Barack and Michelle Obama’s production company, Higher Ground, has formed a partnership with Spotify to produce exclusive podcasts for the Swedish audio-streaming platform’s global user base of hundreds of millions.

The companies announced the multi-year deal in a statement last week, explaining that the former President and First Lady would “develop, produce, and lend their voices to select podcasts, connecting them to listeners around the world on wide-ranging topics”.

Higher Ground, which the Obamas founded in 2018, already has a partnership with Netflix, but the deal with Spotify will involve a new entity called Higher Ground Audio, which will concentrate on the move into podcasting.

“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,” said President Obama.

“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,” added Michelle Obama.

The statement did not disclose how many podcasts will be produced for Spotify, the extent of the Obamas’ direct involvement, nor the financial terms of the deal.

But Advertising Age noted that the deal will include advertising because all podcasts on Spotify are monetised with popular shows typically commanding between $25 to $40 for every 1,000 streams.

Spotify, which claims to have more than 217 million monthly active users, is determined to expand its reach into podcasting, which is currently dominated by Apple.

Speaking at the SXSW 2019 event in Texas earlier this year, Spotify’s chief content officer, Dawn Ostroff, said: “Becoming the world’s number-one audio platform is a big mandate for us. And podcasting obviously plays a big role in that.”

Separately, Bloomberg reported last month that the company was testing a new version of its app to make podcasts more prominent and as accessible as its music.

And news of its partnership with the Obamas came in the same week that the Interactive Advertising Bureau and PwC, the professional services firm, reported that podcast adspend in the US grew 53% last year to reach $479.1m and could climb further to $678.7m in 2019.

Sourced from Spotify, Advertising Age; additional content by WARC staff