Social Audio Startup Swell Skips Real-Time Chat for Vocal Postcards
San Francisco-based startup Swell launched a new social audio platform this week at SXSW. Unlike the real-time voice conversations on Clubhouse, Swell is built around posting standalone audio clips of up to five minutes for other users to listen to later. The audio can be shared with a closed group or shared publicly in miniature podcasts called Swellcasts that anyone can respond to in kind.
Swell released its platform on iOS and Android apps, where users can set up accounts and start recording audio clips to share, augmenting them with photos and links as well. The ‘asynchronous audio’ model makes Swell stand out from Clubhouse, without the need for people to be online at the same time to communicate. Users can browse through public posts and anything shared with them by their friends when they want to, similar to Twitter or Facebook. Swell also provides help with promoting the public Swellcasts on the app and through the free personal Swellcast pages provided by the company. You can see how Swellcast publishing works in the video up top. There’s also a widget for embedding the audio clips on a website. The startup is planning to bring in revenue by charging for Swellcasts and better production and editing tools.
“Swell is democratizing voice by enabling any-time audio conversations,” Swell CEO Sudha Varadarajan said in a statement. “While most social audio companies are focused on real-time audio chat, Swell frees up its users to keep talking on their own time. It’s easier to stay connected with friends, family, and co-workers when you don’t have to coordinate schedules. The asynchronous audio format also results in more thoughtful replies and to encourage meaningful discourse, we don’t have any ads on the platform.”
Social Audio Expansion
Swell is arriving as the social audio market has really exploded. Clubhouse passed 10 million users in late February, and the users have been experimenting with ways of using the platform, particularly in Russia, where Tinkoff Bank set up its Oleg voice assistant to be the first voice AI on Clubhouse. The startup has been pursuing new ambitions of its own, such as supporting show makers with the Creator First Accelerator. Rival platforms have also started popping up. Startups like Quilt and new platforms from tech giants like Twitter Spaces and the Instagram Live Rooms are expanding the social audio scene at a rapid pace.