Why Clubhouse is winning, with Josh Constine (hint: it’s all about creators)

Clubhouse is the media darling of the social audio world … the hot date. Why? Was it all about the Covid quarantine, or is there more to the story?

And … can Facebook and Twitter catch up?

To get some answers, we’re chatting with Josh Constine in this episode of TechFirst with John Koetsier. Constine is a former TechCrunch writer and editor-at-large who is now a venture capitalist at SignalFire. H joined Clubhouse when the app only had about 1,000 users, and he’s now a major Clubhouse influencer with 3.5M+ followers, thanks to his super-successful Press Club room.

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(This transcript has been lightly edited for length and clarity.) 

John Koetsier: Clubhouse is the media darling of the social audio world — the hot date. Why is that? And can Facebook and Twitter catch up?

To get some answers, we’re chatting with Josh Constine, who is a former TechCrunch writer and editor. He’s now a VC at SignalFire and of course, a Clubhouse influencer with 3 million plus followers. Josh, welcome! 

Josh Constine, Principal, Venture & Head of Content, SignalFire

Josh Constine: Thank you so much for having me. So excited to get to be here talking about my favorite topic, which is me never stopping talking. 

John Koetsier: [laughs] I know, it’s wonderful. And I had a lot of fun, by the way, calling you an influencer. You know, I expect regular and ongoing selfies every couple hours now. I mean like, 3 million followers on Clubhouse, that’s pretty significant. 

Josh Constine: Yeah, it’s been an incredible ride, and I just love getting to spend time with people that I normally wouldn’t get to hang out with in person — especially during COVID — and exchange ideas.

There’s a famous quote that says, you know, ‘I don’t know what I think until I say it.’ And that’s what I’m really getting the experience of on Clubhouse is I get to feel my own ideas get crystallized right in front of me. 

John Koetsier: Wow. Okay, there’s probably a former president who is exactly the same way, but we’ll talk about that another time.

Before we get into it, you were a full-time writer at TechCrunch and you were an editor-at-large, which is the position every journalist dreams of because you can go wherever you want, you can do whatever you want, and you can report on whatever you want, just about, and you’re good to go.

How’s the transition to VC been? 

Josh Constine: Oh, it’s been incredible. I think TechCrunch provides an awesome sort of foundation for understanding the VC world because they empower us to make subjective calls. We didn’t have to wait until other investors had funded something or had gotten huge traction. If we felt the conviction that there was something special about a team or a product, we could write about it and say it was brilliant. Or if we thought something was never going to work, we could say it was stupid.

And I think that subjectivity is what prepares us for being VCs and why we’ve seen so many people go from TC to VC, like M.G. Siegler to Google Ventures, Kim-Mai Cutler to Initialized, Alexia Tsotsis started her own fund Dream Machine Ventures.

There’s a lot of these stories because I think if you get to spend so much time with early stage startups and go through those cycles, and see which pitches actually end up working out, which companies five years later are really big, you get a good sense of that pattern matching. 

John Koetsier: 100%. You see so many pitches it’s amazing, incredible. We see other journalists doing that as well. Chrissy Farr recently became a VC as well. Super cool. She was at VentureBeat, she was at CNBC, she was a couple other places as well.

Let’s get to the topic at hand, which is Clubhouse — which is a social media darling, at least in the audio world right now. Maybe start at the beginning. Why did you join Clubhouse? 

Josh Constine: I joined Clubhouse back in April 2020 when it was just getting started. I think there was about a thousand users on it at the time.

And to me, I was just so missing that sense of spontaneous collaboration and discussion with other people ’cause we’d been locked inside for a month by then. And I think there’s a lot of people in the tech world that typically, especially in Silicon Valley, would meet up after work for drinks to jam on ideas, and we felt like that was kind of missing.

And then especially as the George Floyd protests grew, there was just so much to talk about, about the future of society with the election riding up. There was just so much to discuss. And I personally found it just enlightening to get to talk to people that I’d never speak to on the phone, but can have an intimate conversation with — get that unfiltered, behind-the-scenes sensation of what it’s like to actually know them and be inside their brain.

I think that’s the beauty of Clubhouse is, you know, because you’re kind of actually like whispering into people’s ears, you’re almost incepting ideas into their mind, and so you’re kind of — you drop your guard.

When somebody is on video or you’re watching video, you expect them to be performing and maybe not even always telling the truth. But on audio, because we’re so conditioned through phone calls with our friends to think like this is a trustworthy medium, that you can really connect with people on a deeper level.

