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Clubhouse’s Latest Strategic Shift Points to Concerning Signs for the App’s Future



Clubhouse's Latest Strategic Shift Points to Concerning Signs for the App's Future

Is Clubhouse entering its final stage?

Over the last few weeks, the departures of several top executives from the company have raised eyebrows about its future, while the latest download numbers also point to trouble for the once buzzy audio social app.

The recent exec departures are also an important indicator in its current direction – as reported by Protocol:

“In late April, Stephanie Simon left as the company’s head of Brand Evangelism and Development. Simon joined Clubhouse just a couple of months after launch in 2020. Then this week, three more leaders announced their resignations, including Nina GregoryAarthi Ramamurthy and Anu Atluru; the trio led News, International and Community, respectively.

The gradual migration of content leaders points to a change in strategy for Clubhouse, with Bloomberg also reporting late last week that Clubhouse is making significant staffing moves as ‘part of a broader restructuring and rethinking of the audio app’s strategy’.

That strategic shift, as noted by Platformer’s Casey Newton, is likely more aligned with less structured, and more casual usage of the app for catching up with friends and like-minded people, or ‘chilling’ online in these shared audio spaces.

Which makes sense, but it also aligns with this prediction from Blab founder Shaan Puri as to Clubhouse’s likely trajectory.

Puri, whose long tweet thread on what he foresaw happening to Clubhouse, also predicts the future downward spiral for the app, with chilling likely to end up being ‘a dead end too’.

Puri would know, he’s worked on several buzzy apps, which, much like Clubhouse, saw strong performance early on, only to fade out time and time again. Because live content, in itself, is hard, and ensuring compelling, consistent experiences is near impossible in a user-generated live format, at any kind of scale.

That’s why Blab died out, along with Meerkat, and why live-stream elements on Facebook and Twitter never lived up to the massive hype, which had many enthusiasts calling the feature a ‘game changer’ and hurriedly updating their LinkedIn description to ‘live video strategist’ and the like.

Live audio, as Puri predicted, is following the same trend – and as noted, Clubhouse’s latest download stats don’t inspire a lot of confidence in this respect.

Protocol reports that between January 1st and May 31st his year, Clubhouse has seen 3.8 million installs globally, compared to 19 million installs during the same period last year – an 80% decline year-over-year.   

Again, that likely comes as no surprise, given that at one stage everyone was scrambling for a Clubhouse invite, and now, you hardly hear any mention of the app. But Clubhouse had been seeing steady growth in India, and other regions outside the US, which pointed to future potential, despite the dimming of its spotlight.

Now, it seems like those trends are in decline too, which could end up leading into the last stage for the app.

Add to this the fact that other apps have stolen a lot of its thunder through their own, similar features (reinforcing the narrative that audio social is a feature, not a platform), and it’s looking like an increasingly challenging road ahead for the app.

Can Clubhouse find a unique niche, and still play a role in the broader connective landscape, despite these trends?

I mean, Snapchat did it. Snapchat was in a similar position after Instagram repurposed its Stories functionality, and sought to negate one of its key points of differentiation. Snap lost a lot of traction as a result, but it’s been able to maintain its place by doubling down on other aspects, like intimate connection between friends, along with its ongoing AR innovation.

The difference in this respect is that Clubhouse doesn’t have anything else – it’s audio rooms, where you can tune in, and participate in the broader chat. But that’s it. If listeners aren’t tuning in, and broadcasters start getting better response elsewhere, you can see where the trend is headed – and with the focus on video content being a much more significant behavioral shift overall, you can imagine that many Clubhouse originated broadcasters will eventually shift to podcasting and vlogging elsewhere, which both offer better monetization potential and broader audience reach instead.

Live chilling, as noted by Puri, is probably not the answer. But it seems that Clubhouse is increasingly seeing fewer choices as it works to recapture its early magic.

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Meta Soars by Most in Decade, Adding $100 Billion in Value



Meta Soars by Most in Decade, Adding $100 Billion in Value

Correction: February 2, 2023 This article has been revised to reflect the following correction: An earlier version of this article misstated how much Meta expected to spend on its deal with the virtual reality start-up Within. It is $400 million, not $400 billion. Meta’s stock surged on Thursday …

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Twitter’s Cancelling Free Access to its API, Which Will Shut Down Hundreds of Apps



Twitter’s Cancelling Free Access to its API, Which Will Shut Down Hundreds of Apps

Well, this is certainly problematic.

Twitter has announced that, as of February 9th, it’s cutting off free access to its API, which is the access point that many, many apps, bot accounts, and other tools use to function.

That means that a heap of Twitter analytics apps, management tools, schedulers, automated updates – a range of key info and insight options will soon cease to function. Which seems like the sort of thing that, if you were Twitter, you’d want to keep on your app.

But that’s not really how Twitter 2.0 is looking to operate – in a bid to rake in as much revenue as absolutely possible, in any way that it can, Twitter will now look to charge all of these apps and tools. But most, I’d hazard a guess, will simply cease to function.

The bigger business apps already pay for full API access – your Hootsuite’s and your Sprout Social’s – so they’ll likely be unaffected. But it could stop them from offering free plans, which would have a big impact on their business models.

