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Robinhood competitor Public is launching in-app live audio programming

Robinhood competitor Public is launching in-app live audio programming


Another Clubhouse competitor

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Public, the trading and social networking app, is the next app to get into live audio. Like many apps before it, the company says it’s planning to roll out live audio features starting this week under the name Public Live. Unlike its competitors, like Clubhouse and Twitter Spaces, however, Public will initially program these chats with moderators it pays, meaning not just anyone can start a conversation. It’ll host about three events a week, and users will receive a push notification to join, along with a badge inside the app allowing them to hop into it. Topics might include coverage of an upcoming IPO, the day’s news, or analysis.

The first chat will be between Scott Galloway, who co-hosts the Pivot podcast and is an investor in the app, and Stephanie Ruhle, an NBC News senior business correspondent and MSNBC anchor. It’ll be live in the app this upcoming Wednesday and won’t be recorded for publish anywhere else. Other future hosts include Nora Ali, a former Cheddar News anchor, and Kinsey Grant, co-founder of Thinking is Cool and the former host of the Morning Brew Business Casual podcast.

An example of what a Public Live event badge will look like in the app.
An example of what a Public Live event badge will look like in the app.
Image: Public

In a chat with The Verge, Public co-founder Leif Abraham says the team plans to eventually allow more people to host live audio rooms, but it’s taking its time with the feature and wants to see how things go before opening it up. Crucially, the first iteration also won’t allow people to get onstage live and ask questions. They’ll instead be limited to emoji reactions.

Abraham says the core reasoning behind limiting the release at first is to keep the quality of the content “high” and also to effectively moderate by actually employing the moderators and programming the chats, as opposed to leaving it to app users who haven’t been vetted. (Although the chats won’t be recorded for distribution, he says they will be recorded on the backend for moderation and regulation purposes.)

Interestingly, Public’s moderators come from media backgrounds; two out of three have hosted business TV programs. He says audio made more sense for the app than live video because it doesn’t require as much setup or production costs. Also, listeners can tune in while doing other things on their phones.

Public Live won’t let just anyone moderate

The decision to build live audio into another app speaks to the broader push to integrate live audio into existing platforms rather than building it as a separate product. Companies like LinkedInFacebook, and Twitter see the feature as a way to augment their platforms, and Clubhouse, famously, is the main app that’s completely dedicated itself to live audio. For Public, Abraham says people are already using the app to chat about trading and stocks, so having conversations about finance just makes sense — despite other apps also often hosting similar chats.

“We are the place where they get their financial news,” he says. “We are the place where they learn about investing strategies, and therefore, we are the button that they think of when they want to dive into the stock market, or business strategy, or investing strategy, and so on.”

Clubhouse and other apps might host chats with randos who claim to understand the stock market and Bitcoin, but Abraham and his team are betting people are more interested in formal live programming that Public can guarantee will be well-moderated and from “trusted” sources.