Bill Clinton Turned Down $8M From Vocativ. This Could Be Obama’s Big Chance.

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By Heat Street Staff | 6:27 pm, December 2, 2016

Mic News reports that President Obama is eyeing a post-presidential career in digital media “and is considering launching his own video company.” Mic goes so far as to report that the President privately discussed the matter with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg at the recent APEC summit in Lima.

As a newly minted ex-President, Obama would presumably be in high demand from media companies hungry for the prestige and imprimatur his name provides. So what are the three most likely places where the future former president could land while he earns some much-needed dough and learns the media business? We’ve got the list:

VOCATIV

Wikileaks recently revealed that in 2013, former President Bill Clinton turned down an $8 million, two-year offer to be honorary chairman of the nascent media company that would eventually become Vocativ. Vocativ’s co-founders, the Israeli entrepreneur Mati Kochavi and New York rainmaker Marty Edelman, were flush with Arab cash from their security ventures in Abu Dhabi and wanted to buy a big name.

Vocativ purports to use a proprietary technology named “Verne” to mine the “deep web” to report the news. But three years after Clinton sent his regrets, the little-known site has been marked by low traffic and high staff turnover. Obama, presumably, could be a game-changer for the struggling operation.

If Kochavi and Edelman can still leverage their biggest advantage — their access to deep pockets in Abu Dhabi — they stand a good chance of landing the former president.

PROS: Obama loves data, and a role at Vocativ would marry his affinity for hard numbers with his interest in media.

CONS: If Bill Clinton was nervous about getting in bed with Kochavi, whom the progressive Jewish blog Tikkun Olam called “a mysterious, and even somewhat shady character,” it’s hard to imaging straight-laced Obama being any more comfortable. Then again, Arab money talks. Just ask Vivian Schiller, a former top exec at CNN, the New York Times, NPR, NBC and Twitter, who’s put her good name to use in a lucrative role as chair of Vocativ’s executive committee since 2014.

VOX

It’s hard to imagine a better fit for Obama than the “explanatory news” site, which has assiduously fawned over the President since its inception. Earnestly liberal and endearingly condescending, Vox would offer Obama the perfect home for his lectures and prognostications.

Obama could replace Ezra Klein as Vox’s leading voice of explanatory liberalism, hopefully relegating Klein to a less visible role. We think Obama would particularly enjoy Vox’s habit of making interesting stories really boring, because he knows better.

PROS: Likeminded sensibilities, first and foremost. But Vox is also located in Washington, where the Obamas plan to stay post-presidency so their younger daughter can finish out her time at Sidwell Friends School.

CONS: Can Vox come up with the money? As part of a relatively small fry operation, Vox’s Jim Bankoff doesn’t have Marty Edelman’s ability to turn on the spigot and let the Abu Dhabi money flow. No one expects Obama to work for cheap.

MIC

Yes, Mic itself! If anyone’s fawned over President Obama more gratuitously than Vox, it’s Mic co-founder Jake Horowitz, who actually bylined Friday’s piece about Obama and the media that’s getting all the attention. Earnest Mic has presented itself as the new voice of the millennial news generation with its short, simple and hopelessly liberal takes on the news. Mic’s biggest deficit, however, has been one of depth — can anyone really remember anything they’ve written that’s made an impression? — and President Obama would bring some much-needed editorial gravitas.

PROS: Common sensibilities, and a powerful way for Obama to reach out to millennials. Also, Obama would enjoy having access to Mic’s prodigious social media reach to get out the message as he tries to counter President Trump.

CONS: Mic has proven itself allergic to older media executives. Ask ex-NPR exec Madhulika Sikka, who left the top editorial job at Mic after only six months. Unlike Schiller who’s maintained her high-priced chairmanship at Vocativ for two years, Sikka was apparently not a fit for Mic’s culture. Another con for Obama — Mic recently had to discipline an employee who lied about attending a friend’s funeral so he could take time off to build a treehouse in Wisconsin. It’s not clear if Obama would be able to exercise his penchant for long vacations as a Mic employee.

 

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