Ah, Clubhouse versus podcasts — an age-old debate.
Just kidding. But, while both of these audio tools are relatively new to the business world (in fact, Clubhouse is less than two years old), they've both attracted large, engaged audiences.
And, even though each audio tool is vastly different, they serve similar purposes.
Hear me out: Podcasts, at their core, are meant to inspire and provoke interesting conversations around a variety of topics, including crime shows, celebrity interviews, health and fitness, or business and entrepreneurship (to name a few).
Clubhouse operates on a similar principle: to encourage lively conversations and debates around a variety of niche topics. As Clubhouse Founders Paul Davison and Rohan Seth have said, "The thing we love most is how voice can bring people together."
That message — of the importance of voice to bring people together — is just as true for podcasts as it is for Clubhouse.
Which leaves many marketers wondering: Which one is more worth my time?
Here, we'll explore the pros and cons of investing your time and resources into podcasts vs. audio chat rooms like Clubhouse, and which is ultimately a better long-term decision for your brand.
Since I'm no podcast or Clubhouse expert, I've collected the wisdom of various experts on both sides to paint the full picture.
Let's dive in.
Clubhouse vs. Podcasts: Which Should Marketers Use?
To start, let's explore a recent survey I conducted on which audio activities people prefer — listening to podcasts, listening and participating in conversations on Clubhouse, or neither:
As you can see, the majority of those polled — 75% — prefer listening to podcasts, or doing neither. That leaves Clubhouse as a preference for only one quarter of respondents.
Additionally, one of the major benefits to listening to a podcast is that the content is available on-demand, meaning I can choose when to download and listen — it isn't live, like Clubhouse. This enables listeners to have complete control over what topics they consume, and when.
A listener might pick-and-choose one pre-recorded crime show episode on her drive to work, for instance, and another episode about parenting on her drive home.
There are a few major benefits to using podcast as a brand awareness or lead generation strategy. Let's dive into a few of those, now:
- Podcasts enable you to reach a younger audience. 49% of U.S. citizens between 12 and 34 listened to a podcast in the previous month — followed by 40% of people ages 35 to 54, and 22% of people ages 55 and above.
- Podcast advertisements are powerful. A Nielsen report found podcast ads generate 4.4X better brand recall than display ads, and 61% of consumers who heard a podcast ad were more likely to purchase the featured product.
- Podcast provides you with a major reach. 55% (155 million) of the U.S. population has listened to a podcast – up from 51% in 2019.
- Podcast is long-form content. Some of the most popular podcasts are well over an hour long — Morbid: A True Crime Podcast (currently #8 on Apple's Top Charts) episodes range between one hour and one hour, 45 minutes; Armchair Expert with Dax Shepard (currently #18 on Apple's Top Charts) episodes are roughly one hour, 30 minutes each. This provides you with a ton of opportunity for increasing brand loyalty and, ultimately, conversions.
While these statistics help demonstrate the power of podcast, I wanted to ask a few podcast experts to hear more qualitative insights regarding the "Clubhouse vs. podcast" debate.
Let's dive into that, now.
Podcast Experts Weigh In: Why is Podcast Better?
To start, I spoke with Matthew Brown, HubSpot's Senior Podcast Producer.
Brown told me, "One of the key differences between live audio and podcasts are listener behaviors. Live audio is typically a passive engagement, while podcasts are more of an active engagement."
"On Clubhouse, something might happen at any moment. On a podcast, something should happen at every moment."
Of course, there's something tantilizing about listening to live audio — perhaps it's the authenticity, or the sense that you're a fly-on-the-wall for a private conversation happening between two people in real time, without the option to edit out any uncomfortableness. But, similar to watching a long, unedited scene of The Real World, it can also get boring. Quickly.
Brown adds, "Clubhouse, and other live audio platforms, just cannot equate to highly-produced and edited podcasts. They're too dissimilar in almost every way. You know ... aside from the whole both involving audio thing."
