Barack and Michelle Obama’s production company Higher Ground is jumping aboard the podcast train with the couple announcing today that they’ll publish shows exclusively via the digital audio streaming giant Spotify.
The multi-year deal will have the Obamas “develop, produce and lend their voices to select podcasts, connecting them to listeners around the world on wide-ranging topics,” a statement from Spotify said. Higher Ground already has a deal with Netflix, but is now expanding to audio programming with Higher Ground Audio.
Spotify, Pandora and iHeartRadio are in an arms race to dethrone Apple as the top destination for podcasts. Each has earmarked the vertical as a significant area of growth and, as a result, all are adding exclusives shows to lure listeners to their respective platforms.
Spotify’s deal with Higher Ground will include ads, as all podcasts on the platform are monetized. It’s unclear what terms are, but popular shows typically command between $25 to $40 for every 1,000 streams; 70 percent of that goes to the show’s producer while the platform captures the rest.
The move might bode well for both Spotify and Obamas, especially as the 2020 presidential election draws near. Earlier this week, the Interactive Advertising Bureau said ad revenues on U.S. podcasts hit an estimated all-time high of $479 million in 2018, up 53 percent from the previous year. Additionally, the IAB’s report said that ad revenue is expected to grow 42 percent in 2019, with an estimated year-end total of $679 million.
“We’ve always believed in the value of entertaining, thought-provoking conversation,” Barack Obama said 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.”
An estimated 73 million people tuned in monthly to a podcast in 2018, up 2 percent, or nearly 1.8 million, from the previous year, according to Edison Research. The spread of smart speakers, connected vehicles and mobile devices is fueling podcasting's overall growth, according to Edison. Meanwhile, some podcast listeners have also morphed into so-called "power users," or people who tune in multiple times a month. This group has been growing each year, from 3.3 million in 2013 to 48 million last year, according to Edison.