The next killer smartphone app has arrived — and it offers the potential to transform how we communicate, share knowledge and even make new friends.
I am talking about voice-and-audio-based social networking startup Clubhouse. Its platform enables users to drop in and out of ephemeral chat rooms and take part in a range of gatherings, from small “water-cooler” type conversations to larger discussions featuring expert panels, often attended by thousands of listeners. Since its launch last March, Clubhouse has increasingly become a cultural phenomenon, attracting politicians, celebrities and experts from all walks of life. With its success and prominent backing, it may now be poised to upend the entire social media space.
Clubhouse’s latest figures reveal how quickly it is growing. During a weekly town hall event on Sunday, co-founder Paul Davison said the app’s weekly active user base had doubled to 2 million over the last couple of weeks. He also announced the startup had raised another investment round led by venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, adding it now has more than 180 investors. While he didn’t offer any specifics, The Information reported on Friday that Clubhouse was getting interest at a $1 billion valuation. If true, that means the company’s value has risen by a factor of 10 since its earlier Series A round last May, also led by Andreessen Horowitz.
Something special is happening inside the Clubhouse community. Call it the power of the voice — and it’s what separates Clubhouse from other platforms. A short back-and-forth live conversation, with its nuance and tone, can build closer relationships more quickly than dozens of written posts and text messages sent through more established social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. Since I joined Clubhouse last summer, I met and became friends with professors, filmmakers, artists, engineers and more from places all over the world. It has been intoxicating listening to people’s life stories and absorbing their knowledge and experience, from learning how a streaming video executive greenlights projects to getting expert political analysis on the latest breaking news. It has easily become one of my favorite pastimes.
To illustrate the kind of agenda-setting conversations that are becoming a staple on Clubhouse these days, here’s one example: Earlier this month, the mayors of San Francisco, Miami and Austin congregated inside a “room” to tout their cities as good places for tech companies to do business. Thousands of executives, investors, and employees tuned in to the vibrant interactive panel. For an app like Clubhouse — or any social media platform looking to extend its influence and user base — this is the holy grail of the virtuous feedback loop, where the network effects of a large influential audience attract the highest-quality speakers and vice versa.
Impressive as Clubhouse’s latest metrics are, they may actually understate its potential. All the growth thus far has come largely by worth of mouth, and from only half of the smartphone market. The app still requires an invitation from a current member to join and is exclusive to Apple Inc. devices. So when the founders decide to open Clubhouse to the public and release an Android version, growth will take off to higher levels.
The nature of Clubhouse’s platform offers the potential for money-making opportunities. For instance, Clubhouse could take a commission from room admission fees for large panel discussions. Or, similar to Amazon.com Inc.-owned Twitch channels, it could offer monthly subscriptions for specific interest-based club rooms. One can also imagine users buying unique animated reaction emojis to give visual feedback to speakers and interact with other members of the audience. Of course, the ability to make money will also attract and retain the best room hosts for the Clubhouse ecosystem. On Sunday, Clubhouse’s cofounders said they will start testing ways for the platform’s creators to get paid through “tipping, tickets or subscriptions” in the coming months.
Clubhouse has its challenges. Like other social media networks, it has faced criticism for objectionable content that was broadcast on its site. Last September, Clubhouse was hit with a flurry of negative publicity when some speakers perpetuated anti-Semitic stereotypes. The startup needs to invest more aggressively in trust and safety features and hire content moderators to mitigate harassment. There is also competition on the horizon with Twitter Inc. testing its own audio chat room feature inside its app called Spaces.
But it may be too little too late for other players. While Twitter’s new service does offer some differentiated features – including real-time transcriptions that appear on screen and the ability to share tweets to the room for discussion purposes – it is thus far largely siloed around a specific account’s followers. It lacks Clubhouse’s distinctive serendipity that lets people from diverse backgrounds meet and form their own connections through their own wanderings. Clubhouse also is at a stage where it is adding new innovations on a near weekly basis — including different room types, activity-based notification feeds and event calendars. It will be difficult for any other company to catch up.
