Content Is Queen | The Community Amplifying Underrepresented Voices

Are you interested in starting a podcast, or do you want to find a podcast that represents you? Content Is Queen is the right avenue for you, this group of media gurus empowering marginalised communities and giving them the tools they need to launch their own platforms. Last year, Content Is Queen launched their new podcast studios in the heart Peckham and another in Somerset House with a microgrant fund of 20,000 for unrepresented podcasters. It’s no surprise that they won gold at the 2021 Lovie Awards in Podcasts: Diversity, Equity & Inclusion.

We were kindly invited to the launch of the Content Is Queen studios led by CEO Imriel Morgan, who gave an inspirational heartfelt speech to the attendees. Imriel has spent more than 5 years attracting award-winning podcasts to our community such as The Log Books, Surviving Society and Shade to name a few.

This summer we also had the honour of attending Content Is Queen’s grand summer event, the International Women’s Podcast Festival, in partnership with Pinterest, uniting the global community of female innovators and leaders in podcasting, audio and radio. It was an exhilarating experience we walked out of the event with a better understanding of the industry and a clearer purpose.

Before the festival, we had the pleasure of speaking to CEO Imriel Morgan on zoom about all things podcasting.

What interested you in the world of audio, and in particular podcasts? 

It’s so different from when I started, in 2014 I was first made aware of podcasts. I was seeing someone who actually later became my Co-Founder for another company I was running, but he was really into podcasts. He was listening to The Brilliant Idiots, The Read, and like The Combat Jack Show. It all came from this one network within America, which basically only had African American shows. 

I used to hear in the background at home and didn’t really understand what people were listening to. It just sounded like radio to me, so I didn’t really pay it any mind. My colleague at work was like, “I’m listening to this new podcast called Serial. Have you heard it? It’s amazing.” And I was like, “Podcasts? What? No, what is that?” I actually listened to Serial on my computer, I didn’t know you can listen to podcasts on your phone. This is again, 2014 – I searched Serial Podcasts on Google, and it blew my mind. I was like, what is this? How am I so engaged, and so gripped by story, and I see nothing. You’re just hearing these personal stories.

Sarah Koenig does a fantastic job of narrating, it’s so intimate, I feel like I’m literally right there. It was insane, it was revelatory, actually, it completely opened up like new pathways in my brain, to how I could consume content. At the time, I was becoming a content marketer, which was still a new thing in 2014, so it was like a completely new way of doing things. That was pretty much how I started to understand why my partner was so into them, because suddenly you can relate, you’re connected, you’re kind of intimately linked with a story and the person behind the stories. 

My partner at the time was trying to build a podcast network, and he really wanted it to be British focussed, bringing predominantly black British people to the space. When I joined it was really about making media representation better for black British people, but also by extension, people of colour, which was the acceptable term at the time.

I started thinking, how do we make media representation better, because all we’re getting is like council estates and drugs, or we’re getting like footballers and dancers, – where is the nuance? Where is the kind of different ways of thinking and different interests? How do we bring us into history and to the theatre and the arts? Like how do we bring a different face and a different voice to these spaces? So that was my first foray into it, and I’ve been in it ever since. I think it’s my 7th year working in podcasting. 

Content Is Queen is a brilliant name as well for the company. What got you round to creating it, like the name and then the company itself? What was the goal behind it? You spoke about it before, but I’d love for you to get more in depth with me about it.

Oh, so that was a different company that was with the ShoutOut Network, which was a diverse Podcast Network, and then whilst at the ShoutOut Network, we decided that we wanted to create a festival. we decided that we wanted to create a festival. Basically like no one was taking diversity in podcasting seriously, but we were in the press, and being very vocal about the fact that no one was kind of giving us attention. No one was kind of paying attention to the shows, we were genuinely like, 1 – 5 like black British podcasters at the time we started. And then by like, 6 – 9 months in that number had crept up towards like 25 to 30 – 2 years later and it was 60. 

We were part of a catalyst of change with different voices entering the space. People seeing that they could also do it too. And that actually, you can have like really big bulk conversations. The ShoutOut Network did a massive festival that celebrated black British people and African Americans, and we bought over some of those network shows that my partner at the time really admired. This included The Brilliant Idiots of Charlemagne, The Good, The Friendzone, BuzzFeed’s Another Round with Heben and Tracy. I think in total, there was 16 live shows happening that day, all of whom were from a diverse or underrepresented background majority of them being black British. 

That was all successful in that it was massive loads, people came out to support it. And it was just like the first of its kind there was no like, quote unquote, black podcast festival. But it also was a really challenging festival in that it, it meant that we lost loads of money on it because we just didn’t know what we were doing. But the year after, I was like, well, actually, no one’s really celebrating if we kind of, like bring this back down. No one’s really celebrating women in podcasting. There’s not really a space or an avenue where I see us being celebrated for our contributions, like I see there’s loads of awards, and those awards are constantly being dragged for not being representative. There’s not there’s very very few if any people of colour being recognised at all. 

