Today on the show, Zach and Rock chat with Fatima Zaidi. They discuss branded podcasts, the future of audio as a marketing tactic for brands, and more. Zaidi explains why the rise of the podcast isn’t just a fad.
Fatima Zaidi is the CEO and Founder of Quill Inc. a full-service podcasting hosting platform and production agency that supports brands in launching their podcasts. As a member of the National Speakers Bureau, Fatima has spoken at various events around the world on media and tech trends leading her to keynote on world stages alongside speakers like Gary Vaynerchuk.
Also in this episode:
- A pre-roll ad from Rabiah Coon for her podcast, More Than Work
- A mid-roll ad from Arielle Nissenblatt about our content submission page
- Written and produced by Arielle Nissenblatt
- Mixed and designed by Vince Moreno Jr
- Artwork and logos by Alex Whedbee
- Transcript for Ian Powell
- Hosted by Zach Moreno and Rock Felder
RABIAH COON: Hey, before we get to this week’s episode of Between Two Mics, I want to tell you about a podcast I think you’ll enjoy. And it’s recorded on Squadcast. I’m Rabiah and the host of More than Work podcast. It’s a podcast about finding your self worth outside of work. And I’ve interviewed a bunch of guests who have done just that. You can find it wherever you get your podcasts. Okay, here’s this week’s episode of the Squadcast podcast.
ZACHARIAH MORENO: Welcome to Between Two Mics, the podcast that brings you remote recording resources from Squadcast.fm.
ROCKWELL FELDER: I’m Rock Felder, co-founder and CFO of Squadcast.
ZACH: And I’m Zach Moreno, co-founder and CEO.
ROCK: On Between Two Mics, we bring you interviews with podcasters, experts in the field of remote recording, we discuss current events in podcasting and so much more.
ZACH: We’re recording all of this on Squadcast, the best place to record remote audio and video interviews in studio quality.
ROCK: Let’s get between two mics.
Hey there, welcome to Between Two Mics. Today, Zach and I are speaking with Fatima Zaidi. Fatima is the founder and CEO of Quill, a Toronto-based award-winning podcast production company. And in this episode, Fatima will share all her incredible insights from the amazing work being done at Quill, including what it’s like to help produce shows for some of the largest brands in North America. And if you’re a lover of podcasts, I think, you’re really going to enjoy Fatima’s spicy take on why the rise of the podcast isn’t just a fad. Trust me, you won’t want to miss that. Alright. Let’s get to the conversation. Hope you enjoy.
ZACH: Fatima, thank you for joining us today. It’s going to be a great conversation I can tell already. And, uh, you do many great things to contribute to the growth of podcasting and just advocacy in general. You’re the founder and CEO of an organization called Quill, which is a full service podcasting hosting platform and production agency, among many other things I’m sure that we’ll get into, uh, that’s designed to support brands in, in launching top level shows. Can you talk a little bit to start us off about your career trajectory leading up to and, uh, founding Quill?
FATIMA ZAIDI: Yeah, absolutely. First off, thank you so much for having me. Huge champion and customer of Squadcast, and absolutely love what both of you have done in such a short amount of time. So kudos to you. Um, yeah, similar to the both of you, um, podcasting is really a big passion of mine. I actually ran an agency in a former life, uh, for many years where we worked with fortune 500 brands to create content. Uh, there, I saw a really big trend of brands moving aggressively into the audio space and you know, it really got me thinking there’s just so many cool things about this industry. I’ve been a consumer since 2014 of audio shows since Sarah Koenig put out Serial and it became a household name. And, uh, eventually I decided to productize the services, our previous agency that we sold, were offering to focus exclusively on branded products. Uh, for Enterprise France. Um, so that’s really how Quill was born. Um, but I’ve been a consumer for many years for audio content. I truly think that everybody consumes content in different ways. Um, some people prefer visual. Some people prefer listening, some people prefer writing, um, and I’ve always been a consumer of audio.
