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According to rumors that circulated across social media in early December, President Barack Obama is reportedly considering the launch of a digital media company after the end of his presidency. Among some of the ideas being floated: a Netflix-style live streaming platform, a digital media consultancy, or a digital media entertainment property.
While the White House has dismissed these rumors and reports, this wouldn’t be the first time that a major national political figure dabbled in the digital media space – former VP Al Gore famously launched the Current TV network in 2005 after being inspired by the growth of user-generated content. And, most recently, there’s been a suggestion that Donald Trump might launch Trump TV as some kind of grassroots way to connect with his base.
So what might a Barack Obama digital media company look like?
From a purely political perspective, the launch of an Obama-branded TV network – call it Obama TV – would make the most sense. President Obama has made the preservation of his legacy a major consideration, and with President-elect Trump promising to rip up everything Obama ever created – including, most famously, Obamacare – a national TV network or some form of video streaming platform would enable Obama to reach out to the Democratic base and lead the charge against Trump. In short, all the buzz around Trump TV may have given Obama the idea of launching Obama TV.
This is just pure speculation, but a politically inspired social network based on Facebook – call it ObamaBook – would be a way to ensure that all of the accumulated social media fan base that he built up over an eight-year presidency would have some kind of online outlet. Obama reportedly even met with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg at a major trade summit in Peru to discus some kind of media venture.
Of course, in many ways, we’re moving into uncharted territory. We’ve never had a president who was so versed in social media before, or a president who was so willing to try out different means of communicating with online supporters. Ronald Reagan may have been the “Great Communicator,” but he never had a chance to try out the ol’ Twitter machine.
And there’s one more factor to keep in mind – President Obama is still young enough (age 55), where he might have a brand new second act possible in his post-presidential career. Other sitting presidents who left the White House basically retired and left the public scene so that they could write their memoirs and build their presidential library.
There’s a sense that Obama has more ahead of him than just giving speeches – he needs to embrace a cause. And that’s why the idea of Obama launching a purely for-profit venture doesn’t seem to ring true. It’s almost more likely that he’ll launch some new kind of charitable philanthropic effort with a venture capital bent to it. In the world of Silicon Valley, this is known as venture philanthropy.
One idea could be a foundation much like the Gates Foundation that invests in charitable projects around the world, much like a venture capital fund might invest in startups. For example, one of Zuckerberg’s “big ideas” has been bringing the Internet to the Third World, and that sounds more like a digital media venture that Obama would enjoy – investing in global projects that use social media to connect people in amazing new ways.
So the world will wait and watch. Barack Obama has always been a natural in the digital media space, and it will be interesting to see what thinks might be a worthy follow-up to being a two-term president.