And I missed that and found it on Clubhouse. 

John Koetsier: That is really, really interesting. I recently talked to Jeremiah Oywang about this very phenomenon and about Clubhouse as well. And we laughed about video because we’re doing so much video conferencing right now, and half the time when people are videoconferencing they’re looking at themselves. Do I look good? Do I look like an idiot? Is there something between my teeth? You know, all that sort of stuff.

Audio is just different, right? 

Josh Constine: Yeah, there’s something really special about being able to just create at any point without needing a ton of production quality or equipment even, and it lowers the barrier to creation. Which both means you get people who are really busy, who don’t have time to set up a full video shoot or like practice or get prepared to look the perfect way, they’re jumping onto Clubhouse.

And so sometimes you’ll see tech leaders it’d be tough to actually get to go to a conference and speak on stage — getting to see them in person, it’s hard to do that — but they’re willing to jump on Clubhouse because there’s no commute. You don’t have to get all dressed. You just jump in and jump out whenever you want.

And I also think that there’s something really special about the way that there is something that it’s spontaneous, like you never really know what’s going to happen next. There’s that urgency where there’s surprise guests that show up, which is not like what could happen on a podcast or another type of creation. But the other part that I really like about the lower barrier—

John Koetsier: Meanwhile your PR rep is in the waiting room. I could just add him right now. [laughter]

Josh Constine: Yeah, Exactly, you know—

John Koetsier: He’s like in shock. 

Josh Constine: I had this exact situation. I put together a panel about the future of newsletters on my show, PressClub, and we had founders from Axios, and The Information, and The Hustle, but then Ben Thompson from Stratechery, like the true OG of newsletters, showed up. And then the CEO of Substack, Chris Best, probably the most hotly interesting person in the space at the time, he showed up too.

And like, those are the best guests I could have even dreamed of.

And that’s why I kind of call Clubhouse a wishing well, where if you throw in a little bit of value, a little bit of preparation, a little bit of thought and practice and preparation, then amazing things bubble to the surface. You know, incredible guests will surface and you get to spend time with them. And that, to me, that spontaneity is beautiful.

But the other thing that I really like about the reduction in barrier to creation is not only do you get big stars taking like a few minutes out of their day to jump on it, but it also means that it levels the playing field. You don’t need to be somebody who is rich enough to have a really nice video camera or hire a whole video editing team like on YouTube. You can just jump right in with nothing but an iPhone. And I think that that means you’re getting creators that don’t appear anywhere else starting to build an audience, and so you’re getting a more diverse range of voices on a broader set of topics than on any other creative platform in its early days. 

John Koetsier: Super interesting. I want to pull on that thread a little bit — and by the way, my video editing team is all over there. There’s like 10 people, you know, they’re just waiting to jump into— [laughter]. I’m just [joking].

But I want to pull on that thread a little bit, because I’m on Clubhouse. I’m not a heavy user of Clubhouse, but I’m on there occasionally, I’ll ping into a conversation. What I get a notification of quite frequently is that Marc Andreessen is on.

And I’m going like, how much time do you have?! I mean, it seems like it takes a lot of time. Is that true? 

Josh Constine: Yeah. I mean, that is one thing about creating on Clubhouse is, you know, minutes spent are minutes listened to. Like, you have to put the time in. It’s not something like Twitter where a few quick strokes of the keyboard and you can create something that people spend a ton of time with. You have to put in the effort.

But, you get an even deeper response on the other side. While you might have people read your tweet for a few seconds or think about it or reshare it, you know, if you have a successful room on Clubhouse — I typically will have people spend 90 minutes listening to us.

If you thought of how much it would cost a brand to pay for 90 minutes of somebody’s time via commercials, it would just be outrageous. Or if you think of how long even my best articles at TechCrunch got in terms of read time, maybe the best, longest ones would get people spending five minutes on average. And so at 90 minutes, there’s just a depth of connection and exposure to someone’s personality and ideas and way of thinking that surpasses pretty much any other platform. That session time is so important to being able to drive trust, persuasiveness, tell a story, convey a message. 

John Koetsier: It makes me think of talk radio a little bit and the fact that some people have their radio show host that they listen to and they tune in every time. And that personality and what that person talks about just integrates/vibes with what they are interested in, and that’s, you know, must-listen radio.

And I guess something similar is happening here.

