Facebook is planning a Clubhouse rival called Hotline, and I couldn’t be less interested.
I’ve written a few times now about how I’m a fan of Clubhouse because it’s an app that attempted something new (namely, an audio chat that feels like an interactive podcast). My favorite convo so far was probably the one with a group of social media influencers who shared some surprisingly candid details about what having influence even means.
I’ve now interviewed authors, held a few pitch sessions, and even joined a panel to talk about emerging entrepreneurship. It’s a fun, easy, and useful app that takes up a prominent place on my home screen. I’ve been known to use it while driving around (sometimes doing a reverse commute, hands-free of course) and, in a few cases, dropped in unannounced and joined a few people to chat about publicity for books (like the one I’m working on right now).
I don’t like when imitators try to steal the thunder of a rising star, especially when they are side projects of major companies like Facebook. Stick to the baby photos, okay? Clubhouse is trying to carve out some new territory, and when the imitation app like Hotline encroaches on that space too soon, it slows the growth cycle.
You could argue that imitation is a form of flattery, but I’d rather watch and see how Clubhouse evolves without a massive corporate monolith stealing the show.
Hotline is in a private beta but purports to offer several innovations that trump Clubhouse. You can speak to an audience and take questions, either by audio or video. The app lets you record the session and, presumably, you might be able to sell the recording to people who missed it. The dark and mysterious user interface, at least on the launch site, is trendy and cool. In fact, it might even be a better app and has more potential, but I still plan to stick with Clubhouse.
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One reason is that Hotline isn’t really serving the audience. Influencers don’t need to segment even more. Clubhouse is trying to gain massive market share and I would say it’s a rocky period. People are fussy. The app is new and novel, but that could also mean it loses momentum with the blink of an eye.
With apps like this, the goal is to build up an audience and keep them engaged. If they drift off to another app or the market splinters too much, everyone loses. This includes the people trying to build up their followers, the audience looking for rich content and engaging conversations, and even the startup firms trying to create new features. It’s not so flattering to have an imitator come along and watch as the user counts start to slide downward.
It is also true that this competition is going to fuel innovation. I thought of a good definition of innovation the other day, and it applies here. To me, it almost always means building something none of us knew we needed. I am thinking of social media itself, or livestream services, or a way to pay for products with our phones. Forget the lightbulb moment. It’s more like you are in a dark room and someone finds the light switch. Suddenly, we can see in the dark. It’s innovative because it’s newly useful.
For me, Clubhouse is like that.
I’ve been able to find new connections, learned a thing or two about book authorship, and discovered new products after my pitch sessions. Hotline might even be the better app, but really? Let’s at least give Clubhouse a chance first.