1. Social Media

The Clubhouse Dilemma

I’ve been itching to write a piece about my early foray into Clubhouse, the “it” app that launched out of Silicon Valley this spring and has become the most coveted ticket since someone on Netxdoor said there were 10 containers of Lysol Wipes at the Walgreens on 28th and Park this April.

And then came The Social Dilemma, that docudrama that makes all of us in Silicon Valley and on Madison Avenue wonder which of us deserves to be more reviled.

I finished watching it, I started deleting apps, and then more. I got some notifications over the weekend and turned them off. I can’t quite go the Jaron Lanier route of deleting my social accounts, but I appreciate the reminder to take more control as a consumer. The end credits of Dilemma (cue the world’s dullest-ever spoiler alert) were the best part, with the interviewees’ best tips for living your best, less tech-manipulated life.

One of my most-read newsletter editions came in August 2019 when I told readers how to “Cure Your Phone Addiction in 10 Easy Steps.” It is mostly serious advice taken to new degrees of absurdity written with the joie de vivre of someone not enduring a global pandemic.

Dilemma has few revelations, if any, but it’s told from the perspective of some of the people responsible for engineering our addiction to digital media and coming up with the business models that made it so profitable.

What Dilemma needs is a sequel. Along with the tips at the end, right before that is another memorable stretch (I can give away the whole movie because Casey Newton spoils the entire movie in every one of his daily columns and has been doing so for years). Various interviewees say how long they think it will take to fix all the things they said that were broken, with most – even Lanier, who is the most cynical of the lot – saying that there will be solutions in our lifetime. Lanier says something like, “There will, because there have to be – or else…” Don’t make me rewatch it to get the exact quote.

There aren’t any solutions though. None. More people deleting Facebook and Twitter accounts can trigger social contagion and make it more socially acceptable to disconnect form such apps, but that alone won’t bring about societal change.

As section dividers, the film displayed a lot of the most overused quotes about technology. I was able to finish them all before they fully appeared and felt smug; it’s like someone from Liverpool completing Beatles lyrics. The money quote in the film was one I’ve quoted here before about how if you’re not the customer, you’re the product.

What is the solution for that? Is Facebook going to charge for any of its software products? Will Google charge for search and Gmail? As I write this column while binge-watching Cobra Kai (really – I even got that “Are you still alive?” warning during S1:E5) and after making some purchases through Amazon where I’m a Prime subscriber, do subscriptions make people any less vulnerable?

If anything, hooking consumers with subscriptions gives people a license to indulge more because then it feels like getting your money’s worth. I’m not binge-watching Kai; I’m amortizing my monthly investment for a lower price paid per minute of consumption.

What are those solutions?

I don’t know. But I’ll tell you what isn’t the solution: Clubhouse.

You knew I’d get back to that, right?


Well, here we go. Let’s bring it on home.

Clubhouse is impressive.

Everything about it is impressive.

The demand to get in is impressive.

The Valley pedigree is impressive.

The people you run into there are impressive, except for a few like me who you wonder how they got in.

The execution of an audio-only community platform where members can join or host events is impressive.

The user experience is impressive.

The way people greet new members in custom chat rooms is impressive.

The events members schedule that function as group chats or panels is impressive.

One friend’s first comment to me was how NFL players keep showing up to his events. The CEOs, CMOs, and others taking part – you get it. I’m impressed.

There is no shortage of what you can learn from the Clubhouse experience and from the people you meet there.

As impressive as all of this is, I find it equally oppressive.

The notifications are oppressive.

The FOMO is oppressive. There are always rooms you should join, and if you meet several people there or know many already, you will get constant notifications about what they’re up to.

If you dial down the notification frequency, you dial up FOMO. And even if you choose the setting for the second-fewest notifications on their five-tier scale, it’s a bombardment.

The time needed to capitalize on Clubhouse feels oppressive. It involves sitting through a lot of conversations of people talking and talking and talking and saying very little. Many of these are like hourlong podcasts where there’s five minutes of brilliance in there, but will you even hear that when it’s 55 minutes of people hanging out while thinking out loud?

The notion of who Clubhouse benefits most is oppressive. I was told by a friend that Clubhouse Standard Time is Pacific Standard Time. The late afternoon and early evening slots PST seem particularly buzzy. Who does that leave out? Most notably anyone with after-school or evening childcare or eldercare responsibilities – or people who don’t have such obligations but prioritize family time.

Clubhouse also benefits those with a lot of time to either participate or multi-task. It takes a lot of time there to build relationships, and if you don’t have a ton of time to begin with, then it feels like you’re losing out from the start and never quite catching up. You’re the transfer student who has to work five times as hard to make friends when you already have so much else you’re trying to get a grip on.

I wonder how the platform will balance exclusivity with expansion. I wonder this about Lunch Club too, which isn’t anywhere near that exclusive but can’t have anybody and everybody on there to stay useful. That’s fodder for another column. I also keep confusing their names and want to call them collectively Lunch Clubhouse.

Clubhouse feels like a very good product built by people with great intentions that can fall victim to so many of the darker scenarios in the documentary. If you take away all the notifications and lessen the investment required of people’s time, Clubhouse doesn’t work.

To make it work, how do you balance the impressive with the oppressive?

That sounds like –

Wait for it! –

A Social Dilemma!


PS: Since LinkedIn remains so good at sharing updates, I don’t have much of a dilemma sharing that I took on a new project. I’ll share some more updates about what I’m doing in the context of some bigger trends and ideas the next two weeks.

I remain committed to building out the Serial Marketer consultancy generating demand for startups and agencies and the Serial Marketers community now connecting 1,500 incredible professionals. Thanks all who expressed support and curiosity about the role; I’m responding one by one, and I’m happy to discuss any of this with you. Real community and relationships mean so much, and even some of the most troubled platforms can still be a source of so much good.