Of course, the app has benefited from the pandemic as people look for ways to socialize while avoiding in-person interactions and outdoor activities. But Clubhouse usage may prove more durable than many believe after daily life returns to normal. It’s a convenient, frictionless way to meet new people through the intimacy of conversation and listen to conference-like events that otherwise might be difficult to attend in person.
Perhaps most importantly is the stunning level of usage and engagement. On a personal level, since installing Clubhouse I have noticed my time spent on the app is significantly higher than any other social network on my smartphone — more than TikTok, Twitter or Instagram. It is a sign of how appealing audio-based social networking can be. And judging from the activities of my friend list inside the community, I am not alone. I have little doubt once Clubhouse opens up to the general public, its user base can grow into the tens of millions. The social media giants should be concerned.
This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.
To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Beth Williams at firstname.lastname@example.org
India announces sweeping guidelines for social media, on-demand streaming firms, and digital news outlets – Yahoo Movies Canada
India announced sweeping changes to its guidelines for social media, on-demand video streaming services, and digital news outlets on Thursday, posing new challenges for small firms as well as giants such as Facebook and Google that count the nation as its biggest market by users.
Ravi Shankar Prasad, India’s IT, Law, and Justice minister, said in a press conference that social media companies will be required to acknowledge the request within 24 hours and deliver a complete redressal in 15 days. In sensitive cases that surround rape or other sexual nature, firms will be required to takedown the objectionable content within 24 hours.
These firms will also be required to appoint a chief compliance officer, a nodal contact officer, who shall be reachable round the clock, and a resident grievance officer. The firms will also be required to have an office in the country.
For social media companies, Prasad said they will be required to disclose the originator of objectionable content. “We don’t want to know the content, but firms need to be able to tell who was the first person who began spreading misinformation and other objectionable content,” he said. WhatsApp has previously said that it can’t comply with such traceability request without compromising end-to-end encryption security for every user.
Firms will also be required to publish a monthly compliance report to disclose the number of requests they received and what actions they took. They will also be required to offer a voluntary option to users who wish to verify their accounts.
The guidelines go into effect for small firms effective immediately, but bigger services will be provided three months to comply, said Prasad.
New Delhi has put together these guidelines because citizens in India have long requested a “mechanism to address grievances,” said Prasad. India has been working on a law aimed at intermediaries since 2018. This is the first time New Delhi has publicly shared an update on the specifics of the guidelines.
“India is the world’s largest open Internet society and the Government welcomes social media companies to operate in India, do business and also earn profits. However, they will have to be accountable to the Constitution and laws of India,” he said, adding that WhatsApp had amassed 530 million users, YouTube, 448 million users, Facebook’s marquee service 410 million users, Instagram 210 million users, and Twitter, 175 million users in the country.
Full guidelines for social media firms and other intermediaries. (Source: Indian government.)
For streaming platforms, the draft, which will be legally enforceable when it becomes a law, has outlined a three-tier structure for “observance and adherence to the code.” Until now, on-demand services such as Netflix, Disney+ Hotstar, and MX Player have operated in India with little to no censorship.
New Delhi last year said India’s broadcasting ministry, which regulates content on TV, will also be overseeing digital streaming platforms. 17 popular streaming firms had banded together to devise a self-regulation code. Prakash Javedkar, Minister of Information and Broadcasting, said the proposed solution from the industry wasn’t adequate and there will be an oversight mechanism from the government to ensure compliance of code of practices.
Streaming services will also have to attach a content ratings to their titles. “The OTT platforms, called as the publishers of online curated content in the rules, would self-classify the content into five age based categories- U (Universal), U/A 7+, U/A 13+, U/A 16+, and A (Adult). Platforms would be required to implement parental locks for content classified as U/A 13+ or higher, and reliable age verification mechanisms for content classified as “A”,” the Indian government said.
“The publisher of online curated content shall prominently display the classification rating specific to each content or programme together with a content descriptor informing the user about the nature of the content, and advising on viewer description (if applicable) at the beginning of every programme enabling the user to make an informed decision, prior to watching the programme.”