I want to ask a little bit about the platform. You talked about why you joined and it was early quarantine times, and you were missing connection. You were missing the ability to talk, and communicate, listen. That was obviously a key driver for Clubhouse, it was sort of right time, right place kind of dream scenario for a startup.

What else has made Clubhouse really catch fire? 

Josh Constine: Yeah. It’s certainly that quarantine user loan, as I called it in my newsletter, which is this idea that when people went into quarantine, services that needed concurrent users — lots of people using it at the same time — got this big boost, because people just didn’t have something else to do.

And so they would be able to get to that sort of ‘critical mass’ where anytime somebody joins, there’s already other people there, and it starts to snowball. You were able to get to that a lot quicker than if you were trying to compete with all the IRL events.

And so that gave these companies a quick boost, and I think that now Clubhouse has gotten to the size that even when people are sort of let out of their houses as vaccines start to roll out, that there will be enough people still on Clubhouse to maintain that critical mass, and you’re not going to see the whole thing die out and turn into a ghost town.

There’s this other thing that I think is really important here, which is, SignalFire, we did this big research project about the creator economy, and we found that one of the biggest trends that we saw happening was creators were building a big audience on certain social media platforms but then having to move off of those platforms to actually monetize that audience. You think of like Instagram, Twitter, people are trying to move fans onto Substack, where they might pay for a subscription or get people to buy a Cameo shout out from them, or moving onto OnlyFans. But, you know, you’re seeing creators have to go off platforms to monetize.

And I think one of the most exciting things is that Clubhouse has talked from the very early days about how it wants to empower creators to build a business. And, you know, it started this creator pilot program which I’m part of, to help give a direct dialogue line between the early creators and the founders of the company, to make sure they build the features necessary for creators to build full-fledged, independent businesses right on that platform, without having to move off platform like you have to with so many other social networks. And I think that that’s also strengthened the appeal to creators who, in those early days when a platform doesn’t have that many listeners just yet they might say, ‘Is this really worth my time?’

But because they made that commitment to building monetization early, I think a lot of the top creators stuck with it through those months in the mid to late part of last year, when there still wasn’t that big of an audience but the platform had been around for six months, and said, ‘No, we’re going to stick with it because we know something special is about to happen here.’ And, you know, most recently, you’re already seeing before official monetization features roll out, a lot of people diving in with brand sponsorships.

I’m part of something called Audio Collective, which is a group of top audio creators — a lot of them on Clubhouse — who are already seeing brand sponsorship deals to do sponsored rooms or to host rooms on behalf of Showtime or Hulu about a new series. Or, you know, my friend, Lady, her dinner party show is sponsored by a Japanese wagyu organization and they send wagyu to her guests, to her dinner party, and we actually cook live while you’re chatting on Clubhouse.

Those kinds of experiences show that creators are able to build that platform early, and when so many other social networks kind of pushed creators away for so long — Vine, that was the death of Vine. Instagram, we’re still seeing only the first monetization features roll out on Instagram. Snapchat famously like really rejected its creators for the first five years before suddenly realizing how critically important they are. But Clubhouse got in with creators right from the start. 

John Koetsier: I can’t tell you how important that is. I mean, you know better than I do how important that is, but it is amazing.

I did a story in my Forbes column about four months ago on YouTube creators and how many of them saw this massive dip in traffic and revenue all of a sudden. And YouTube’s explanation — literally almost to zero — and YouTube’s explanation was there was fraud. And everybody was looking, okay, I have this much organic traffic and all of a sudden it goes down to zero for like 15 days, and then it comes back up. How is this fraud? What’s going on here? There was no explanation. The story got good traction.

There’s still no explanation, but one interesting thing that came out … YouTube’s community manager, on Twitter, responding to some of these people, said, ‘You really need to look at ways of expanding how you can monetize,’ and mentioned other platforms. Like the ones that you just mentioned — not OnlyFans, but others like that.

And I was like, I almost did a story right on that tweet, but I really didn’t want to out that guy. He was trying to be helpful; he was trying to do the right thing.

But I almost did a story on that one tweet where a platform tells its creators — the reason why it exists — you have to go off platform to make a living doing what you want to do. Crazy. 

Josh Constine: Yeah. I mean, this is a mistake by the platforms and a huge opportunity for startups.