On top of that, women are just not getting a look in at these awards ceremonies, so we created the women’s podcast festival for the UK and the name Content Is Queen came out of the event producer at the time, Andrew. He’s like, “What about the subtitle content content is queen?”  So we had that as like a sub heading to the women’s podcast festival, and it just stuck and became the branding for that festival. 

So Content Is Queen was the women’s podcast festival that I founded. Then the opportunity came for me to exit the ShoutOut Network. And I was like “of all the things I want to keep doing, it was the women’s podcasts festival. Well, I’m going to keep the name Content Is Queen, I don’t know what that’s going to become other than the festival.” But it really just evolved from there where all of my interests kind of converged of, okay, I like making shows, and we’re going to be a production company. I like doing the festival, so we’re going to maintain the women’s podcast festival. I really love this idea of community and helping shows to grow. So we’re going to focus on like loving and supporting creators from underrepresented and emerging backgrounds.  That’s how the company got started. We have three parts, it’s production, the festival, and the community. 

We have two studios, that we offer out to the community and do our own work in, and it’s been pretty good ever since actually. It’s been two years and I’ve been I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. Every time someone joins, I’m like, oh my gosh, you trust us. That’s so great.

And also the fact that you’ve got a membership plan with different levels is good, as a company you need to make money. Could you tell us about that?

There’s a £9.99 option for digital support and access, then £249.00 is with studios with production. Like you have a podcast, you’re like – “I don’t know what I’m doing. So can I recording in your studio?” Sure. “Can I have an editor?” Sure. So that’s why that one’s a little bit more, because we’re like literally making your podcast for you. I think even at that price point, like we are quite selective about who we work with, even at that level. We want to support ambitious podcasters, but if we were to charge, like the cost of actual production, it would be completely inaccessible to so many people. I don’t think pricing should be a barrier to entry to making good content. 

What should people expect at the Woman’s Podcast Festival and could you explain why you created these events?

So what people can expect is a day of tremendous and incredible connections. This is our third festival now, and every single time I’ve enjoyed putting it on simply because the people that show up, there’s such a diversity and who comes to the festival from complete beginners to the really experienced. The breadth of the experience in the room is insane, so people will tend to collaborate with each other off the back of it. They get really inspired by other women’s stories. 

I think also, it’s just seeing that some women have like been able to reach the 10’s of 1000’s of downloads, for some people that’s really inspiring and gets them going. For some people it’s about getting commission and being adequately paid for your work, for others it’s about improving their craft. We tried to make it well rounded in terms of the content so that you’re going away with. There’s also the entertainment side and the empowerment side and the inspiring and motivational talks, that basically just cements why it’s such a beautiful industry to be in. 

I started the festival because not only am I a woman, I’m also black in the space. I’m frustrated with this industry too, – there’s issues and I’m wondering how do we talk about it, find solutions and take action. It’s like this safe space to have those conversations amongst ourselves and on the biggest stage, but also to push ourselves forward and actually see that the women on the stage are helping you progress. We saw from the first festival to the second festival, we brought people who attended the first one, and put them on the stage at the second one – it is really a place where you can elevate within a year of each event. But yeah, it really got started because there wasn’t really another avenue. There were a couple of Facebook groups, but I mean, I’m the generation that doesn’t use Facebook.

We’re like in the middle generation. I have tried to use it but I feel like I’m too young for Facebook.

I started on Facebook on some groups and liked it, but after uni Facebook went downhill. The reality is, other than making those in person connections, Content is Queen as a company, organisation and community is another portal for you to exist, to ask the questions that you want to ask, get the support that you need.

The festival really is just the fast paced version, where it’s everything that you could learn in a course, all done in one day, a crash course in podcasting. People have come with literally no knowledge or they’ve joined with friend to come along and they’re like, I feel inspired to start a podcast now.

There’s a girl called Katrina who came, she wanted to speak and was looking into doing a podcast on trauma, specifically sexual assault. We did a panel with Cariad Lloyd who does Griefcast, which is a really heavy and hard topic to discuss, Cariad is a comedian and she does it with finesse and grace – she’s won multiple awards for it. Katrina was able to connect with Cariad through the podcast event, then Cariad actually mentored her, she got a commission with the BBC Sounds and created a show called After, which did really well. She has also just launched and written a book, in an interview, she thanked me for putting on this festival because it inspired her to do the thing that connects her to all these other people. I think that’s the greatest story to come out of the festival, you managed to turn your your trauma into pain, your pain into into something that is healing for other people. That’s what I want from this festival, that’s what people can expect from this festival, if they go in with an open mind.

So talking of creating and producing podcasts, what are three tips that you would give to anyone who’s a beginner to podcasting?

I would say manage your expectations really early on. It’s not a tip but it is just something, podcasting is as hard as any other content creation. Whatever your skill set is, if you’re coming at this completely, never having made any content before, but you think audio is going to be the lowest barrier to entry, it’s a reasonably low barrier to entry. Anyone can technically create a podcast, using their phone or whatever device that they like. But creating something that is good, and something that will resonate, something that will connect with people and connect with an audience is actually quite difficult. It’s as difficult as creating an Instagram post that resonates or something that goes viral on Twitter, or any or a YouTube video that’s really good and well made. Manage your expectations when you start out, the first thing that you make is probably not going to be very good, or heard by as many people as you think it will. Podcasting will really humble you when it comes to the numbers, unless you’re coming with a huge audience already on the table.