Digital news outlets will be required to disclose the size of their reach and structure of their ownership.
Industry executives have expressed concerns over the new proposed regulation, saying New Delhi hasn’t consulted them for these changes. IAMAI, a powerful industry body that represents nearly all on-demand streaming services, said it was “dismayed” by the guidelines, and hoped to have a dialogue with the government.
Javedkar and Prasad were asked if there will be any consultation with the industry before these guidelines become law. The ministers said that they had already received enough inputs from the industry.
This is a developing story. More to follow…
Australia passes law to make Google and Facebook pay media companies for news content – Financial Post
Australia will be the first country where a government arbitrator will decide the price to be paid by the tech giants if commercial negotiations with local news outlets fail
CANBERRA — The Australian parliament on Thursday passed a new law designed to force Alphabet Inc’s Google and Facebook Inc to pay media companies for content used on their platforms in reforms that could be replicated in other countries.
Australia will be the first country where a government arbitrator will decide the price to be paid by the tech giants if commercial negotiations with local news outlets fail.
The legislation was watered down, however, at the last minute after a standoff between the government and Facebook culminated in the social media company blocking all news for Australian users.
Subsequent amendments to the bill included giving the government the discretion to release Facebook or Google from the arbitration process if they prove they have made a “significant contribution” to the Australian news industry.
Some lawmakers and publishers have warned that could unfairly leave smaller media companies out in the cold, but both the government and Facebook have claimed the revised legislation as a win.
“The code will ensure that news media businesses are fairly remunerated for the content they generate, helping to sustain public-interest journalism in Australia,” Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Communications Minister Paul Fletcher said in a joint statement on Thursday.
The progress of the legislation has been closely watched around the world as countries including Canada and Britain consider similar steps to rein in the dominant tech platforms.
The revised code, which also includes a longer period for the tech companies to strike deals with media companies before the state intervenes, will be reviewed within one year of its commencement, the statement said. It did not provide a start date.
The legislation does not specifically name Facebook or Google. Frydenberg said earlier this week he will wait for the tech giants to strike commercial deals with media companies before deciding whether to compel both to do so under the new law.
Google has struck a series of deals with publishers, including a global content arrangement with News Corp, after earlier threatening to withdraw its search engine from Australia over the laws.
Several media companies, including Seven West Media , Nine Entertainment and the Australian Broadcasting Corp have said they are in talks with Facebook.
Representatives for both Google and Facebook did not immediately respond to requests from Reuters for comment on Thursday.
Facebook exploring potential news licensing agreements in Canada: source
By Moira Warburton
VANCOUVER (Reuters) – Facebook Inc is exploring potential licensing agreements in the coming year with Canadian media outlets and expanding its investment in local journalism initiatives, a source familiar with the company’s thinking said on Wednesday.
The move comes as the Canadian government is preparing to introduce legislation in the coming months, along the lines of the controversial Australian model that forces technology companies like Facebook and Alphabet Inc’s Google to pay media companies for content.
But the source said Facebook views the situation in Australia as unique.
“You’re looking at a country that is by and large dominated by one large media conglomerate that has a very heavy influence on government and government policies,” the source said, pointing out that most countries do not have that.
Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp owns two-thirds of Australia’s major city newspapers.
The conversations around licensing are taking place at a high level, and the source compared the potential licensing agreements to those Facebook obtained to use music in Instagram stories and reels.
The source, who is not authorised to speak about the matter publicly, declined to say which Canadian publishers Facebook would consider for licensing talks or how much it has budgeted.
Last week, Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault, in charge of crafting legislation, condemned Facebook’s decision to shut down all news sites in Australia for several days, and said it would not deter Ottawa from introducing new rules.
Facebook announced on Wednesday that it would raise its funding of news publishers to $1 billion over three years.
Canada‘s news media industry has come out hard against Facebook and asked the government for more regulation of tech companies, to allow the industry to recoup financial losses it has suffered in the years that Facebook and Google have been steadily gaining greater market shares of advertising.
(Reporting by Moira Warburton in Vancouver; Editing by Denny Thomas and Marguerita Choy)
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