We’re in this Phase 3 of the creator economy, propelled by the failure of these platforms to build monetization indirectly. Phase 1 was creators joining these platforms and monetizing through ad revenue share. Phase 2 was these creators growing super huge on these platforms and monetizing through influencer marketing and sponsorships. But now we’re in Phase 3 where creators are moving their fans off platform because they can’t get great monetization features on platform, and cobbling together a suite of tools, things like Cameo, Patreon, Looped.

But then there’s also newer things — Fourth Wall for merchandise, or building their own courses and classes through Podia or Coursera to be able to hyper-monetize their biggest fans. And that also means that they’re kind of freed from making lowest common denominator content for everybody, which I think is awesome. And it means that every subculture, every hobby group, you know, no matter what you look like, you have a creator star who’s making content specifically that’s emotionally resonant for you.

And what we think that this means is that every creator has to become a founder. They have to cobble together these tools and a team to be able to run them. You can’t just do your artistry. If you’re a guitarist, you can’t just play guitar anymore. You need to be a merchant, a merch designer, a data scientist, or a growth hacker. You’re going to need to be able to design NFTs I guess next, is the next big thing. 

John Koetsier: Yes.

Josh Constine: And you’re probably going to need a team of producers, data scientists, community managers, growth hackers, to help you with that. And so being an artist looks less like being an artist, more like being a founder now.

And that’s why at SignalFire, we’re investing in creator economy companies that are propelling the ship. Things like Karat, which is a credit card for influencers to help them finance their production shoots. So instead of getting a credit score based on how much money they have in the bank, they get a credit score based on how many followers they have and their engagement rate so that they can actually pay for those shoots beforehand. Or Tradeswell, another company in our portfolio, which helps them optimize their merchandise sales.

So it’s not just getting clicks and likes, it’s getting profits. 

John Koetsier: Amazing. What a crazy, wonderful world we’re moving into. Really, really interesting things there. I think that’s also why you see collectives or companies, and I think it’s Jellysmack is one of them, that will take creators and say, ‘Hey, you create, we’ll do the merch. We’ll do the monetization.’ Of course they’ll take a hefty percentage as well, but they’ll help out with that, and that’s a choice that creators will have to make.

Now, it seems like other platforms are catching on. It seems like Twitter, to me, if you see the moves they’re making in the background, the acquisitions they’re making, the things that they’re doing in terms of Twitter Spaces, the things that doing in terms of small startups that maybe might enable monetization, they have a view to doing something similar. And Facebook, who knows what’s going on there, we know they’re working on something.

But what do you see coming from those two players? 

Josh Constine: Yeah. So I think this is a very different graph. The social media talk graph, which is what Clubhouse is, is different than the Twitter graph or the Instagram graph, where it might be about seeing pretty photos from really polished people or reading really short, witty comments.

John Koetsier: That’s us! You know, totally polished. Amazing. Almost models. [laughter]

Josh Constine: Yeah, really. You know, Clubhouse is a place for faces made for radio, like mine, where you don’t have to always be on camera and it’s a different type of people you want to follow. It’s not people you want a short burst of information from, but that can sort of spontaneously riff on any topic.

And that means, I think there really does need to be a standalone app here and a standalone social graph.

That said, we have consistently seen over time that bigger social networks can build a good enough version of the product and offer the existing graph that people have already built, as a way to bootstrap. So you saw Snapchat with Stories. A lot of people, they loved the idea of Stories, but they didn’t want to rebuild a whole social graph on Snapchat, especially older millennials. And so when Instagram launched their version of Stories, it was much inferior to Snapchat’s at the time, but they brought your entire existing social graph from Instagram and so it was able to rapidly leapfrog Snapchat Stories in terms of popularity and become the default stories medium.

And so there’s definitely opportunity for these other platforms to do this. You know, I think Twitter has a great opportunity because people are constantly looking to it for breaking news, so it could be the place for breaking news discussions.

You could imagine reporters jumping into Twitter Spaces and connecting not just their tweets, revealing their big scoops, or breaking their news, or sharing their article for the first time, they could immediately launch into a Twitter Space room to discuss it with other journalists. And so I think they have a huge opportunity there because they’re already a place where people talk about breaking news, but discovery is going to be a lot harder for Twitter, because how do you rebuild an entire product without disturbing your existing user base? When you have an existing display ad business model, where Twitter wants people to keep scrolling the feed — that’s where it makes money — it would be a big gamble for it to try to move a lot of that attention into Spaces where it hasn’t figured out audio ads yet.

And you’re also going to see issues with notifications.

