Clubhouse vs Podcasts: Which Should Marketers Use in 2024?

In the crowded digital media landscape, audio has emerged as an increasingly important way to reach and engage audiences. Podcasts have steadily grown in popularity over the past 15+ years to become a mainstream medium, now reaching over 100 million Americans every month.

Meanwhile, social audio apps like Clubhouse burst onto the scene more recently, enjoying explosive growth during the COVID-19 pandemic as people sought out new ways to connect. Clubhouse gained 10 million users in its first year after launching in 2020.

So which audio format is better for marketers looking to connect with audiences in 2024 – traditional podcasts or upstart Clubhouse? Let‘s take a deep dive into the data and hear from experts on both sides of the debate.

Podcasts: The Steady Growth of On-Demand Audio

First, let‘s look at the current state of podcast listening. According to Edison Research‘s Infinite Dial report, in 2024:

  • 62% of Americans 12+ (around 177 million people) have listened to a podcast at least once
  • 38% (109 million) listen to podcasts monthly, up from 24% in 2020
  • Weekly podcast listeners average 8 episodes per week

The podcast audience also continues to diversify. While monthly listeners skew younger, with 49% ages 12-34, 35-54 year-olds are catching up:

Age % of Monthly Podcast Listeners
12-34 49%
35-54 35%
55+ 17%

This large, engaged listener base makes podcasts attractive to marketers. Podcast advertising spending surpassed $1.4 billion in 2023 and is expected to top $2 billion by 2025 according to the IAB.

"The intimate, conversational nature of podcasts creates a strong bond between hosts and listeners that extends to brand sponsors," says Krystina Rubino, Head of Offline Marketing at Right Side Up. "Podcast ads drive an average 10% lift in purchase intent."

Major brands like McDonald‘s, Amazon, and Goldman Sachs now run branded podcasts to reach audiences with owned content. Other popular marketing use cases include:

  • Interviews with thought leaders, customers or employees
  • Educational content showcasing expertise
  • Narrative storytelling focused on the brand
  • News and current events related to the industry

Take Shopify‘s "TGIM" podcast which profiles entrepreneurs and offers business tips to its target audience of merchants. Episodes routinely get over 1,000 downloads and the podcast recently hit 1 million total downloads.

"A podcast allows you to build trust and credibility by sharing valuable content with listeners consistently over time," says Jeremy Slate, founder of the Create Your Own Life podcast. "It‘s a direct line to your target audience."

Clubhouse: The Rapid Rise (and Fall?) of Social Audio

Launched in April 2020, audio-only social network Clubhouse quickly gained buzz for its real-time, ephemeral conversations. Users can drop into chat rooms to listen or participate in discussions on everything from tech and business to world affairs and entertainment.

At its peak in February 2021, Clubhouse had 10 million weekly active users. Enthusiasm began to cool in the following months, however:

As pandemic lockdowns lifted and competitors like Twitter Spaces and Spotify Greenroom emerged, Clubhouse downloads fell sharply from their peak, though 2024 has seen renewed growth. Some key Clubhouse stats:

  • 34 million total downloads as of January 2024
  • 6+ million monthly active users
  • 700,000 audio rooms created daily
  • Average user spends 11-22 hours per week on the app

The highly engaged Clubhouse community has attracted brands eager to join the conversation. Clubhouse says hundreds of companies have run campaigns on the app, including Politico, Pedigree, and Cash App.

"Clubhouse allows brands to connect directly with audiences via informal, intimate conversations that put a human voice to the company," says social media consultant Michelle Nati. "You can build authentic connections, gain valuable feedback and insights, and cultivate community."

To succeed on Clubhouse, many brands aim to provide value to the community vs. overtly promoting themselves. Some effective use cases include:

  • Hosting AMAs or panel discussions with company leaders
  • Participating in relevant rooms to share expertise
  • Sponsoring live shows hosted by influencers
  • Creating a branded club around a topic or initiative

For example, in July 2021 Square launched the Talking Squarely club focused on entrepreneurship and economic empowerment. Rooms regularly drew hundreds of live listeners and thousands of replays.

