Last month, The Verge broke news of Mark Cuban and Falon Fatemi’s new app Fireside, which promises to deliver a “next-gen podcast platform,” and today, we can provide a better sense of the app’s functionality and interface. It’s currently in beta on iOS with a limited number of testers, most of whom appear to work in venture capital or as podcasters. However, their chats are visible to anyone, even non-users, through a browser, and from this desktop view, as well as screenshots of the app that The Verge has viewed, we can get a sense of what Fireside is trying to achieve.
Broadly, the app is best described as a hybrid between Spotify’s Anchor software and Clubhouse. Although it prioritizes live conversation, like Clubhouse, it tries to make off-the-cuff conversations sound more professional. Intro music welcomes people into a room, for example, which is a nice touch, but it doesn’t exactly translate like it does during an edited podcast. The music, for now, sounds disjointed and out of place.
The broad emphasis, at least based on the conversations happening in the app, appears to be on how Fireside can help podcasters monetize their work through exclusive conversations or, in some cases, recruit them to Fireside for all of their podcasting efforts. The app encourages audience participation more than Clubhouse, in that users can react to conversations without being onstage, and they can type comments or questions.
Creators on the app say they’ve heard that the app will allow them to host their shows and distribute them through RSS feeds to Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and other podcast players, too, which is more aligned with Anchor than Clubhouse. One creator in a chat says they plan to use Fireside for hosting instead of their usual service.
Looking at the desktop view, users’ profiles include a photo, bio, and follower / following count. You can also view the rooms that user has hosted, as well as the ones they’ve participated in. The app natively records conversations, so you can listen to these past chats from the desktop. The app seemingly assigns an emoji to the archived chats, although it’s unclear how they’re chosen.
After you tap into a chat, you can press play on a conversation. You’ll likely immediately notice hold-like music at the start, which comes from a Fireside bot called waitBOT. The bot says it plays “soothing music for you while you wait for people to join.” You can also see the description of the event as a chyron along the bottom of the screen, as well as info, like how many people listened in and who hosted it.
A “jump” button allows you to skip to highlighted parts of the conversation, which the host chooses. As speakers change throughout the conversation, you’ll see their profile picture and name. Speakers with a gavel are moderators, while speakers with a crown are the hosts. Moderators and hosts can automatically mute people and welcome people to the stage.
Tuning into a live chat from the desktop is a little less thorough than the recorded conversations. You can only view icons and names, as well as the number of people listening. When someone’s microphone is on, their photo is fully opaque, and when they’re muted, it’s transparent.
From the app itself, which The Verge has seen in screenshots, users can “react” to conversations with emoji and sound effects. People can clap, for example, which shows up in the recorded conversations and solves for a problem Clubhouse users have run into: a silent room and no way to gauge how what they’re saying is going over.
Audience members can also choose an emoji and type a comment without jumping into a conversation directly. These comments and emoji will show up over participants’ heads as a thought bubble. Moderators or hosts can then type back or address comments during the chat.
If participants do want to join the live chat, they can request to join the stage by tapping a microphone emoji and submitting a written request.
For now, this is our best view of Fireside. Fatemi declined to comment for this story, and we don’t have a better sense of when the app might launch publicly. We’ll update this story if we learn more.