Barack And Michelle Obama Expand Their Media Empire With Deal To Produce Podcasts For Spotify

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Written by Dana Sanchez
Obama podcasts
President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama arrive to deliver a speech at College Green, Dublin, May 2011. Photo: Pete Souza, Executive Office of the President of the United States

Barack and Michelle Obama have signed a deal to produce podcasts for streaming service Spotify, saying it’s an opportunity to amplify voices that are too often ignored or silenced.

The Obamas plan to develop, produce, and participate in some of the podcast shows on Spotify in a multi-year agreement with Higher Ground Audio, an expansion of their Higher Ground production company, according to a press release.

“We’re thrilled to have the opportunity to amplify voices that are too often ignored or silenced altogether, and through Spotify, we can share those stories with the world,” Michelle Obama said in a prepared statement. “Our hope is that through compelling, inspirational storytelling, Higher Ground Audio will not only produce engaging podcasts, but help people connect emotionally and open up their minds—and their hearts.”

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Higher Ground struck a deal with Netflix in 2018 to create entertaining and inspiring content. In April, the company announced a lineup of Netflix projects including “Bloom,” about the challenges for Black people and women in New York’s fashion industry, and a film about abolitionist Frederick Douglass.

The Obamas have the ability to highlight underrepresented narratives, said
Spotify Chief Content Officer Dawn Ostroff: ” … not only will the Obamas be producing content, but … they will be lending their voices to this effort.”

Barack Obama is no stranger to podcasting. He was a guest in 2015 on the popular podcast “WTF with Marc Maron”, hosted by the comedian and actor. In 2017, former Obama White House staffers founded Crooked Media, which produces Pod Save America and other podcasts about politics, LA Times reported.

“We’ve always believed in the value of entertaining, thought-provoking conversation,” Barack Obama aid. “It helps us build connections with each other and open ourselves up to new ideas. We’re excited about Higher Ground Audio because podcasts offer an extraordinary opportunity to foster productive dialogue, make people smile and make people think, and, hopefully, bring us all a little closer together.”

Spotify has been on a podcast buying spree in 2019, paying about $200 million for podcast producer Gimlet and about $140 million for Anchor, a platform that helps creators produce and publish podcasts. In March, the Stockholm-based streaming service announced a deal to acquire Parcast, a storytelling podcast studio that has launched series about conspiracy theories, serial killers and cults.

The first Higher Ground podcasts are expected to debut in 2020, CNN reported.