With Twitter in Chaos, What is Plan B for a TwitterSpaces Alternative?
December 09, 2022
I am a huge fan of TwitterSpaces! I enjoy hosting and participating in live audio TwitterSpaces. In fact, I’m hosting one later today!
It’s a great system and service to have live audio conversations. Easy for people to join and use. Easy to manage in terms of moderation. Easy to promote and publicize, particularly with the scheduling, and because you have your existing network of Twitter connections. The “live bar” in the mobile apps also helps people discover your Space, as does Twitter’s algorithm in promoting the Space to your followers and others. The user interface works for me, although I do wish web browser participants could participate versus just listen. Live transcription is great, as are the recordings.
All in all, I really like the service and want to continue doing TwitterSpaces.
BUT… with all the (mostly self-induced) chaos happening at Twitter right now, and the fact that a good number (most? all?) of the TwitterSpaces developers were let go in all the layoffs, I do wonder how much of a future there is. I’ll keep using it… but will the service stop working some day? Do TwitterSpaces fit into whatever grand plan there may or may not be?
So the question is…for those of us who want to engage in live “social audio"... what are the alternatives to TwitterSpaces?
I am most intrigued by Reddit Talk as the service provides most all of the features of TwitterSpaces, with the addition that web browser users can be full participants in the Talk (unlike Twitter).
The user interface is similar to TwitterSpaces, particularly in the mobile apps. Raising hands and moderating users is a similar experience. As a moderator you can check out the potential speakers by looking at their Reddit profiles and their “karma” points (a measure of engagement on Reddit). You can easily bring people on stage - and just as easily remove them.
Reddit added a “sound board” before Twitter did, and it has some nice jazzy music you can play while waiting for a talk to start. Talks can be recorded and stay around indefinitely (versus 30 days on Twitter). You can schedule them in advance and easily promote their URL. Comments are integrated into the “post” for the talk.
There are three things I miss from TwitterSpaces. First is the lack of an ability to spotlight content during a Talk, as you can share tweets into a Space and thus focus attention on the tweet in the conversation. You can of course post this as a comment in the Reddit post and direct people there, which is almost better because it is easily accessible after the Talk is over. But it doesn’t have the same effect as sharing into a Space in terms of helping guide the conversation.
Second, there is no live transcription as there is in a TwitterSpace. From an accessibility point of view, I think the transcription is great.
Third, there is no easy way to get any kind of analytics about how many people listened to your Talk or participated. I mean, TwitterSpaces don’t have much either, but they at least tell you: 1) how many people have listened to your talk in total; and 2) how many people listened live. That’s at least something that can help you understand how much engagement you have.
Overall, though, I like the Reddit Talk experience a lot!
A challenge for some people will be that Reddit Talks can only be done with a “subreddit” (a community), and only initiated by a moderator of the subreddit unless the “mods” have authorized you as a user to create Talks. If you are already a Redditor, and have a subreddit with a following, this may not be an issue. And the good news is that anyone can create a brand new subreddit where they are the moderator. But if you are doing that, you are essentially starting over in creating a new social graph.
And some people may have a challenge because it’s… well… Reddit... and the site’s reputation for trolls and bad behavior affects many people’s views of the site. I’ve been a long-time Redditor and would argue that there are many strong, positive, and non-troll-infested communities… but I grant that it can be an issue.
LinkedIn Audio Events
Wait… LinkedIn has social audio? Yes, indeed, you can now host LinkedIn Audio Events (see also this PDF that walks through the service). I hosted an Audio Event the other day and it does provide a very basic audio experience. You set it up within LinkedIn as an event. You must schedule the audio event - you can’t just “go live” right at that moment, but you can schedule it for 5 or 10 minutes from the time you are creating the event… so that’s close enough. When you create the event, you can:
- Add a cover image related to your event
- Add a description with information about what you will be discussing
- List any speakers who will be participating from your LinkedIn connections. Apparently after they confirm they will appear in the event information. (I did not test this.)
Once you publish the event it goes out in your activity feed where your connections may see it.
The one struggle I had was that after I hit the publish button… I could not find the event! 🤦♂️
I was just back on my LinkedIn home page.. and couldn’t see my new event anywhere. I had to go into my profile and into my Activity Feed to find it again and join the event. Hopefully I just missed something in the user interface, but I found this confusing.
The event itself went fine. Two people I know saw the announcement in their LinkedIn feeds and joined in, so I was able to test a bit.