With a new app like Clubhouse, it doesn’t have to worry about overrunning your notification channel and ruining some other product, but Twitter, it knows that when you get @ replied, when you get tagged in a tweet, you’re going to open that tweet. You’re going to open that notification and look, and it doesn’t want you to turn off those notifications ’cause it’s bombarding you with too many about Twitter Spaces. And so it has to sort of play balancing acts that a standalone product doesn’t have to do.

And then with Facebook, I think their real opportunity is around social rooms. This is only a culture that’s starting to emerge on Clubhouse, where instead of the big sort of showy talks with celebrities where you start a locked room with just people that you follow and you might have a real discussion with like your IRL friends, but it’s kind of like a big group party line call. But people’s IRL social networks are not naturally grafted onto Clubhouse, and people don’t necessarily follow all their close friends. It’s not on Android yet so a lot of your friends might be excluded already.

And so Facebook does have an opportunity, I think, to focus on those social rooms to say, like help you just get together and chat randomly with your close friends. And it tried to do a similar thing with Facebook Rooms which it launched last year, but that was on video and it made it really heavyweight. It felt scary to jump on video or to wait around and feel like there was nobody else there to talk to if the room’s traction was low to start. And so I think Facebook has a great opportunity to shift towards audio, and what’s funny is that Facebook actually started audio live streams like four years ago because it was — they thought of, oh, video streams are too heavyweight for bandwidth in the developing world, let’s offer an audio-only version of streams.

But their problem was they just kept it stuck in the same feed, and it didn’t work next to other types of content where you were just going to be scrolling rapidly through videos or photos or text where you can get the gist of it in a second or less sometimes. With audio, you have to spend some time to actually figure out if you want it or not, and so it’s very difficult to inject audio into a feed. And that’s why I think Twitter’s audio tweets have kind of flopped and Facebook’s live streamed audio kind of flopped as well. But now, they’re rethinking it in terms of a destination, a room, a separate experience outside of the feed. And if they use their existing social graphs and distribution mechanisms, I think they can carve out a place like the sort of breaking newsrooms for Twitter or the social rooms for Facebook.

But as a destination for those big talks, I think Clubhouse has a chance to be the big winner.

John Koetsier: Absolutely, especially since it’s going to be released in an Android app pretty soon. They’ve got a developer on staff right now and maybe a couple others coming. The interesting thing for me, for Twitter Spaces — and I’ve played with it a little bit, I have it — is that I can’t set a topic.

So if somebody’s going to jump into a Twitter Space with me, they are literally jumping into the unknown; literally jumping into a black hole. What is this guy talking about? Is he talking about his pet frog or is he talking about the news of the day? I can’t set a topic.

That’s insane! I mean, that ought to be like the most basic, default thing. Let me at least start with a tweet, right? So there’s a lot of room to grow there. 

Josh Constine: I think that that’s true. And, but they’re really iterating rapidly.

It’s incredible to see that after years of feeling like the Twitter product was kind of like locked in ice, that they were so scared of offending their diehard core users, that they didn’t change anything about the platform. Other than the switch to the algorithm and the extension to 280 characters — which are both relatively low weight in terms of like big visual changes to the platform — they hadn’t made any big changes to Twitter in years.

But now they’re rapidly trying to release new products, you know, get them in the market, see if they work, and change them and edit them and update them. And I think that that’s a much better approach for Twitter than just sort of sitting back and worrying, because you’re never going to get that big. It was proven. If even the president of the United States — being the biggest Twitter user, breaking news constantly — couldn’t make it a mainstream platform with hundreds and hundreds of millions of DAU, I think they clearly needed to go in a different direction.

And audio is that direction, in my opinion, because audio is, it’s the most natural way for us to create. It was the first way we created as a species was through sound. You know, they were pounding on rocks and drumming and using rhythm, but other than that it was all about audio, before we wrote anything down. And so, writing things down can both be daunting as a creator and it can also be daunting as a consumer. It’s just exhausting to read too much text — where I can just like lean back and listen to Clubhouse and it’s quite relaxing, in fact. 

John Koetsier: What do you think about saving and being able to replay? So in other words, not just being an in-the-moment network. And so Twitter Spaces, once they’re gone, they’re gone. Once Clubhouse is gone, it’s gone. You can record if you get permission and everything like that, and some people are trying to do podcasts like this live, and hook up various wires so that you can get a Clubhouse chat room going at the same time. 

