Add podcasting to the Obamas’ post-White House résumés.
Spotify announced Thursday that it has struck a multiyear deal with Barack and Michelle Obama’s Higher Ground production company to produce a new line of podcasts.
Under the partnership, the Obamas will “develop, produce, and lend their voices to select podcasts,” Spotify said in the announcement, noting that “wide-ranging topics” will be covered. The company did not specify what those might be.
"We’ve always believed in the value of entertaining, thought-provoking conversation,” Barack Obama noted in a statement. “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.”
Michelle Obama said: “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. 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.”
The announcement noted the formation of Higher Ground Audio, a division that will fall under the Obamas’ larger Higher Ground production company.
The Obamas are expected to be heard regularly on the podcasts. Topics could range from serious to light; in addition to matters of policy, the couple has interests in areas such as the NBA and Harry Potter.
All Higher Ground content will be made available on the company’s ad-supported tier, allowing it to be free around the world, Spotify said.
Spotify chief content officer Dawn Ostroff called the Obamas “two of the world’s most important voices,” saying “it is a privilege to be working with them to identify and share stories that will inspire our global audience.”
Spotify hired Ostroff, a former executive at the CW, to beef up its original content offerings. The streaming company has been ramping up original podcasts as it competes with Apple for subscribers and the rank of the world’s top audio firm.
The deal continues what has been an intensive push into media for the Obamas in a way not seen with other former presidents. The Spotify deal offers a kind of audio equivalent to the couple’s Netflix partnership, which has been growing over the past year.
At the end of April, Higher Ground announced that the Netflix deal would spawn a variety of movies and shows, including a feature adaptation of Pulitzer Prize-winner David Blight’s Frederick Douglass biography; a fashion-world show from Callie Khouri depicting hurdles for women and people of color in post-World War II New York City; and an anthology series based on the New York Times’s “Overlooked” obituary series.