Mark Cuban and Falon Fatemi’s latest undertaking is, according to Cuban’s on-site profile, “the future of podcasting.” There’s no shortage of apps that have made such claims in the past, but The Verge has explored what Fireside brings to the table, and it certainly sounds like it could shake things up.
Currently in beta on iOS and populated predominantly by podcasters and venture capitalist testers, it seems to be what you’d get if you crossed the live conversation platform of Clubhouse with a podcasting distribution platform like Anchor (which was purchased by Spotify back in 2019).
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Like Clubhouse, it’s all about live conversations where listeners can drop in to listen. While audience members can’t directly contribute unless invited to join the stage, they can react to what’s said with emoji, comments and "clapping," which is designed to help gauge audience reaction in the absence of physical proximity. As The Verge says, this audience participation seems to be the main point of differentiation with Clubhouse, and users can type comments or questions without being directly involved in the conversation for a more social experience.
Past recordings are saved for posterity and can be accessed at any time. Here, the creator can highlight key bits of the conversation that can easily be skipped to, and you can see who’s speaking via an avatar that appears. Rather neatly, moderators are marked with a gavel, as pictured below.
Blurring the line between this and podcasts is intro music that automatically welcomes people to each room, though apparently at this point it feels considerably more jarring than a fully edited podcast.
As for the Anchor comparisons, creators on the app have apparently heard that Fireside will let them distribute their recordings via RSS feeds to all the usual haunts, including Spotify and Apple Podcasts.
Whether this is distinct enough from existing solutions to flourish is an open question, and it’s entirely possible that Clubhouse’s sudden runaway success is the product of unique circumstances and happenstance. It’s hard to imagine the app taking off in the same way if the world weren’t deprived of real-world events thanks to pandemic restrictions, and if it hadn’t had many high-profile appearances from the likes of Elon Musk, Oprah Winfrey and Mark Zuckerberg.
All the same, it would be foolish to rule out anything from Cuban and Fatemi, especially when podcasts are growing in popularity all the time. It will be interesting to see how things progress when the app leaves beta and opens up for everyone.