Clubhouse, the confidential audio social network as the new star of containment in Germany | Meta-media

By Kati Bremme, Innovation and Foresight Department of France Télévisions

After a first appearance in May 2020 in the Silicon Valley, Clubhouse, an audio-only social app, is currently creating the buzz in Germany and even pass number two in downloads in front of Telegram. A success largely driven by the promotion of German celebrities of the “old and new media“, from influencer Caro Daur to historic host Thomas Gottschalk. In a world overexposed to videoconferencing, the Clubhouse audio app is becoming the new favorite space for the world of art, tech, media and political, by succeeding in giving the impression of a confidential space, where one can even be completely silent in one of the rest rooms.

A impression of oneself precisely at the origin of a small political scandal around Bodo Ramelow, Minister-President of Thuringia, who had confessed on the supposedly confidential app to play Candy Crush during her health crisis meetings with the Chancellor, and worse, described the latter in the same statement as “Merkelchen” (little Merkel). The German newspaper “Welt am Sonntag” was the first to quote these statements from Clubhouse, and many media then put forward this “act of ignorance [digitale] masculine“from the Minister. Indeed, under its airs of an intimate telephone interview, the Clubhouse application brings together several thousand people by” call “.

Minister Bodo Ramelow apologizes for “act of male ignorance”

How does it work ?

Clubhouse is a voice-centric audio social app. This “Drop in Audio App”, as it is described by its founders Paul Davison and Rohan Seth, tasty mix of virtual conference and interactive podcast, gives users the opportunity to talk, tell stories, develop ideas, deepen friendships or meet new people.

The user who has successfully entered the app by invitation can follow different themes in the “lounges”, either in single auditor, or by speaking. Unlike other social apps, Clubhouse does not have a “Like” feature or commentary, all are spoken verbally, moderated by hosts. In Clubhouse, everything happens live, nothing can be recorded and shared. While Instagram Livestreams only allows two people to talk to each other and the app needs to be left open, in Clubhouse 5,000 people can meet in a room and the app can run in the background.

Key to success: confidential audio

Clubhouse’s manufacturers’ marketing concept includes the “artificial scarcityAt the moment, Android smartphone users are left out. Even most iPhone owners who have Clubhouse installed still have to wait to use the app. They need a invitation of an active user to enter the Clubhouse. The effect “Fear of Missing Out“(FOMO) resulting in a huge hype.

The selective side is amplified by another function of Clubhouse: anyone who wants to use the app must share your iPhone address book with it (questionable element in terms of data protection). If one of the contacts in the address book is already on the Clubhouse waiting list, the app sometimes gives the user the option of assigning a “pass” to the contact outside of the queue. virtual wait and unlock its access – without needing an invitation. The economic model of the app is still unclear, meanwhile, invitations are negotiated at prices of up to 250 euros on Ebay.

The app arrived in Germany in January 2021 through two stars of the German-speaking tech podcast with ties to Silicon Valley, Klöckner and Gloeckler from Doppelgänger-Podcast. Clubhouse boasts of its intimate, unedited nature. In Germany, politicians like Christian Lindner, leader of the Free Democratic Party (FDP), were the first to take an interest in it. Without the pressure of video, politicians and influencers can invite participants to an exclusive club: they can speak directly to the audience without intermediaries, in a feeling of intimacy. But with a downside: audio certainly gives a feeling of closeness and self-esteem, – much more than videoconferences-, except that we do not confide off in front of a small group of journalists, but well in front of hundreds of listeners anything but confidential. This raises the question of basic journalistic rules: Are the politicians private citizens or elected representatives in a semi-public chat room at 11 p.m.

A platform acclaimed by the art world

Clubhouse recreates a elitist universe, a bit like meeting again around a cocktail at a vernissage or even in a reading by an underground author. The app is also used by a number of writers to express themselves remotely with their audience, like Peter Wittkamp, ​​famous humorist author who feeds most of the German “Late Night Shows” with his texts.

Redistribution of the population on social networks according to comedian Peter Wittkamp: Instagram for those under 40, TikTok for those under 20, Clubhouse for the intellectual elite of the Berlin Mitte district, Pinterest for women who wish to get married, Twitter for the Left, Telegram for the Right and political lunatics, eBay for the other lunatics, and Facebook for the rest …

The labyrinth of the various salons is somewhat reminiscent of improvised artistic happenings in abandoned buildings in Berlin in the 1990s. You can find Anne Schwanz and Johanna Neuschäffer from Office Impart in an interview with Annika von Taube, Monopol columnist and digital strategist, Dirk Boll, director of Christie’s auction house, and a few other guests debate how digital formats are changing the art market. There are also “closed” lounges, even more select. You can chat on Clubhouse with tech entrepreneurs and startup founders, with TikTok stars and other influencers, with footballers and art market experts.

Critics: GDPR incompatibility, lack of accessibility and trend towards #FOMO

The dubious concept of Clubhouse data protection, which probably also violates the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), has not stopped many influencers in Germany from quickly catching the bandwagon since mid-January and switching from WhatsApp to Clubhouse amid schizophrenia concerning the rules of “privacy”. For example, over 1,000 people virtually gathered in a Clubhouse room where German Digital Minister Dorothee Bär (CSU) discussed the “Year of Diversity 2021” with entrepreneur Tijen Onaran, journalist Niddal Salah-Eldin and other guests.

The radically free nature of the salons, while seemingly egalitarian, has already sparked controversy. The New York Journalist Times Taylor Lorenz wrote of how some Clubhouse rooms turn into bastions of the misogyny, of anti-semitism and racism. Without registration, independent observers have little capacity to investigate the charges.

Raul Krauthausen, a German author, known for its actions in favor of disabled people, criticizes the application for its part exclusive instead of being inclusive. In an Instagram post, he highlights “which is certainly not lacking in humanity at the moment:

  • an app that excludes deaf people and that is not accessible
  • an app that is elitist and exclusive
  • an app that promotes FOMO

Instead, he advocates the “JOMO“, the “Joy of Missing Out“, which would allow us to free ourselves from this perpetual need to be informed of everything.


Clubhouse’s recipe for success seems obvious: find finally, without however reunite. We do not sees not, we listen. Clubhouse is a bit endless conference calling in the entertainment industry, in which everyone voluntarily participates, or an audio tour interspersed with “happy coincidences” similar to those that occur when you suddenly join in an inspiring conversation at a party.

Discussions and meetings that would otherwise take place in galleries and museums, in bars and restaurants, now have their place in the digital space. While waiting for the return to real life, Clubhouse presents itself as a good substitution of a semblance of social life, at least for a certain category of the population, who, moreover, hardly cares about the protection of their data. Until the arrival of the next trendy app from the United States …

The Origins: Clubhouse launched in April 2020 and first saw a boom in the United States during the first lockdown, reminiscent of the beginnings of WhatsApp or Snapchat. Andreessen Horowitz, Venture Capitalist who had previously invested in Silicon Valley stars like AirBnB, Facebook, Instagram, Lyft and Twitter, pledged $ 12 million to Clubhouse in May 2020. The start-up was valued at $ 100 million dollars (currently 82.78 million euros) – at a time when it had only 1,500 active users. Among them, however, a few celebrities like rapper Drake, comedian Kevin Hart, Oprah Winfrey, Chris Rock and Ashton Kutcher.

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