Rise of the Audio Platforms – Why ByteDance will Win the Clubhouse Clone Wars

At the Last Futurist, we were always very bullish on Spotify’s product embrace of the podcast. Now it seems there is a Clubhouse clones race to audio platforms.

As usual I think it’s China’s app ecosystem who will win.

In Western social media we have Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Spotify among those who will compete to clone the success of Clubhouse. As usual we think its ByteDance who have the highest chance of getting this right.

ByteDance have the best intersection of product, AI and app marketing in how to scale an app. The state-backed Chinese startup is said to be worth as much as $400 Billion in mid 2021.

At least a dozen similar apps have been launched in the past month, with momentum picking up after Clubhouse was blocked in China in early February. Clubhouse had seen a surge in users who participated in discussions on sensitive topics such as Xinjiang detention camps and Hong Kong independence.

ByteDance is the company who made Toutiao and Douyin, and are among the best app makers in the world. ByteDance executives including CEO Zhang Yiming understand western social media trends from Snapchat to Reddit and are able to create products that can go global and TikTok is now proof of that.

Over the past three weeks, several Chinese audio-based apps have emerged on Apple and Android stores, and some have subsequently disappeared. That’s China for you.

But ByteDance is a State sponsored global social media company whose job is to take Chinese culture global and help with the AI-race of the cold tech wars. China knows how important ByteDance is in the future of digital advertising and the GenZ generation.

Even as Apple, Facebook and Snap will duel with AR glasses, ByteDance is the real significant player in the future of social media who will have a broad basis in education, gaming and music-streaming. Having an audio platform would augment their ability to compete in the future for global users.

Clubhouse makes influencers and trending topics more approachable for micro audio consumption. Clubhouse makes it possible to jump in interesting discussions through scrolling social media. It has no limits on the topics, users are free to talk about anything they want on Clubhouse. The app also makes it easier to communicate. You will be able to talk with a popular entrepreneur or your favorite influencer.

Facebook is traditionally pretty terrible at cloning products. Spotify and Twitter could be more serious players, especially Spotify that have sticky users. Spotify has 345 million monthly active users, Twitter has just 192 million daily active users.

It’s highly doubtful LinkedIn or Slack have the capacity to mimic clubhouse audio features in any meaningful sticky way. ByteDance however is another level of innovation. ByteDance has grown its gaming segment in ways that Google, or Amazon or even Microsoft could never do at such scale. What could they do with audio formats?

Facebook is reportedly in the early stages of developing its own Clubhouse rival. CEO Mark Zuckerberg hinted as much during a conversation earlier this month on Clubhouse, of course. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn however are the kinds of apps you want to quit, not join again just because they have a new feature.

When you think of the pandemic you think of paid virtual concerns and influencers interacting with the public in new and novel ways. The clubhouse craze will like Snapchat stories turn the internet on to new formats. The most successful will be able to appeal to niche markets like gaming, sports, stock trading, fitness, news and other popular topics people would want to hang out and talk about.

The success of Clubhouse, which can host up to 8,000 people per chat room can help platforms build new convergences and intersections for their users. Anna Wiener, writer at The New Yorker, describes the app as a “drop-in audio social network that enabled the creation of voice-only chat rooms”.

But what else could Clubhouse become in its reincarnation in bigger platforms and with more innovative app companies? ByteDance and Spotify here are most likely to dictate the future terms of audio. The rest are pretenders.

ByteDance is the social media company most likely to become the AI-education company of the future of China. How is that possible? ByteDance is winning over an entire generation, one app at a time. According to the South China Morning Post, ByteDance is also moving aggressively into the mobile gaming space dominated by rival firm Tencent Holdings.

ByteDance’s secret sauce is their AI with the best recommendation engine outside of YouTube, it may even be better. ByteDance is likely to do a limited IPO in the U.S. just for Douyin to raise additional capital in 2022.

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