ROCK: Yeah, and we’ll touch into what makes audio so unique and special to you. But I am curious from my perspective, when we started Squadcast in 2016 and then developing the business, finding customers in 2017, 2018, it was always exciting. The idea of having brands and businesses enterprises using Squadcast. However, at the time it seemed like they didn’t really get it. They weren’t figuring it out and fast forward to 2020, 2021. And I’m expecting 2022. It does seem like they’re figuring it out. It does seem like they’re embracing podcasting, but more so just like content and media creation in general, like they’re all kind of a media companies on the side. And so I’m just wondering, what have you seen from your perspective that’s, that’s changed, uh, maybe it’s time to toot your own horn and say, Hey, we’re doing the good work and getting them better at creating content. But I am curious from your perspective, the macro perspective here, what is your take on businesses and brands utilizing podcasting and other content?
FATIMA: Well, I think brands are finally starting to realize that it is the one medium that isn’t traditionally available to other advertisers. You can be washing your dishes and listening to a podcast, but you can’t be, uh, watching a Netflix show. You can be driving to work and listening to a podcast, but you can’t be watching or reading an article. So I think they’re starting to realize that it is a really unique medium, where you can be actively engaged in another activity. And it actually increases engagement rather than hurts engagement. Uh, that’s actually why 94% of people who start an episode will end up listening to the entire episode whereas a 30 minute video only has about a 12% completion rate. As for brands actually getting it. I would say it’s, we’ve come a long way, but it is still definitely a work in progress. Um, I think brands are starting to realize that they need to be involved in the audio space in some capacity, but one of the biggest challenges that we face as a production agency is the creation of new production budgets. So what is the ROI of podcasting? And how do you measure the KPIs of success? It’s like PR, it’s an intangible service. How do you measure if brand awareness is successful? It’s not like digital marketing where when you’re talking to CFOs, they want to know for every dollar you’re putting in, what comes back on into your bottom line. And so I think Quill’s really big focus over the last few years is really defining what success looks like for brands, as it pertains to podcasting so that they can come back for season two, season three, season four.
ZACH: And can you maybe share a story or give us an example of, of those KPIs and how you’ve seen this work for the brands that you work so hard to help tell these stories?
FATIMA: Yeah, I mean, I think a lot of it is really working backwards to, to understand what the brands overall objectives are. Is that brand awareness, is it thought leadership, is it sales and lead generation? You know, obviously the bigger corporations we work with like Expedia and PWC, they care less about the sales and lead generation component, and more about brand awareness. Whereas a lot of the medium enterprise, B2B brands we work with it’s all about sales and lead gen and content creation. Uh, I would say in terms of KPIs, success metrics, we’re really big on, you know, not just, you know, audience growth and unique listeners and downloads, which is pretty self-explanatory, but we measure things like average consumption, rate, are people listening all the way through to the end of your content or are they dropping off in the first 50%? Um, are people repeat listeners? What is your episode over episode and season over season growth? And what is the engagement looking like? Uh, so analytics is a really big part of the work that we’re doing at Quill. One of the examples of impact that I like to use is that Ben & Jerry’s…
ZACH: Big fan.
FATIMA: Yes, same. Everyone should be. You know, I think a lot of times people don’t realize there’s so many huge conglomerate brands out there, Amazon, Facebook, McDonald’s, we know them, we use their products or services, but we don’t really have an emotional connection to them. There’s no customer loyalty. Until you get to hear the brand story. And, uh, we at my household, never used to be loyal to any ice cream consumer. We just bought whatever was on sale. And when I heard the episode of Ben & Jerry’s on How I Built This, and they had the opportunity to share their mission-driven work, that’s when I really connected to them and started following them as a brand, not just about their product. And, uh, since then I’ve been an exclusive Ben & Jerry’s consumer. We won’t purchase any other ice cream brand just because we love their business so much. And what they’re trying to do. And I would say that is really the power of podcasting it’s to develop an emotional connection to your global audience while providing on demand content.
ZACH: We’re going to take a quick break, but we’ll be back soon with more from Between Two Mics.