The announcement follows Twitter’s recent API change which cut off a heap of Twitter posting tools, in order, seemingly, to stop users accessing the platform through a third-party UI. 

Now, even more Twitter tools will go extinct, a broad spread of apps and functions that contribute to the real-time ecosystem that Twitter has become. Their loss, if that’s what happens, will have big impacts on overall Twitter activity.

On the other hand, some will see this as another element in Twitter’s crackdown on bots, which Twitter chief Elon Musk has made a personal mission to eradicate. Musk has taken some drastic measures to kill off bots, some of which are having an impact, but Musk himself has also admitted that such efforts are reducing overall platform engagement

This, too, could be a killer in this respect

It’ll also open the door to Twitter competitors, as many automated update apps will switch to other platforms. This relates to things like updates on downtime from video games, weather apps, and more. There are also tools like GIF generators and auto responders – there’s a range of tools that could now look for a new home on Mastodon, or some other Twitter replicant. 

In this respect, it seems like a flawed move, which is also largely ignorant of how the developer community has facilitated Twitter’s growth. 

But Elon and Co. are going to do things their own way, whether outside commentators agree or not – and maybe this is actually a path to gaining new Twitter data customers, and boosting the company’s income. 

But I doubt it.

If there are any third-party Twitter apps that you use, it’ll be worth checking in to see if they’re impacted before next week.

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Meta ‘Year of Efficiency’ call from Zuckerberg was what Street needed



Meta 'Year of Efficiency' call from Zuckerberg was what Street needed

Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive officer of Meta Platforms Inc., center, departs from federal court in San Jose, Calif., on Dec. 20, 2022.

David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images

With one simple slogan, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg temporarily quelled investor discontent with his company’s multibillion-dollar investment into the futuristic metaverse.

“Our management theme for 2023 is the ‘Year of Efficiency’ and we’re focused on becoming a stronger and more nimble organization,” Zuckerberg said as part of the release of Meta’s fourth-quarter earnings report.

Following a 64% plunge in Meta’s share price in 2022, Wall Street cheered the report, sending the stock up almost 20%, extending a rally that began late last year. Based on after-hours pricing, Meta is trading at its highest since July.

Growth is not what’s getting investors excited. Meta reported better-than-expected revenue in the fourth quarter, but sales still sank 4% from a year earlier, marking the third straight quarterly decline. And the forecast range for the first quarter suggests that year-over-year revenue could increase, but it could also fall again.

Rather, Zuckerberg’s commitment to cost cuts and efficiency is a sign that increasing profitability is important to Meta, which was known as a growth machine prior to last year’s slump.

“The first 18 years I think we grew it 20%, 30% compound or a lot more every year,” Zuckerberg said on the earnings call. “And then obviously that changed very dramatically in 2022, where our revenue was negative for growth, for the first time in the company’s history.”

In looking to the future, Zuckerberg struck a realistic tone.

“We don’t anticipate that that’s going to continue,” he said, regarding the recent drop in revenue. “But I also don’t think it’s going to go back to the way it was before.”

Meta lowered its estimates for total expenses in 2023 to be in the range of $89 billion to $95 billion, down from its prior outlook of $94 billion to $100 billion. In November, the company announced it would lay off over 11,000 workers, or 13% of its staff.

Zuckerberg said Meta will be more “proactive on cutting projects that aren’t performing or may no longer be crucial” and that it will emphasize “removing layers of middle management to make decisions faster.”

Meta is also reducing spending as it builds new data centers that are intended to be more efficient while still able to power the company’s various artificial intelligence technologies. Capital expenditures are now expected to be in the range of $30 billion to $33 billion for 2023 instead of $34 billion to $37 billion.

Zuckerberg is selling investors on a story they want to hear, acknowledging that the company got bloated and needed more financial discipline. One of Zuckerberg’s top deputies, technology chief Andrew “Boz” Bosworth, wrote a personal essay just a few days ago echoing that sentiment.

Still, Meta has plenty of challenges ahead, in terms of both costs and reviving its core ad business.

Meta’s Reality Labs unit, which is responsible for developing the nascent metaverse, lost $13.7 billion in 2022. Finance chief Susan Li told analysts that the company isn’t planning for any reduction in that unit anytime soon. Zuckerberg still sees it as the company’s future.

Digital advertising, meanwhile, is suffering from a struggling economy, and Li gave no indication that companies are planning to dramatically increase their spending in 2023.

Meta has also yet to recover from Apple’s 2021 iOS privacy update that made it harder to target users with ads. Li said the company has been improving its online advertising system, but Apple’s update is “still certainly an absolute headwind to our revenue number.”

During the question and answer part of the call, Zuckerberg was asked about Meta’s progress in generative artificial intelligence, which has become the latest hot thing in Silicon Valley. His answer indicated that Meta is pursuing opportunities there, but will be cautious in how quickly it proceeds. Running these programs is expensive, and Meta needs to ensure it can develop them affordably, he said.

Zuckerberg said that while Meta is researching how best to incorporate the new technology, he wants “to be careful not to get too ahead of the development of it.”

Correction: Meta’s earnings report and CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s comments occurred after the market close on Wednesday. An earlier version misstated the day.

WATCH: Meta grows in daily active users, shares pop on revenue beat

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