One way Clubhouse is trying to maintain and grow newsrooms’ interest is through a new hire. Nina Gregory, senior editor for NPR’s Arts Desk who worked for the nonprofit media organization since 2006, is joining Clubhouse as its first head of news and media publishers. Similar partnerships roles are common inside other social apps and newsrooms.
“This is the first job I applied for in 15 years outside of public radio. I never thought I would leave,” Gregory told Fintech Zoom Business. “But [Clubhouse] aligns so much with not just our mission, but the audio nerd in me and in us.”
Why live audio
Gregory joined Clubhouse exactly one year prior to Wednesday’s announcement of her hiring. She said she was immediately reminded of NPR’s former call-in show “Talk of the Nation” that covered current events. She said Clubhouse is more like “Talk of All the Nations” due to the app’s global reach and participation.
“As an audio journalist, [Clubhouse] aligned with what I’ve always believed is the best medium for news. You don’t need to know how to read to be able to hear radio news. You don’t need to have an expensive subscription. You don’t need cable,” Gregory said. “The accessibility across not just geography, but socioeconomics and cultures has always driven me to the power of the medium.”
USA Today’s Wellington Radel said she also was drawn to Clubhouse for its potential to reach different audiences.
“We see a lot of people of color using these social media platforms as their primary news source and so I want to be right there and say, ‘Are we having the conversations? Can they see our content?'” Wellington Radel said.
Matt Adams, audience strategist at NPR, said he became interested in Clubhouse and the live audio format more broadly as a way to use social media beyond just sharing a link and some related text.
“I’m up for experimenting in many different ways that just meets our audience somewhere where we’re not just shoving a link in their face and telling them to read a story,” Adams said. “It’s like, ‘Okay, let’s have a conversation about this. What are we missing?'”
On Clubhouse, an average of 300,000 rooms were created every day in May and early June, according to the company. That number is now up to 700,000 rooms every day with conversations ranging from breaking news about technology products to meditation practices to financial literacy. A Clubhouse user, on average, spends more than 70 minutes per day on the app, up from 60 minutes in May, Clubhouse said.
“Even though we have a small newsroom, we firmly believe that we want to meet our audience and engage with them where they are, where they’re most active,” Patel said.
“The barrier to entry is really quite low,” Patel continued. “It’s about establishing what topic you might want to have a conversation about, who the participants are and when it’s going to take place. No one needs to worry about hair and makeup. No one needs to be in a physical studio or anything like that.”
Clubhouse vs Twitter Spaces vs IRL
Adams of NPR said one reason he gravitated to Spaces over Clubhouse is because they already have invested time and resources building an audience on Twitter.
Wellington Radel said USA Today has also poured more resources into Spaces recently, but has not “ruled out Clubhouse.”
“We want to include sources as best we can, and if they’re already familiar with Twitter, it makes it easier for them to join us,” Wellington Radel said. “They really add to the conversation.”
Eric Zuckerman, who leads US news partnerships at Twitter, said he comes across multiple Twitter Spaces about news events every day and listens to many of them. “I get frustrated when I have a meeting and can’t listen to one of these Spaces,” he said.
Zuckerman said the product roadmap includes allowing listeners to replay Twitter Spaces at a later time after the live event is over. Twitter also is introducing the ability for hosts to create ticketed events in Spaces where Twitter users must pay for access.
But will there be many Twitter Spaces or Clubhouse rooms when more people return to the office or other places outside their own homes?
“I think live audio has legs beyond the pandemic,” Patel said. “To me, live audio conjures up this sense of timely authenticity, where actual voices take center stage… In my opinion, live audio is the next iteration of live journalism.”
Having taken the job at Clubhouse, Gregory said she is “bullish” on the future of the app whether that is competing with Twitter Spaces or with in-person activities.
“For working journalists, I understand they have too many platforms to file for,” Gregory said. “But I think that there are opportunities [on Clubhouse] for audience engagement that are essential to newsrooms for repairing the trust between news consumers and newsrooms when we have mis- and disinformation, news deserts, a lack of diversity in newsrooms.”
Gregory said one of her goals in the new role is to encourage NPR’s member stations to use Clubhouse more. She also wants to train journalism students on how to use the app — perhaps even try their own version of NPR’s “Morning Edition.”
“I think there are new habits and new relationships that will endure,” Gregory said. “As people discover it, I do think that that sense of community will draw people in.”