronger after CEO Mark Zuckerberg joined Clubhouse to discuss virtual and augmented reality. In May of last year, Facebook introduced Rooms—a feature allowing users to join private video chat rooms. Seeing that users already have the option to turn cameras off during a Rooms call, the jump to an audio-only should happen shortly.

Verdict

Social audio spaces are expected to become as normal as posts and stories, and everyone has something to gain from the new services. Whether you’re a professional creator or a recreational podcaster, audio social spaces are a blank canvas for brands and artists alike. At Global Reach, the opportunities for web design and market strategy are endless.


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