Amid growing competition from Twitter Spaces and other newcomers, popular social audio startup Clubhouse is making a move aimed at seeding its network with more high-quality content: It’s launching an accelerator program. During its weekly town hall event on Sunday, the company detailed its plans for its inaugural accelerator called “Clubhouse Creator First,” which will initially help around 20 creators get their shows off the ground. To do so, Clubhouse said it will provide creators with anything they need to get started — whether that’s equipment like an iPhone, AirPods or an iRig, promotional support or help with booking guests, or even a babysitter. Most importantly, Clubhouse is promising the participating creators an income of some sort.
During the town hall, Clubhouse CEO Paul Davison explained that a core part of the accelerator experience will be to help creators get paid for their work. In order to make this happen, Clubhouse will match the creator with a brand sponsor, he said — something the company believes will be possible because brands are already reaching out to Clubhouse, looking for opportunities to get involved.
In the case that Clubhouse can’t find a brand sponsor for a particular show, the company will just guarantee a basic income of $5,000 per month during the three months the creator is participating in the program.
Presumably, this cushion could help people transition from other projects to focus on their Clubhouse show instead, while also giving them time to grow their audience and form the brand relationships that could sustain their shows longer term.
Clubhouse will also play a hands-on role in helping to develop the shows from the accelerator’s participants, we understand.
Already, the Andreessen Horowitz-backed social audio app has aided in the success of one of its more popular tech programs, The Good Time Show, co-hosted by the VC firm’s latest general partner, Sriram Krishnan. His program has regularly featured guests and co-hosts either investing with the firm or connected to it somehow, and has been responsible for some of Clubhouse’s biggest celeb guests — like Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg, for example.
That formula could be repeatable, it seems. As Davison noted during the town hall, the company will work on matching creators with guests for their shows. In other words, it’s helping produce.
Davison also said Clubhouse will offer directed feedback to the accelerator’s participants, including its opinion on what works and what doesn’t, and other “deep dive concept development.” When the creators’ shows are ready to launch, Clubhouse will then connect them with creative services to help design promotional materials to market the shows outside of the social app. It may even give the creators invites they can dole out to potential listeners to help them build up the show’s initial audience, if need be.
Of course, Clubhouse has been doing some of this kind of work behind the scenes before today, but the accelerator both formalizes the arrangement and devotes dedicated resources to a larger handful of promising creators.
But it also puts Clubhouse in a potentially precarious position with regard to its still underdeveloped moderation practices.
Brands are typically hesitant to associate themselves with problematic or toxic content and will pull out of creator deals and relationships if they find that to be the case. In the past, content moderation failures have led to advertisers’ exodus from top social platforms — like the YouTube brand freeze a few years ago over obscene comments, which necessitated a cleanup of the videos allowed on the YouTube ad network. And last year, Facebook faced its largest corporate boycott to date when brands protested the company’s failures to properly prevent the spread of hate speech and misinformation on its platform.
Though small by comparison — the app now has 12 million global downloads, App Annie says — Clubhouse has already been called out for allowing misogyny, anti-Semitism and COVID-19 misinformation on the platform, despite rules against prohibiting this content. It’s also allowed for verbal abuse, with some users still being name-called or harassed in Clubhouse rooms. (We’ve heard these stories from users directly but will not name names without permission.).
More recently, there’s been growing concern about scam artists taking over Clubhouse and the lack of accountability for what’s being said. Many so-called “experts” are happy to go on the app to dole out advice, but when they wade into territory like mental health, they can spread harmful misinformation that can really hurt people.
All these things could potentially catch up to Clubhouse in a big way in the months to come, if the company can’t figure out a better moderation strategy to weed out the bad actors and keep the platform brand-safe.
Starting today, the company is allowing interested creators to apply for Clubhouse Creator First. The deadline to apply is March 31, 2021.
The new accelerator program was one of several town hall announcements on Sunday.
The company also announced it has hired Netflix, OWN and Harpo Productions alum Maya Watson as its new head of global marketing, and it detailed several new product updates.
Among those, users will now be able to invite people to the app by phone number alone, instead of having to upload their entire address book. It also now allows users to share links that point to their user profile or Club page and will now better remember a user’s language preferences when displaying its list of rooms, among other things.
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