If you’re new to podcasting, editing can be intimidating. It’s one thing to have a great idea or be a great presenter, but it’s a whole different ball game to make sure that great idea also is presented well to the listener.
Luckily, editing is becoming easier to do on a budget. There is a wealth of free or cheap software out there that’s easy to find and easy to learn how to use, and depending on the type of podcast you’re doing, not all need to be heavily edited (though all podcasts do benefit from some editing).
I’m not going to lie to you, I’ve rarely enjoyed editing, but this is perhaps because of the type of podcasts I create. I enjoy the interviewing, definitely, but nobody enjoys having to listen to their own voice, and having to listen back to a conversation I’ve already had.
I do know, however, that it’s an important step in creating a great podcast. There is no point in going to all the effort of creating something really interesting and fun only to fluff it at the final hurdle.
Think of editing like the lines in a comic book. Without them, the art is still great, but with them, it makes it pop.
Because of the ever-growing amount of different styles of podcasts there are, editing isn’t something that is the same for everybody. Different ‘genres’ involve more or less attention, and your own style and boundaries will also influence this too. Whether you’re making a documentary, a panel show, interviewing guests, or making a radio drama, there will be different nuances to each and every style that will dictate how long it will take to make it come together as a final piece.
And the more you do it, the more efficient, and perhaps, more creative, you will become at it.
Podcasting, although popular is still a relatively new phenomenon and so as much as one of its greatest strengths is that anybody can it, that also means that not everybody’s prepared for what’s involved. In this article, I hope to answer a few questions that might be nagging at you and reassure you that you can create a brilliant podcast to rival the best of them.
So let’s start with an obvious one..
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How Long Should I Spend Editing?
The short answer to this is, at least as long as the recording is. The long answer is that it really depends on the quality of your recording, the length you want your podcast to be, the type of podcast you’re producing, and how you want it to come across.
So, unfortunately, there isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ approach to editing. If your podcast is a relatively concise guest-host interview, depending on the time limit, you might find that one listen through, after any mixing that needs doing and an intro and outro section has been added, it’s good to go. I’ve had that on quite a few occasions. On others, however, with old friends and no strict endpoint, we’ve rambled on together for hours and hours and it needs to be cut down so it doesn’t end up just a crazy long form reminisce-nostalgia-thon.
Some podcasters swear by sticking to a consistent podcast length, keeping each episode half an hour, 40 mins or an hour. Personally, I think this can be good for some types of podcasts, but on the whole, the freedom of the podcast format is that you don’t need to do that, it’s not radio, a bit like how Netflix put a spanner in the works of the TV industry with their show ‘The OA’; unlike the traditional, tried and tested formula, the episodes varied in length in a way that was dictated by the story and where the story breaks worked best dramatically.
Though perhaps if your podcast is more a ‘documentary’ format, maybe making sure that each episode is the same length is the right move, it’s really your call what you think will work most effectively for your audience. These types of podcast will likely involve a considerable amount more editing than your standard 2 hosts chatting in a room together affair, as you probably want to involve different guests, slices of interviews, music, all on top of a well-thought-out script.
Having a consistent running time can add extra pressure to your editing though, and unless you’ve heard different from your listeners, I’d advise finding a good middle ground of not overly long, but not so short as to hinder the quality of your podcast and cause unneeded stress in the process. The Director’s cuts of movies exist for a reason.
Will Spending More Time Editing Lead to Long Term Growth?
Basically, the answer to this question is… not on its own, no. But it might help, that’s for sure. But to quote one of the great phrases of our time, ‘you can’t polish a turd’. A well-edited and produced podcast is important, there’s no doubt about that, but fundamentally you need to a good idea first. Just like everything, you want to work from the ground up.
Let’s look at some of the biggest podcasts out there, they are professional and sound great, but it’s the content that we’re most interested in. Editing is a way to make sure that that content is as easy to listen to and as accessible as possible.
I do think it’s important for growth though, especially if you want to flourish in the podcast world and get taken more seriously. Editing can streamline your (hopefully) already great podcast, highlighting the great parts and getting rid of the awkward silences, mistakes, and irrelevant side notes. What you don’t want is for your show to be a slog for the listener, it shouldn’t be hard work to listen to, that is a sure-fire way to not grow as a podcast.
The Downsides of Over-Editing
On top of everything, editing can be laborious. If you spend too long editing it can really hinder your love for what you are doing. Not ideal. But when it comes to the technical side, have you ever listened to an album that’s been produced within an inch of its life? Or a film that cuts away every half a second (2004’s ‘Catwoman’ comes to mind)? Over-editing can suck the life out of a podcast and make it sound clinical and stale, and in some cases hard to follow.
Silences and gaps can help the audience take in what they’re listening to, we don’t need every podcast to be coming at us like a Michael Bay fight scene.
It can also mean that you end up cutting some of the best material you’ve got. Not everything will fit into your neat structure and time scale, and sometimes rolling with the changes and curveballs can play in your favor and produce some of the most fun and interesting podcast content. With over-editing, you run the risk that by trimming the fat, you also might end up trimming some of the valuable podcast meat too.
The Upsides of Editing Well
The upside of spending time on the edit is you can make sure that your podcast is focused. You have a concept or idea, your audience has tuned in because that’s what they’re interested in, and you’re making sure that is what the audience is getting.
A well-edited and produced podcast will help you stand out and just be that step above the competition. You don’t need me to tell you how popular podcasts have become, and with popularity, inevitably the market can become saturated. Making sure your podcast sounds as professional and swish as possible can help you to become not just ‘another podcast.’ but one that can rival the big names in the business.