Startup Launches, Mental Health Breakthroughs, and Scientific Announcements on Clubhouse: Is the New Media Experience Hybrid?

By Elizabeth Walker Elizabeth Walker has been verified by Muck Rack's editorial team
Published on May 24, 2021

Clubhouse, the buzzy audio-only platform recently valued at 4 Billion, is well-known for its invite-only network of celebrities, entrepreneurs, and investors. Less well-known are the ways in which Clubhouse is driving a new type of media experience where the intermediary of a journalist or even stage for breaking news is removed from the equation. Instead, many founders, and innovators are sharing their news from startup launches to scientific breakthroughs directly with listeners in a format that feels both casual to the listeners and blended in with a hybrid entertainment experience that touches the corners of Hollywood, Silicon Valley, academia, and beyond. Let’s take a look at a Book Club hosted on Clubhouse as an example.

Samantha Rose Stein is a former TechCrunch Editorial Director, entrepreneur, and was named a World Economic Forum Media Leader in 2018.  She is also an early adopter of Clubhouse and the creator of the Wombkind Community, which explores the intersection of art, technology, and consciousness. Her audience of over 200k listeners and growing merges often siloed communities of entrepreneurs, creatives, comedians, neuroscientists, and consciousness experts under one digital roof. 

Samantha is creating an example for how this new media of live audio isn’t about replicating old models of delivering news on new-media platforms like Clubhouse, but rather helping people experience news and information in novel ways. For example, Her audio-based community is a place where people practice mindfulness led by practitioners, and then learn the scientific effects from world-renowned neuroscientists or read a best-selling book on ancient mind-altering religious sacraments with the author, and then discuss psychedelics as a modern mental health breakthrough with the top scientists and pioneers in the space alongside an entrepreneur launching her modem botanical wine company — reawakening the book’s historical pages into modern life. Brands are also experimenting with these communities — Samantha’s book club was recently picked up by audible. In the attention economy, competition is fierce — especially for people who stay engaged longer than a few seconds. The Book Club is an example of how to create engaging content in an age of distraction: The answer seems to be experiential community-based experiences.

Clubhouse, and its leading voices like Samantha, speak to a larger trend where people are looking for aligned communities and thought leaders to curate, and interpret information in what has become a sea of information overload. Science, as we know, is a bad storyteller. Combining scientific experts with creatives, who are storytellers by nature makes important scientific breakthroughs and innovation digestible. As people look to trusted sources for information on new media platforms like Clubhouse, which are part of a growing trend of live, social audio, they create knowledge graphs of who trusted voices are for different audiences across different topics. Samantha, for example, is both painter and digital artist, an entrepreneur and angel investor, a veteran trend-setter in early-stage technology, and a mental health advocate. 

Her knowledge graph would likely reveal a community interested in creativity, healing modalities, science, and emerging technology, and who view her as a go-to curator for these subjects across voices, products, and experiences. These knowledge graphs, when combined with a larger trend of declining trust of the media, and politicians, evidenced every year by Edelman’s trust barometer, show how modern technologies like distributed ledger technology, popularized by blockchain, and theories of systems change like liquid democracy, could lead to a future where trusted information isn’t brokered through media organizations, and even voting is no longer brokered through our current model of representative democracy, but instead through a decentralized symbolic network of voices trusted by communities, and who can even represent them to vote on certain subjects within political systems or communities. But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. 

If you’re not already on Clubhouse, here is a glimpse into Samantha’s Book Club experience. For Mental Health Awareness Month in May, The Wombkind Community launched their Book Club on Clubhouse with the New York Times’ bestseller  The Immortality Key: The Secret History of the Religion with No Name, a text that explores antiquity’s relationship to mind-altering religious sacraments. It took 12 years to write and the author, Brian Muraresku, still a psychedelic virgin, is deeply interested in the healing power of transformative experience. He narrates the audio-book with the palpable excitement of a modern Indiana-Jones whose search for truth takes twists, and turns that ultimately reshape our perception of history, and perhaps even psychedelics’ evolution towards being a modern mental health breakthrough. 

Who is participating and how does the experience take shape? It is clear from chatting with different community members that the aligned intersection of the community’s values center around creativity as a practice, a growth mindset, science as a form of inquiry, and exploration of nonduality. Community members contribute to the Book Club by taking turns reading sections of the book on weekday mornings alongside Samantha and the author. 

“It is all the things — hilarious, heartwarming, and gut wrenching, because community members take turns reading out loud a portion of the book with their real-time reactions to what they are reading, and then are offered space each morning to share their own personal life experience as it relates to nonduality, mental health, or religion,” Linh Pham, a regular book club contributor and Product Designer based in San Francisco explained, “I’ve made so many friends through this community by voice alone: We may know one another’s dark night of the soul journey, but have still never met in person.” Samantha, who is a PTSD survivor, healed in part through psychedelic-assisted therapy, and grew up in a religious family. This text bridges the use of mind-altering religious sacraments with the modern work of scientific pioneers like Rick Doblin, the founder of MAPS, whose work made possible the FDA trials for MDMA as a breakthrough therapeutic for mental health, recently on the front page of the NYTimes, and who also is a member of the book club. 

Listeners can engage with speakers real-time throughout the show, which one community member describes as if, “ Ghost Ranch, Ted, and Cirque Du Soleil birthed a dinner party meets podcast and you actually had an invite.” The book club discussion occurs every Tuesday evening where co-hosts lend a refreshingly diverse set of perspectives. The current book’s hosts are comedian Pete Holmes, author of Comedy, Sex, God, Brian Muraresku, author of the NYTimes Bestseller, The Immortality Key, Dr. Matthew Johnson, Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins and Associate Center Director for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research, Nana Meriwether former Miss America, former professional author, and entrepreneur who recently launched her Botanical wine company, Drink Cale, while on the show. The rotating special guests include Duncan Trussell, creator of Midnight Gospel, Alyson Stoner, actress and entrepreneur, Rick Doblin, founder of MAPs, and Candida Moss, Edward Cadbury Professor of Theology at Birmingham University to name a few.

Announcements are blended into the show organically. Last Tuesday, one co-host, Dr. Matthew Johnson, the world’s leading scientist in terms of publishing on psychedelic science announced he is now officially the first tenured professor at an academic institution, Johns Hopkins, with the world “psychedelics” in his title, signaling a huge shift towards the global scientific community’s relationship to psychedelics as a breakthrough therapeutic. The Tuesday prior, Nana Meriwether announced the launch of Drink Cale, a wellness startup bringing healthier alternatives to market for culturally entrenched experiences. Their first product to market is a low-alcohol content botanical wine, not too dissimilar from the botanical wines mentioned in the Immortality Key. Younger generations are consuming much less alcohol, and today if you do not drink you are often left out of a common social experience. Low alcohol content wines offer an alternative option that is healthier beyond the calories. Research now shows that alcohol consumption reduces the gray matter in our brains, the neuron density, that is what we are trying to increase through wellness practices like mindfulness. 

You can join the Book Club on Clubhouse here. The Book Club meets every morning at 8am PT/12ET to read together, and the featured discussion group members meet every Tuesday evening at 6pm PT/9pm ET. 

By Elizabeth Walker Elizabeth Walker has been verified by Muck Rack's editorial team

Elizabeth Walker is a contributor at Grit Daily. She covers topics like business, entrepreneurship, tech, and leadership.

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