ARIELLE NISSENBLATT: What’s up Between Two Mics listeners? Arielle here, Squadcast’s community manager. And I want to invite you to send us your audio. Squadcast is all about community. And one of the ways that we honor our community of Squadcasters is by showing off your audio to the world. We want to help you grow your podcast by sharing it with our audience. That’s why at the beginning of this episode, you heard a pre-roll ad from a Squadcaster. We also want to use this section, the mid roll, to show you off. So please send us your audio. Tell us about your show. What’s it about? Who you are, how long you’ve been Squadcasting. And send it to squadcast.fm/share. Then tune back into Between Two Mics, the remote recording podcast, and you’ll hear your voice. Again, that link is Squadcast.fm/share. We can’t wait to show you off. All right, let’s get back to the show.
ROCK: Yeah. And so it sounds like that’s what attracted you to, cause it sounds like you’re already kicking butt in your previous endeavors, but walk us through what made you want to start a company and run it in audio that is now Quill.
FATIMA: Well, truthfully in my, in my former life, I was kind of already doing it without the label. I’m a marketer and sales person by trade, and more so sales than even marketing. And I would say the thing that really intrigued me about the industry was, you know, of course the stats that I already mentioned. It was the kind of results that you’re getting with audio in terms of engagement can’t touch, video over any other form of marketing. I also find it really interesting that it’s a space that at least when I launched was not at all saturated and actually I would argue it’s still very unsaturated. One of my biggest, I would say, peeves is when people call podcasting a saturated market and think there’s too many podcasts out there, when I like to remind people, there’s only 2 million plus shows, whereas there’s 600 plus million blogs, 30 plus million YouTube channels, 1.5 billion websites, and 500 hours of content being uploaded every minute. So by proxy, if we compare it to podcasting, we only have 2 million shows, and only 18% of them are active. So actually we’re very, very early in the hype cycle of audio. Uh, and we have a lot of, you know, advancements that we need to make. So, those two things combined was why I was like, you know, I think this is the space that I want to play in, to give brands the opportunity to play in a very unsaturated space.
ROCK: And, you know, I’m so glad you brought that up, Fatima, because that’s uh, been a hot topic for many years. I mean, we know as being in the industry for the last five years, uh, with Squadcast and, um, you know, you’ve been at Quill for, for several years now, so I’m sure you’ve seen it. It’s becoming a hot topic, especially lately, as far as like, has podcasting had a hit in the last, you know, X amount of years, and the saturation that you talk about where one of the newsletters that I, I read, um, weekly or daily, depending on how I’m feeling, uh, was actually talking about is there…There’s more podcasts out there than the amount of ears that are able to listen to podcasts was there a little story there. Ad, um, yeah, I don’t know. It’s like, why do you think that’s not so?
FATIMA: I mean, strictly the numbers prove otherwise. I mean, this isn’t an opinion. It’s based on facts. There’s only 2 million podcasts, only 18% of them are active. So if we’re looking at, let’s just say for making the math simple, half a million shows, and you’re competing with 600 plus million blogs, actually I would argue content writing has become saturated. Are brands still putting out a ton of content? Absolutely. It’s the way to go. SEO is king. But I would say that the power of audio is incredible. And then if you take audio and repurpose that content, so transcribe it, turn it into blogs, format it for SEO, put the video content onto YouTube, uh, as a, as a video series, and then convert into bite-sized social content. You’re literally hitting on every, every corner as it comes to creating really great content that we reaches different audiences on different platforms. So to me, it’s kind of a no-brainer that brands, especially brands who are trying to target older millennials should be exploring podcasts as at least a, a first season tactic, if they haven’t yet already.
ZACH: Couldn’t agree with you more. And talking with writers of blogs and YouTubers, and the cross-pollination we’ve been seeing across these different forms of media creation and consumption…They’re attracted to podcasting because it’s less saturated. Right? I think that’s some sort of other anecdotal way we could look at providing some perspective on this question of like peak podcasting or whatever is there’s way less competition and the creativity and like the niches of it fit really well. And then to your point about the re-purposing strategy or the, uh, I don’t know, the universal, uh, approach to creating content, right. It’s starting in a format that is most natural to us to have conversations with other people or, or with ourselves, maybe. And then a little bit more outside of most people’s comfort zone so like sit down and write a long form piece, or come up with all those social assets or whatever. So it’s like the place that you choose to start your content production in has impacts on, uh, the derivative content that you can make out of them. And like what’s more natural. What, what flows into the, the next? Yeah, I think it’s a great place to start and grow from. And there’s creators that started in other channels that are finding that like the center of that workflow should probably be a podcast. And then you can make all this other content from that. And when you’re talking about ROI for brands, right, that that’s bottom line, that’s uh, that’s their ROI.