Ultimately, if you're interested in testing out Clubhouse as its own potentially powerful marketing channel, Brown encourages you to consider the needs of that platform as entirely separate from podcasting: "Clubhouse is to podcasts as Twitch is to YouTube. A Twitch streamer takes the best moments of their live stream and packages it up for their YouTube channel."
"There's serious benefits in repurposing content. But each channel — and the expectations of creators and audience alike — is fundamentally different. So you need to understand those limitations, and make the best content you can for that given platform."
There are also some long-term revenue benefits to podcasting. For instance, I asked Zachary Ballenger, CRO at Casted, whether podcasts can ultimately impact a company's bottom line.
He told me, "Podcasts have the ability to drive real results in terms of leads and revenue. [But] podcasts need to be fully incorporated into your marketing campaigns and amplified across every channel to be effective — including blog posts, social media, landing pages, and ad retargeting."
Jacob Penn, a Corporate Analytics Manager at iHeartMedia, agrees that podcasting is a more proven strategy for long-term ROI. He says, "Being trustworthy has allowed podcast hosts to build long-term connections with listeners and turn host-read ads into a very native experience. That's why 53% of podcast listeners actually enjoy hearing ads."
"Businesses can use podcasts as a vehicle to reach listeners who are in a mindset to new messaging."
Penn adds, "As of today, Clubhouse is still in their infancy phase and we don’t know how users will interact with this platform in the long term. With podcasts, they have been around for over 20 years and brands are beginning to realize their potential as an advertising platform. That is why over $1 billion in ad revenue is expected in podcasts in 2021."
Simply put: Podcasts have a proven track record of success for business growth, but only when done effectively. (Interested in starting your own? Take a look at Everything You Need to Know About Starting a Podcast in 2021.)
Holly Shannon, Producer & Host of the Culture Factor 2.0 and author of the book Zero To Podcast, says that podcasting is a fantastic opportunity for businesses to reach new audiences. She told me, "The question I ask leaders is, Are you your industry's best-kept secret? If the answer is yes, then podcasting could be a way to create content that serves your business in many ways."
"For one," She says, "It can highlight you and your team as thought leaders. This allows you to speak authentically and bring your value to the table for all to hear globally, which can result in other keynote speaking opportunities and lead generation."
Shannon is also a fan of podcasting as an opportunity for content repurposing. She suggests using the podcast transcripts as SEO-optimized blog posts on your website after-the-fact, as well as using pieces of that audio for subsequent social media posts.
A podcast is also a good opportunity to create a sense of community — and you can engage with that community offline, as well. As Shannon suggests, "Podcasting enables you to create a community of listeners, subscribers, and followers. This community can be served later with virtual or live conferences — thus creating a pathway to monetization."
Can the same be said for Clubhouse? Let's dive into that perspective, next.
Clubhouse Experts Weigh In: Why Is Clubhouse Better?
HubSpot's Marketing Manager Chris Eberhardt is in charge of HubSpot's Clubhouse programming for the HubSpot Marketing Club, so he's seen first-hand the power of Clubhouse for business.
Eberhardt told me, "Clubhouse can be a good option for a company that wants to create a presence in audio but wants to avoid the saturation and production quality involved in podcasts."
He adds, "But it's important to understand that the use case for Clubhouse is actually different than the use case for podcasts. Podcasts are on-demand, whereas Clubhouse is live social audio. It's an important difference: Podcasts can be scripted and highly-produced, whereas Clubhouse is closer to a live radio show."
Eberhardt would recommend using Clubhouse for the following reasons:
- You don't have enough bandwidth/resources to create a high-quality podcast.
- You want to more easily differentiate your brand on Clubhouse (since the podcast marketplace is more heavily saturated).
- You want to form a space to connect with your audience directly, and open up the rooms for audience questions and engagement.
- You want one of your leaders to build their brand in the space.