PS 2: Check out two more SpeedUp events on Upstream September 30 at 6pm and October 15 at 12pm. We’re testing new times to accommodate different schedules.


I’m trying a new section with some quick recommendations and observations. Let me know what you think, and share any of your recommendations.

ReadingThe Oxygen Advantage by Patrick McKeown and, when I want to relax, Dune by Frank Herbert

Listening toThe Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe, which is eerily relevant when walking through Manhattan these days

WatchingCobra Kai is a damn near perfect TV show and relentlessly satisfying.

TechApollo.io is useful and cost-effective for both lead list development and sending outreach sequences (see more tech in my regularly updated guide to 100+ resources)

Moment of Gratitude: Parents watching schoolteachers practice their craft via streaming video will be one of the few positive things people remember from the pandemic years from now. Thank you, teachers. Welcome back.


My friend and former schoolmate Michael Friedland shared a post about Dilemma from the lens of his experience as a magician. This is one of the best takes you’ll read about it, as you’ll also learn more about the art of magic. I encouraged him to share it more widely and hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Speaking of sharing… 

I’m repeating this added note of thanks goes to Chris Gorges, who set the all-time record for subscriber referrals and made me look up what the higher reward tiers are. He’s one of my favorite connectors whose involvement has made an outsized impact in Serial Marketers’ success.

Thanks also to Don SteeleRachel PasquaMatt WurstJaimee KniffenWilliam AlvarezWendy Weatherford MarksDavid KohlbergWilliam AlvarezDuc Luan DamGina Waldhorn, and Mike Marzano for spreading the word recently.


Please send over any events you’re hosting or attending, and I’ll add them to the list. All events below are virtual, and all times are EDT.

Tuesdays, 3pm
-9/29: Anna Bager, President & CEO of Out of Home Association of America (OAAA)
-10/6: Katie Perry, VP Marketing, Public.com
-10/13: Lindsay Stein, CEO, Today I’m Brave
Request access to RSVP: 

9/24, 10am
From my friends at Zembula: “Customer emails that update at the moment of every open with the latest status of their shipment are becoming a key tactic for ecommerce brands. Key benefits include reducing expensive calls to their call center, increased customer loyalty, and delighting customers who increasingly want, and expect to know exactly when their packages will arrive at home. Join Robert Haydock, Co-founder and CEO of Zembula, and Diane Arthur, Director Of Customer Success of Zembula, in this webinar.

September 30, 6pm
Join the virtual 1:1 rapid-fire speed-meeting event to connect with fellow Serial Marketers, hosted by the Upstream app.

September 30-October 1
We’ve partnered with the Ascent Conference to help bring startups to the largest gathering of VC’s in 2020. Ascent is a 2-day fully virtual conference that provides founders from all sectors with access to the knowledge and connections needed to grow their companies and careers.
*General Registration
Register with code SERIALGENERAL to get in free. 

*Startup Registration
Register with the code SERIAL95 for 95% off (plus the other 5% is refunded after the event)


October 1, 1pm
Thanks to Michael Bendit for making this happen:
Are you looking for a new job or know someone who is? If so, please register for a free webinar on October 1st at 1pm ET on optimizing your LinkedIn profile for a successful job search, presented by David Alto of AltoAdvance. This event is co-sponsored by the Trusted Referral Network and Serial Marketers.

October 6-7
There are free passes, plus upgrades. “Everyone knows CMX Summit is the flagship event for the community industry. This year, we’re planning to bring together 10K community professionals from all over the world to participate in two days of facilitated discussions, powerful presentations, hands-on workshops, and interactive experiences.”

October 7, 6pm
First Wednesday keeps going strong. We have dozens of people RSVPing for this fun NYC tradition that is now open to anyone virtually. Len Bilello might even by you a drink.

October 7-9
I’m a big fan of NYCML, and this year’s event is free: “This year’s speaker line-up features some of the brightest minds in media and tech, including Tristan Harris, Andrew Yang, Nina Jankowicz, Cory Doctorow, and Jay Rosen. Through thought-provoking discussions, engaging workshops, and innovative demos, attendees will be at the forefront of change as we delve into the most pressing issues of this pivotal moment in history. Reserve your FREE tickets today! #BuildTheFuture2020”

October 15, 12pm
Join the virtual 1:1 rapid-fire speed-meeting event to connect with fellow Serial Marketers, hosted by the Upstream app.

October 19-23
This is an annual event series by Kite Hill PR that is going virtual, and they always get a terrific speaker lineup. Register now!

October 27-28
I’ll be speaking at this one and am excited about the roster they’ve put together: “Soft Land Expo: USA Edition (SLEUSA) is a bi-directional event that will connect both international companies seeking to enter the U.S. market and U.S. companies seeking to internationalize to global markets with key agencies, resources, and service providers to support their success.”

November 5 / November 12
This group is amazing. Check them out. “We have a trust problem in the marketing and advertising industry. Over the past 15 years, as new distribution mechanisms like social, disciplines like content marketing, or initiatives like diversity and inclusion emerged, we silo’d. We continue to silo, not integrate–while we watch the world innovate. This compromises brand experience, and, in turn, threatens brand trust. Big Yellow Think Tank seeks to advance collaboration across brand experience. By leveraging this abrupt shift in the world, we will reimagine the way we work and serve brands. Big Yellow Think Tank is ready to set a new standard and we need your voice. Our first initiative? A virtual hackfest.”

November 19
“Each year, CMI produces our signature LGBTQ Marketing & Advertising Symposium (now in our 13th year) for marketing/advertising/communications professionals. The event is held in collaboration with, and hosted by Google NYC.”

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