Josh Constine: Well, I got my PodTrak. I’m getting all into the recording space because I know some people want it, but I do wonder how that will affect the sense of urgency of these platforms. I think one of the best parts about them is the idea that if you miss it, it’s gone. And so you want to be there in the moment because that’s what powers those spontaneous moments and surprise guests or incredible Q&As that happen, which would never happen on a static sort of scripted podcast.

And I worry that what would happen is people will say, ‘Oh, this is going to be recorded, so I’ll listen to it later.’ And— 

John Koetsier: They never do.

Josh Constine: They never find time to actually do that. I think we all have like an endless set of bookmarks of articles we wished we read—

John Koetsier: Uh-huh.

Josh Constine: Or movies we wished we’d watched, or podcasts, especially, that we wish we got time to listen to. And we just don’t get to them, so I think if you don’t have that urgency, it will feel really different.

And only, I think, the most vibrant creators who really feel like there is something special to be there in the moment — that it’s a zeitgeist moment, that listening to it a few days later you’re going to miss being part of the conversation — I think that’s the only type of content that can survive if all of these audio platforms move to everything being recorded and being publishable later. 

John Koetsier: I think you’re absolutely right about that. I always laugh, because Facebook enabled bookmarks, right? And, you know, ‘I want to save that.’ Do you ever go back? Almost never, right? And Facebook used to give you those notifications, ‘You have one un-viewed, saved article’ or something like that. I haven’t seen those lately. I think that you  have a need to save, and that’s a good feature for that reason, but it’s not actually there for you to go back and look at it. I think for Clubhouse—

Josh Constine: Yeah, with my show PressClub, what I’m kind of toying with is the idea of maybe releasing the recording like a week later. So it really does feel like there’s a penalty for listening to the recording and you don’t get to be part of that conversation in a moment when everybody’s talking about it. And maybe that’ll be the kind of balance to strike. And I’ve also heard a lot of creators thinking like maybe what I do is my Clubhouse is free, but if you want to listen to the recordings you have to pay for a subscription, for instance. 

John Koetsier: Interesting.

Josh Constine: And I think you’ll see creators sort of playing with that idea. 

John Koetsier: I love that idea because, hey, I want to listen to that, I can’t do it at that time — I have a meeting, I have a thing, I have a kid or whatever — that makes a ton of sense. And then there’s a real benefit there as well. I think for Twitter Spaces—

Josh Constine: Right. On television, you know, you can watch TV for free on the networks, but you have to pay for TiVo if you want to watch it later. 

John Koetsier: Exactly. I think it’s a different model for Twitter Spaces, because you have this already built-in habit of scrolling through a feed of stuff that was tweeted four hours ago, 30 seconds ago, two minutes ago. So I think they might save it, but we’ll see how that goes. I want you to maybe project out a little bit.

TechFirst is, of course, about future tech, and … what do you see happening in social audio five years out? What’s it look like? Is it a feature? Is it a product? Is it a platform? Is it all of the above? 

Josh Constine: I think what you’ll see is that there’ll be a destination for social audio. Something like Clubhouse, or Clubhouse itself, where the biggest talks will happen and it’ll be a place to sort of go and discover this kind of audio content. But you’ll probably also see it built in and bolted onto the edges of other social products where, you know, a natural sort of extension of a tweet turning into a room, or a group chat becoming a group audio chat. It could happen on Facebook.

And you’ll see that audio is just too addictive, it’s got too great long session times, it’s too persuasive for other social networks to sort of bow out of it.

And the other thing I think you’ll see, what’s really interesting, is that there’s a very different power structure for publishers versus individuals on these audio platforms. On Clubhouse for instance, there are no like publisher accounts. You can’t have a brand account. You can start a club, but it’s all up to individuals.

And so I think what this may mean is a rise of more solopreneur creators, rather than sort of a recreation of the power structures of old. Instead of the big tech blogs or the big newspapers maybe dominating these platforms, you’re going to see independent, more nimble creators who have a single personality. And it’s about that deep connection between them and their fans, rather than some big brand that’s behind them. And what you get is, maybe instead of having the same trust that you give a creator because they’re part of a big newsroom with all these fact-checkers and editors, instead it’s that personal trust and that belief that they don’t want to hurt their reputation by doing something wrong.

So I think that’s part of it. But I think also you’re going to see big businesses built here, because it’s just so persuasive.

When you whisper something into somebody’s ear, they believe you; they’ll do what you say.

