I write about the social impact of entertainment and how media can be used for good. Views are my own.

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The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Image by PA, via Sussex Royal Instagram

Podcasting for Social Change as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, are both tremendously influential in their own right. With their followership, they have a huge opportunity to impact the world in a meaningful way. Not only do they have the social capital to influence different beliefs and behaviors, but they also have the political clout and relationships to drive matters related to policy reform and international security. With their move to Los Angeles and the launch of their new podcast Archewell Audio, I’m excited to see how this couple uses their platform and newfound independence for good.

Hang on, Catch Me up – They Moved to America?

About a year ago, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex stepped down from their positions as “senior” royals for reasons that are still unclear. NBC News reports that the couple’s often unfair media attention may be partly to blame. Vanity Fair, on the other hand, reports that Harry wanted out of the spotlight the whole time. Since then, the couple has relocated to the Los Angeles area, where they aim to become “financially independent, while continuing to fully support Her Majesty The Queen.”

The term “financially independent” led many to speculate how exactly the royal couple was planning to do that. Was Meghan going to return to acting? Was Harry going to take on a new role in defense or foreign policy? Well, in December, we finally got a small glimpse into what the two had been working on.

Introducing: Archewell Audio

It seems Meghan and Harry are just the latest to join Spotify Studios with their very own podcast titled Archewell Audio. The deal with Spotify has them joining the likes of Michelle Obama as Spotify continues to invest in original and exclusive content.

In the podcast’s introductory trailer, sprinkled between the couple’s fun banter, Meghan and Harry describe their passion for meeting people and hearing their stories. They also lay out the project’s primary objective: to bring forward different perspectives and voices, some of which you maybe hadn’t heard before, in order to find common ground and drive change.

Archewell Audio, the Spotify exclusive podcast, aims to build community through shared experience, narratives, and values.

Driving Social Impact Through Podcasts

The mission to find common ground is a great one, but there’s a huge risk that this podcast could turn into an echo chamber. We have plenty of those already. In the first episode, the 2020 Archewell Audio Holiday Special, the Duke and Duchess played it quite safe. The episode shares stories from high profile guests including Elton John, Deepak Chopra, Stacy Abrams and more, gathering their reflections on the past year. You can imagine the stories shared were generally un-opposing and uncontroversial, underscoring the risk that this podcast will end up preaching to the choir.

In future episodes, I’d love to see more active debate and disagreements that culminate in identifying shared interests, despite true differences in thoughts, opinions and perspectives. That would fill a huge void that exists in the content space today, and would be a major step forward in terms of building a unified, collective sense of humanity. If Meghan and Harry are serious about surfacing common ground between diverse communities, this is the approach they’ll need to take.

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Precursor to a Diversified Media and Entertainment Conglomerate

From an impact perspective, subject matter is just one vector of measurement. A second vector to consider with impact is scale. As it stands, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex made the move of branding their platform Archewell Audio, underscoring the audio. Only 55% of Americans listened to a podcast in 2020. In contrast, about 76% of Americans read at least one book, and all Americans watch an average ~2.5 hours of television per day.

Audio is just one of countless media, and there’s an opportunity for the Duke and Duchess to both expand and diversify their media and entertainment holdings. Fortunately, they seem to be doing just that. A few months ago, the couple signed a multi-year production deal with Netflix, and Prince Harry is reportedly working on a mental health series with Oprah Winfrey, although that looks to be delayed.

Extending the Archewell brand to television, film and publishing could propel the royal couple into the same company as Oprah herself. Her holdings in Harpo Studios, the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN), and O, The Oprah Magazine, enable her to reach millions of people through a diversified portfolio of uplifting content. I bet Prince Harry and Meghan Markle could do the same, and in fact, I think it would be a huge shame if they didn’t.

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Ultimately, there are still a ton of unknowns as it pertains to Archewell Audio. Will Meghan and Harry truly bring forward differing perspectives and surface common ground? Will their work end at podcasts, or will their other entertainment projects flourish and grow? In any case, with unanswered questions come a myriad of opportunities, and I’m looking forward to seeing what the Duke and Duchess have in store.

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