Eberhardt says, "It's important you use Clubhouse as a live space for authentic conversation and connection — not to lecture. For instance, perhaps you start a reaction room for a big announcement or product launch, develop a format for a live show that you run on a consistent basis, bring on guests with large followers early to build a presence, or start a club that your brand hosts."
Benjamin Shapiro, host of the Martech Podcast, agrees that Clubhouse is a potentially powerful option for brand growth.
He adds, "While the interactive social features are unique to the times, my belief is that live-streaming audio services will settle into a medium of content distribution that is most relevant during real-world events."
Additionally, Krystal Wu, HubSpot's Social Community Marketing Manager, is a fan of audio spaces as the host of a weekly Twitter Space, and she does see plenty of benefits to audio spaces over podcasts.
Wu told me, "I host weekly Twitter Spaces to connect with marketers. I love it because it's more of a feature to an enhance a product, versus a product in itself. I've found I can have short, random discussions or longer, more in-depth discussions."
"Either way, it's real, in-the-moment content that podcasts otherwise can't offer."
Wu adds, "I think podcasts is more of an opportunity to educate and listen to other people's stories while multitasking on other things. Looking to clean my house for 30 minutes? Great — I'll play a podcast for that 30-minute timeframe so I can match it up … Spaces, on the other hand, is more in-the-moment communication — you don't exactly know what you'll get, and that's what's neat about it."
If you're interested in testing out Clubhouse for your own business, take a look at How to Use Clubhouse: A Step-by-Step Guide.
Why not both?
Of course, there's one other option we haven't yet considered: Should you try both?
Any good marketer knows the importance of testing out various channels and iterating on a marketing strategy over time based on those results. So, if you're unsure whether your audience prefers Clubhouse or podcasts, you might want to test both.
You might even find that both tools work well together to create a more cohesive, powerful marketing strategy.
For instance, Asad Zulfahri, a Principal Marketing Manager at HubSpot, told me: "I run a weekly room on Clubhouse, and then that session gets recorded to form a podcast. Those who attend live can also participate in the Q&A at the end. I then summarize the Clubhouse content into a blog post as well, for an additional distribution option."
"Clubhouse can be an easy entry-point to those who are thinking about podcasting. You can practice speaking publicly and then record the session (with permission, of course)."
For instance, take a look at Asad's Clubhouse live room:
… And then, Asad's post-Clubhouse podcast episodes:
You might try this for a few weeks, and then iterate if you feel the majority of your audience prefers one channel over the other.
Shannon agrees, saying, "Clubhouse to me does not have to be a zero sum game. I believe it's highly complementary."
For instance, she suggests trying to record your podcast interview live on Clubhouse, which enables you to host a Q&A post-interview and engage with your community. (Plus, if you're not happy with the Q&A portion, you can always cut it post-production.) Alternatively, she says you might do a pre-show where you speak with your audience to crowdsource questions for your podcast guest.
Shannon told me, "Today, you need to be open to where you can find your audiences. Algorithms within each platform fluctuate, and thus change when your followers see your posts. So if you can jump onto new platforms as an early adopter, you get traction. I'm a big advocate of cross-pollinating audiences, and diversifying where your brand shows up."
Ultimately, Clubhouse and podcasts serve different purposes and meet the needs of vastly different audiences.
As Shapiro asserts, "There will be scenarios where live broadcasts are going to be the most relevant way to engage a community (i.e. interact with a MarTech conference live from your desk). There are also scenarios when on-demand content will be the more relevant medium (i.e. learn about MarTech by listening to a podcast on your morning commute)."
"There is going to be a place in the world for both live and on-demand content in audio, just like with text (blogs versus Twitter) and video (TV versus Netflix)."
If you're unsure which is best-suited for your brand, consider a few important factors — including your team goals and priorities, the amount of resources you have available for audio recording, and whether you can test Clubhouse or podcasting on a small scale before going all-in on your audio tool of choice.
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