The most important thing is that you start, which leads to my second piece of advice, just start. Because not that many people listen in the first place, it’s really hard to get people to click and listen to a podcast, believe it or not. So once you get started, you just need to build the discipline. Starting is just the main thing, you’re not going to be happy with it, you’re probably going to feel like I can do better. There’s like a really great hourglass quote – I’m paraphrasing strongly here – but it’s like people who have good taste, always know that the thing they’re making is never quite good enough. It’s the taste that keeps you going, its like I know what I’m trying to create, but I know that what I’m making still isn’t it, I haven’t hit that part of me yet where I’m executing at the level that’s in my mind. So start, every episode is an improvement on the one that came before, but you can’t improve if you don’t start. 

And the third piece of advice is you know, don’t feel like you have to do it entirely alone. I have always been really lucky and privileged to start my podcasting journey with a collective network of people that believed in what we were doing and wanted to create something. There’s communities like ours that exist for free, where you don’t have to go it alone, it does not need to be difficult. It doesn’t need to be all consuming, like your podcast will frustrate you with the editing process, you will find that something is not working. But there are so many of us that have done it, we’ve literally found the shortcut, we know the tool, we know the transcript, we know how to cut a little bit smoother and faster. Don’t feel like you have to just sit there in isolation, getting frustrated, you just need to be need to go and find those communities that exist and ask questions. You’ll find that there is always someone willing to answer your question, is a really wonderful industry and very supportive. We all want to see new voices in the space, so don’t be afraid to ask, you don’t have to do this alone at all.

Amazing, and talking of community, companies and platforms are moving towards using real people, micro influencers who are engaging with their audience. So would you agree that nowadays audio and video are the only things that are doing really well? Podcasting, audio and visuals are the future now, right?

I’m mega biased, because obviously I think audio is a game changer. I think it’s changing the world because of the intimacy and connection that it can build with an audience. If we think about how people consume content like I think audio and video genuinely serve different purposes, I feel like people use video in loads of different ways from catharsis to entertainment, right through to education. I guess audio can do the same, but the length of time and attention you give to something, with audio you can be anywhere, at any time. 

Even down to audiobooks, podcasts, documentaries, dramas, and the wealth of entertainment like the audio phase is expanding so quickly, I do think it is the future. I personally believe why we exist and part of our mission is because the world is really messed up, I genuinely believe that the only way that we’re going to change that is if we listen to one another. We hear each other’s stories, how storytelling has persisted, and it has persisted over time over millennia. I think storytelling is really important whether visually, or with audio, we need good stories to kind of move the needle to change lines to change perceptions, to build empathy. I think that’s how we’re going to see change in the world, being exposed to other people’s stories and realities. 

So yeah, I do think it’s the future, it’s changing the world. Those other things, whether it be blogs, or the written word, books, etc, they also have their place. And I would say that audio and visual content enhances what’s there, adding a deeper layer, I will never discount them, because the marketer in me is like, these are all just channels of which we can communicate a message. Not everyone will resonate with audio, there’s some people that just don’t like it, so you need another way to communicate , that’s where video or can step in. But I definitely think it’s going to be a really important part of the revolution if we’re going to move towards a better, fairer and more equal society.

One last question Imriel, what would you say is the type of legacy that you’d like to leave behind?

I’m expecting my first child, so naturally thinking about this, like what is this legacy and world that I’m leaving behind? It’s such a big question. I guess in an ideal world, what I’d be leaving behind is I want people who either come frequent on screen, or through the work that I do, whether it’s Content Is Queen as the final iteration, or is an evolution to something else. I want anyone that comes through my work to fully understand that. I just tried to make the world a better and more fairer and equal place, using audio storytelling and storytelling in general, as the vehicle. Like I said, I think that’s how we change the world, I think that’s how we build empathy. 

I want anyone who connects with me through my work to understand that I’m trying to make this a better place for everybody. That is not an easy thing to do, because everybody has wildly different needs. But our guiding principle, which you would have heard at the launch party is inclusion is a process, not an outcome, and your participation is essential.

I want people to feel like they feel safe, and that their stories and perspectives are safe, no matter what they are. I mean, I probably don’t mean to force them, right. But you know what I mean? There’s a safe space for you to tell you speak your version of the truth. And for that to be heard, and for respectful of meaningful debate to happen as a result, or at least for people to contemplate something they’ve never experienced before – that is the power of storytelling. So I think my legacy is that like, how do we create a space where that can happen? And for that to be a beautiful and necessary thing that moves and shifts the needle for those of us that are largely marginalised and don’t get that opportunity.

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Interview: Rojan Said
Edit: Genea Bailey
Photography: Will Ireland