What happened to Social Audio?

In early 2021 it looked like Clubhouse would be the next super audio platform. With over 19 million users accumulated in less than 6 months, many had high hopes for this new trendy channel. How quickly things change. Fast forward to this year and (sigh). Could Clubhouse be slipping into the wasteland of pandemic fads?

Data now shows that installs are down 80% with only about 3.8 million users for the first 6 months of 2022. While Clubhouse continues to shed audience, we recognize that it also never caught on with marketers. Other social audio players aren’t exactly thriving either. Resources have been pulled from Twitter Spaces, and Facebook collapsed Live Audio Rooms into their video product suite.

But then again, we all remember Vine, right? They were first in with short social video but never quite seized audiences like TikTok has. Likewise, is social audio just waiting for the the right platform at the right time?

In the meantime, we cannot ignore the staying power of podcasts. Audience growth continues to be steady and quick. The latest intel from Edison Research’s Infinite Dial reports that at least 62% of Americans have listened to a podcast.

Podcasts are clearly not a fad but a trend that’s still in an early phase. As we observe the growth of other on-demand media, podcast adoption makes logical sense. Unlike radio which has endured for over 100 years, the anywhere on-demand availability of podcasts fits well with two other modern trends: “the long tail” of media content and the necessity to multitask. 71% of podcast listeners report that they listen to spoken word via podcasts because it allows them to multitask.

Gradually, smart brands are also using podcasts effectively through both ad-insertion and brand-owned podcasts. Companies like Trader Joe’s, Microsoft, PepsiCo and National Geographic recognize the value of audio storytelling and the intimate connection it creates with consumers. A recent Podcast Super User study from Edison Research also concluded that 50% of listeners agree that “a podcast is the best way for a brand to reach them”.

While the popularity of Clubhouse and other social audio apps may be diminishing, we won’t write the medium’s obituary just yet. Some experts say it could boost engagement by targeting smaller, more niche audiences. Those who want to geek out together about a topic with narrow appeal, like indigenous succulent varietals or soap carving, may someday connect here for a spirited discussion. Until then, we’ll keep adding more podcasts to the queue so that we can laugh, learn, and connect with brands that provide useful, entertaining information.