FATIMA: A hundred percent, a hundred percent. And honestly, sometimes you can’t necessarily measure ROI traditionally in the monetization sense. But there, you know, which other platform can you reach a global audience and really create an intimate connection with your listeners, while you know, not being, uh, prohibited by geographic boundaries? I love that it’s a remote industry that we can click a link and be able to tap into expertise and, um, subject matter experts from all over the world. And it’s just a very unique medium, and I feel like the industry doesn’t get enough credit, but hey, maybe I’m a little bit biased.
ROCK: [laughs] Well that’s okay. But I think if we got people like you, and that’s why I just love you going off there. I was so excited, uh, hearing all your stuff, like, cause I’m a believer in it, but it’s nice hearing someone else’s opinion. And uh, I think the international part is something that doesn’t get enough credit either is like, we’re just getting started and it’s really, you know, a, a North America centric thing. But I think, for the most part, of course, there’s, you know, it’s bigger than that, but I, I think the growth in like Asia, Latin America, it’s coming and that’s, really uh, so yeah, it’s still just early days from our perspective.
FATIMA: Well, South Korea actually has the highest number of podcast listeners per capita.
ROCK: See, there you go. You got the numbers.
FATIMA: Well, it’s just fascinating to me.
ROCK: It is.
FATIMA: Like we track all of our client analytics and, uh, South Korea and Iran are two countries that have like a huge influx of consumers coming through. So it started in North America, yes. But the rest of the world is quickly catching up.
ROCK: Well, thanks for sharing that data, that stuff I wasn’t aware of.
ZACH: Yeah, that’s super interesting to me as well, because I mean, the question comes up all the time about like, oh, which hosting provider should I choose? And it’s like, it’s really a question of analytic provider-analytics provider beyond that. So that’s really great to hear, you know, your perspective and being open about that. We’re very much of that mindset as well.
FATIMA: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I think it really comes down to, are you a brand, are you an enterprise brand? What are your goals? I think, um, there’s definitely enough space in the industry. It’s very new, for a lot of players to co-exist harmoniously because, um, I would say there’s just so many different niches to operate in and, uh, Quill exclusively on the agency, as well as the hosting side, we, we service enterprise brands, but there are some really, really great players out there, both on the production side, as well as the listing side that we like to collaborate with.
ROCK: And Fatima, we really enjoyed talking with you. And of course, we’ll put all the links to where to find you and Quill in the show notes. But before we do let you go, any last words, anything you want to say, anything that you’re excited about for Quill or for yourself in, uh, in the future here?
FATIMA: Yeah. You know, I think for anyone listening, who’s like still on the fence about whether podcasting is a fad or not. I truly do believe that in the 1980s, um, your business had a phone number. In the 1990s, it was a website. In the 2000s, it was social. And I think the next 10 years is going to be the wave of audio. Uh, that’s just my prediction. I’d love to hear someone wants to challenge me on that and happy to make a bet. And we can sort of regroup in 10 years to see who won that bet.
ROCK: I ain’t betting against you.
ZACH: I’m down. Let’s keep the conversation going and, uh, and we’ll, we’ll hit some milestones along the way, and we’ll, we’ll invite you back to continue that.
FATIMA: Thanks so much Zach and Rock. It’s been a pleasure as always.
ZACH: Thank you, Fatima.
ROCK: Likewise. Big fans of yours.
ROCK: Thanks for tuning into this week’s episode of Between Two Mics.
ZACH: If you learned something, or if we intrigued you a bit, let us know on social media.
ROCK: You can follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn by searching for Squadcast FM. This show is put together by us Zach and Rock. It’s mixed and produced by Vince Moreno. With help from Arielle Nissenblatt. Our logo is designed by Alex Whedbee.
ZACH: That’s it for us this week. We’re back next week with more from between these mics.
Arielle Nissenblatt is SquadCast’s head of community and content. She’s obsessed with all things podcast-related and is the founder of EarBuds Podcast Collective, a podcast recommendation engine.