On the plus side, the audio sounded good, and the real-time transcription was pretty amazing. LinkedIn being the kind of site it is, it was also very easy to see the other people in the chat and whether you are connected or not - and then make those connections.
Being just another form of a LinkedIn “Event”, there are also analytics about how many people attended the event live, and also how many have viewed it over time. If you have more than 10 attendees, it seems you will get demographic info about the jobs, industries, locations, etc., which makes sense given that LinkedIn has all of that.
One negative for me was that it seems you can only be in the Audio Event once as yourself. I started out in the web interface and then thought I’d join on the LinkedIn mobile app. Doing so kicked me out of the web interface.
While this may sound strange to want to do, and was probably NOT on the LinkedIn developer’s requirement lists, it’s actually been enormously helpful for both TwitterSpaces and Reddit Talks to be able to have yourself in the session on two different devices. Yes, you need to adjust volume and muting so you don’t create feedback loops, but it can be helpful operationally.
Anyway, this is just something to know if you try LinkedIn Audio Events.
Other differences are that, as LinkedIn notes on a help page:
At the moment, Audio Events cannot be recorded or replayed after the event has ended. Audio Events have no video, screen sharing or text chat.
Now, while you don’t have a live text chat, you can leave comments on the event page in LinkedIn, in a similar fashion to a Reddit Talk or replying to the Space on Twitter, so there is a way
The other services all do offer recordings, and perhaps this is something LinkedIn will develop over time.
Another note - Audio Events are only available right now for individuals on LinkedIn, not for pages that organizations and companies have.
Otherwise, it has many of the same features as the others, as described in the “Host an Audio Event” section of a help page. There’s a maximum of 17 speakers (which is plenty, to me) and basic controls to bring someone on stage and off.
One would think that, with LinkedIn being all about establishing and maintaining your professional reputation, there would be fewer moderation issues with regard to trolls and people seeking to disrupt a session (versus Twitter Spaces or Reddit Talk).
Without the recording feature, I’m not personally interested in doing as much with LinkedIn Audio Events… but they could be an option.
Once upon a time (well, in 2020), an app launched called “Locker Room” to host live conversations about… sports! It was then acquired by Spotify who renamed it first to “Greenroom” and then to “Spotify Live”. (Read the history.) I used it a number of times while it was Greenroom and it was a decent service, although only accessible through the mobile app.
It’s not clear to me whether this remains a viable option. Back in April 2022 when Spotify renamed it to Spotify Live, they also announced live sessions would be merged into the main Spotify app. The theory was that the hundreds of millions of Spotify users could find and listen to live sessions. People would still need to use the separate app to participate in the live sessions, but discovery would be easier. They still mention his on their “live on Spotify” web page. Spotify also said it would be streaming its original live events through the main app.
Eight months later, I’m not sure how this is working. When I go into the main app on my iPhone, I can’t find any way to see the “Live on Spotify” items. And when I go into the Spotify Live app, it’s a dead zone. There were only four live “rooms” and they only had one or two people in them… and in the time I was in them, I didn’t hear any audio! Now, I was doing this early in the morning US Eastern, but I would have expected some European activity. There are some rooms scheduled over the weekend, and perhaps they’ll have audiences.
But right now, I’m not getting the vibe that it’s a strong option.
I could, of course, return to Clubhouse, where the whole "social audio" thing emerged in 2020 in the midst of the pandemic.
I could, but part of the reason I left Clubhouse was because it was completely rebuilding a social network, and I have already spent the time doing that in other services. What I like about TwitterSpaces is it leverages my existing social graph on Twitter. Similarly, Reddit Talk leverages the membership of a given subreddit, and LinkedIn leverages your existing connections.
Plus, as has been outlined in many posts, Clubhouse has had a range of mis-steps and issues. When I go into the app it has a ghost town feel to me. They did finally add web listening, but like TwitterSpaces on the web, you can’t really engage.
I just don’t see Clubhouse as a really viable option for me. Maybe it will work for some of you.
So.. what is Plan B?
I don’t know. Of the options I outlined above, I’m going to continue experimenting with Reddit Talk, and I’ll be curious to see if LinkedIn adds recording capability.
Overall, though, I hope that TwitterSpaces can continue. I’ve noticed that Elon Musk seems to enjoy participating in Spaces. He had one last Saturday with over one million listeners! So perhaps he’ll work to ensure that there are appropriate developers and engineers to keep it all working.
We’ll see! In the meantime, I’ll keep my ears open...
What do you think could be a good alternative?
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