And I’m already seeing this on my show, PressClub. You know, we launched Constine.club, which is a sort of side chat and website, and we see hundreds of people coming from Clubhouse to go backchannel, live chat over text with other listeners or submit questions. You’re already seeing people build up these side businesses and I think you’re going to see creators on these audio platforms launching merch lines, launching subscriptions to their recordings, making significant revenue from tipping, and you’ll start to see like whole subscription audio platforms or clubs within these apps, where you can be part of a membership group and get exclusive access to certain types of content.

I think a lot of that sort of similar playbook that you saw emerge on other platforms will come to the audio space and the brands are going to be after it too.

John Koetsier: Wow, crazy stuff. Good stuff for SignalFire. Good stuff for the area that you’re investing in, which is creators and the creator economy. 

Josh Constine: I mean, I just love it ’cause you’re seeing more people turn their passion into their profession, and you’re seeing new types of creators that didn’t have a platform before — people who didn’t have all the production value to get famous on YouTube.

Maybe they weren’t the prettiest people in the world to get famous on Instagram, but they have amazing ideas. They create amazing experiences, and that’s what people want to listen to on these platforms. So I’m super excited that these founders of their own mini media organizations are going to rise up, and we love seeing all of the startups being built in the creator economy to support them.

I think we’re going to see a lot more tools to help creators build online courses, do shout outs, run ticketed events, and, you know, we’re investing heavily in this stuff at SignalFire because we know that creators are going to be the fastest growing sector of small business.

John Koetsier: I love the idea that if you’re a creative person, if you are making something, whatever it is, and it’s something that’s a passion, there’s going to be a place or there is a place for you. If that’s audio, that’s emerging right now. If that’s photography, there’s multiple places for that — Instagram is maybe the biggest, right? If it’s video, it’s YouTube. If it’s — whatever it is, there’s a place.

And that’s super interesting because we are entering a new kind of economy over the next couple decades, right, where our cars will drive themselves, our trucks will drive themselves. The manufacturing of so many things will be automated and it’ll be about what we can deliver, what we can provide in a new sort of craft economy. Very interesting reality. 

Josh Constine: Exactly. Every creator just needs to find what medium speaks to them. I loved Vine and TikTok, but I’m not a great storyboarder of like comedic content. I love Twitter, but I sometimes have trouble coming off authentic when I try to share knowledge there.

But on Clubhouse, where I can just talk endlessly and I’m like pacing around this little room — my soon-to-be daughter’s nursery — you know, just ranting into my phone, that feels natural to me. And I’m excited to see every creator find the medium that feels right for them. 

John Koetsier: I was wondering about that. I didn’t mention it — I thought, okay maybe that’s just like I dunno, a day bed or something behind there — but it looks very crib-like. And I was like, you know, is he in a kid’s room there, but [laughs]. So congratulations—

Josh Constine: Yeah, I’ve definitely got plans to one day I want to launch like a bedtime stories club on Clubhouse with other tech parents who can just read a bedtime story to their own kid and read it to everybody else’s kid at the same time, so those other parents can maybe take a little bit of a break.

John Koetsier: I love it. I used to make up stories on the spur of the moment for my daughter when she was three or two years old, and one of them became an iPad animated book. And there’s great things we can do with those today.

Josh, it was a real pleasure catching up with you. Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge, and your passion is super obvious. I understand why you’re super popular on Clubhouse. It’s kinda, you’re one of those guests that’s like push play and sit back [laughs].

Josh Constine: Well if you want to push play and listen to me some more, I would love to have you join PressClub, Thursday night 6:00 PM Pacific. We bring together journalists, experts in subjects of the news, to discuss the big stories of the week. We’ve had the CEOs of Instagram, Shopify, Postmates, Craigslist, all on the platform and on the show.

We’d love to have you there and you can check it out at Constine.club to RSVP for my future shows. Would love to hear you, what you want to hear, who you want to hear speak, what topics we should cover. I’m just trying to do this in reaction to what fans want, because all that really matters to me is respecting their time. 

John Koetsier: Wonderful. Well, thank you so much. For everybody else, thank you for joining us on TechFirst. I’m John Koetsier, I appreciate you being along for the show.

You’ll be able to get a full transcript of this podcast in about a week at JohnKoetsier.com. The story at Forbes will come out after that. Full video is on my YouTube channel. Thank you for joining. Until next time … this is John Koetsier with TechFirst.

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