Editing is a savior to some, and hell to others. But do you really need to edit your podcasts? Or should you be editing when you don't?
For the sake of example, this podcast episode has no additional editing, and will have my comments on what I would have edited at the end.
Challenging the Podcasting Assumptions
This is a special miniseries to challenge the ideas podcasters have accepted as truth for years. Some will stand up against the challenge while others crumble, and some will reveal new options you may have never considered.
- Are you really a “podcaster” and should you really be podcasting? – TAP182
- Does your podcast NEED interaction or an email list? – TAP181
- Is iTunes really THE place for podcasts? Do you NEED a mobile app? – TAP180
- Does SEO really matter in podcasting? – TAP179
- Do you REALLY need to edit your podcasts? What about authenticity? – TAP178
- Do you REALLY need audio/visual branding or promos for your podcast? – TAP177
- Should you launch your podcast with Episode 0? Does iTunes New and Noteworthy REALLY matter? – TAP176
- Are episode numbers REALLY necessary? – TAP175
- Does audio/video quality ACTUALLY matter? Is a dynamic mic REALLY the best? – TAP174
- Do you REALLY need passion? Is consistency THAT important? – TAP173
What is editing?
Editing doesn't always mean removing stuff. Sometimes, it means improving your content by moving sections, updating information, or adding new stuff. Editing is anything you do that changes the recording from its raw version.
Why edit podcasts?
There are many reasons to consider editing your podcast before you publish.
- Insert intro, outro, segues, backgrounds, and other sound clips or visual aids
- Fix problem areas, such as static, overly loud, or overly quiet places
- Relieve some pressure by knowing that you can pause and repeat what didn't come out right
- Tighten flow by removing gaps between thoughts or conversation passes (such as waiting for the other person to respond)
- Remove mistakes, such as coughs, mic bumps, and other unwanted noises
- Refine communication, such as removing verbal crutches, clean up dialog, cut irrelevant parts
- Adding information, such as commercials, segments, corrections, or other extras you missed before
Generally, we do (or have someone else do) all this editing to give a better, smooth, more understandable, and more professional presentation.
Depending on your editing skills with your software of choice, you may believe that you can turn any bad podcast into a great episode—with enough time.
Why not edit podcasts?
Many podcasters hate editing for a variety of reasons.
- It takes too much time (usually 3 minutes of editing for every 1 minute of audio, double for video)
- They don't have the skills
- It costs too much to have someone else do it
- They want to get the episode out quickly
- They don't care about how they sound
- They want to sound “authentic”
Generally, time and expense are the biggest reasons to not edit. If you try to be perfect, you'll never podcast. (I struggled with that during the first two years of my podcasting!)
Does editing remove authenticity?
Some podcasters will be so confident in themselves that they will refuse to edit anything. You may even hear something another podcaster would normally edit out left in and even focused on with, “I'm not going to edit that out.”
Authenticity is a two-sided issue. On one side, editing will seem like a lack of authenticity. It's like you don't want people to hear the truth and so you cover it up with editing.
On the other side, editing can improve authenticity by allowing the viewer or listener to focus on your content, presentation, and personality.
It all depends on what level of editing you attempt.
How much should you edit?
The answer to this question is entirely up to you. For some, the answer is, “more than you do now”; for others, it's, “less than you do now.”
The beauty of podcasting is that you can do it however you want. But all choices have consequences. So over-editing your show may kill your drive, and under-editing your show may make your audience want to kill you!
Like many things, I generally recommend a middle-ground that combines the best of both sides. My 3 golden rules of podcast-editing are simple.
Golden rule #1: Improve your presentation first
Most people prefer to edit because they're not good presenters. Just like with noise removal, it's always best to fix the problems before you press record.
If you want to edit every “um,” “uh,” “ya know,” and other verbal crutch from your podcast, try it once and count how many you removed. Then work to remove them from your regular language.
The easiest way to overcome verbal crutches is to replace them with silence. If you feel unsure of something, pause instead of saying, “um.” Depending on your software, you may be able to truncate these silences easily with a simple tool and sound smarter.
Golden rule #2: Remove distractions
Listen closely to everyone around you and you'll notice we all have things we could edit, but they're not distracting (until you have now focused on them!).
I recommend keeping a pad of paper to jot down timestamps for when something catastrophic or overly distracting happens that you know you'll want to edit later. Alternatively, use an external record that can place markers, or learn how to use your recording software to place markers as you go (Audacity calls this the Label Track).
Keep these notes or markers simple. Just knowing the time is enough for you to jump to that spot and recognize what need to be edited.
If you're working off timestamps you wrote down, work from the end to the beginning so you don't shift any of your points in ways that they no longer align with your notes.
What you consider a distraction is up to you, but be objective and consider your audience. A few pauses or some verbal crutches may not be very distracting, but a loud sniffle or dog bark in your room would be distracting.
If you have a guest in your podcast, focus on making them look and sound great!
Also make sure your editing doesn't cause distractions. This is easy with video where you can see edit points. That's why multiple camera angles and B-roll footage can be great. In audio, a sharply cut or or sound clip can also be just as distracting.
Golden rule #3: Keep authenticity
Don't edit yourself so much that you no longer sound like you. If you say “um” in every sentence and edit all of them out, then people will be surprised if they meet you in person and hear you use “um” so much.
Is a dark bark in the background part of your authenticity? No, it was a mistake.
Is your little stumble over a word and quick repeat part of your authenticity? Maybe.
Is your random change of mental direction part of your authenticity? Probably.
But in everything you consider editing, think back to how you can improve your personal communication first.
Conclusion: Is editing necessary? It depends
There's no clear answer on this one. Some people are really good at presenting that they don't need any editing. Other people understand editing well enough that they can present with mistakes, but they are easy to edit (like Michael Hyatt). Other people may be starting out and may struggle with presenting well and can use some editing to help them make a good first impression.
And sometimes we all have little mistakes that could be removed without distraction.
What if you need editing but don't have the time?
First, go back to Golden Rule #1 and improve your presentation.
If you still need help, then consider finding a volunteer or hiring someone. Think about how much else you could accomplish if you didn't have to spend the time you do to edit.
Editing expenses range from $10 per labor hour to $50 and sometimes more. If you'd like to hire my editor (he handles many of my videos, the Ramen Noodle, and ONCE podcast), contact John Bukenas (firstname.lastname@example.org).
What do you think about podcast editing and authenticity? Comment on the show notes and share your perspective.
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