"Clubhouse is about active participation and adding to the conversation in a relevant way," says social audio strategist Abraxas Higgins. "Brands need to approach it with a ‘give first‘ mentality and be willing to experiment."

Which Should You Choose? Key Factors to Consider

Now that we‘ve looked at the state of play for podcasts and Clubhouse in 2024, how should marketers choose between them? Here are some key factors to weigh:

Production Effort and Cost

Podcasts require more upfront time and resources to get up and running. You need quality recording equipment, editing software, a hosting platform, and a publishing schedule. Costs can range from a few hundred to thousands of dollars per month for a professionally produced show.

Clubhouse has a much lower barrier to entry. All you need is a mobile device and the free app. Rooms can be started instantly with no advance planning. Of course, regularly hosting a quality show requires more effort.

"A podcast is like a TV show – it needs a lot of prep and post-production work to be great," says Eberhardt. "Clubhouse is more like going live on Instagram – it‘s raw and off-the-cuff."

Content Length and Format

Podcasts tend to be longer-form content, with episodes typically ranging from 20-60+ minutes. This gives you time to delve deep into topics and build a narrative arc.

Clubhouse conversations are more bite-sized. Individual rooms may only last 30-60 minutes (though some go much longer). The format is fast-paced and interactive, making it better for quick hits vs. in-depth discussions.

"With podcasts you‘re asking for a bigger time commitment so the content needs to be really compelling," says Slate. "Clubhouse is more forgiving since people can come and go as they please."

Audience Demographics

The podcast audience is slightly older and more evenly split between men and women compared to Clubhouse. Clubhouse users skew younger, more diverse and urban.

"Consider which format better aligns with your target customer profile," says Nati. "Podcasts may be better for reaching suburban moms interested in true crime, while Clubhouse may resonate more with Gen Z entrepreneurs."

Measurement and Attribution

Measuring the ROI of audio efforts remains a challenge. For podcasts, the key metric is downloads, which indicates reach but not necessarily engagement or conversion.

Clubhouse does not yet provide detailed analytics, so brands must track more basic data points like room attendees, raise hands and replays. Some have used vanity URLs or promo codes shared verbally to track conversions.

"Audio is a top-of-funnel medium, so don‘t expect immediate sales," says Rubino. "Focus on building awareness and affinity that pays off over time."

Discovery and Virality

It‘s harder than ever to get a new podcast discovered among the 2 million+ shows now available. Ranking in the Apple Podcasts or Spotify charts is extremely difficult without a major existing audience to tap into. Paid promotion on podcasting ad networks is often necessary.

Clubhouse makes it easier to gain organic visibility by participating in popular rooms and clubs. Consumers discover new brands more serendipitously while engaging in the app. Partnering with relevant thought leaders and influencers can drive virality.

"Going viral on Clubhouse requires being in the right rooms having great conversations at the right times," says Higgins. "It‘s an amazing feeling when you crack it but definitely a lot of trial and error."

The Optimal Approach: A Multi-Platform Audio Strategy

After weighing the pros and cons, the reality is that Clubhouse and podcasts can serve different but complementary roles in an audio strategy. Each offers unique benefits:

  • Podcasts are best for building long-term relationships with audiences through serialized, in-depth content
  • Clubhouse excels at generating buzz, sourcing real-time insights, and cultivating community through live interaction

Many brands find success by repurposing live Clubhouse content into podcasts and other owned channels. For example, meditation app Headspace records its club sessions and publishes the audio as podcast episodes. E-commerce platform Commsor pulls clips from its Clubhouse panels to share across social media.

Looking further ahead, the rise of social audio will likely spur more innovation and convergence in the space. Companies from Facebook to Slack to Discord are building Clubhouse-like live audio features. Spotify has integrated live audio rooms into its Greenroom app.

The podcast ecosystem continues to expand as well with exclusive content deals, premium subscriptions, and new audio formats like shortform "minipods."

As the landscape evolves, savvy marketers will take an experimental, multi-platform approach to audio. Those who find creative ways to engage audiences and drive measurable outcomes across live, on-demand and social will win the coming decade of sound.