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Editing Podcasts Makes them Suck Less

Shel Holtz, of FIR fame, was writing about editing podcasts and I started to comment but after it got to three paragraphs I thought it would be better to just bring it over here. I’m not buying the “no edits, no second takes” argument. You can rationalize it as “more energy, more real feeling” but the reality is that editing is a lot of work, and leaving that part of the workflow out makes it much easier to create podcasts (and perhaps stay motivated in the long run).

I’m honored to be on Shel’s “must listen” list, and by adding us to the “live to the hard drive” group, he proves his own argument. I’m glad we get the “live” sound across, but the Marketing Over Coffee marketing podcast goes through an editing process very similar to FIR. Every episode gets a full audio review, often sections are cut out or cleaned up. The recording session is free form so occasionally it goes into topics too tech heavy, too gray to talk about in public, or because it’s early morning either of us can break into the classic New England coughing/hacking fit.

You’ll note that Mitch and C.C. both podcast solo, which makes one-take easier, and both of them do a great job of speaking extemporaneously, which not everyone can do (radio or public speaking experience makes a huge difference here).

One other thing, many people record with headphones and don’t think about all the people who listen in the car, which is a much less forgiving playback environment. The Levelator, or more advanced tools like compressors and limiters are an absolute must (I’ve also found the cheap edition of SoundSoap to do a nice job cleaning things up). It’s tough to listen when you have to turn the guest up to 28 on the dial and then the host renders you deaf. I’ve given up many casts that were fantastic content but were just to hard to listen or understand while driving. I could call out some of my friends here, but why pick on them when I have the same complaint with some great content, big name shows like the New York Times’ Times Talks podcasts.

I’ve never really bought the “it has to be unedited” argument. If you feel it’s more sincere if it’s untouched that’s fine, but don’t expect other people to sit through a bunch of boring stuff, especially when they now have options that Doug Haslam mentioned like NPR, or the BBC (I am going to be on Steve Wright’s show one day) which are professionally recorded and edited to flow seamlessly.

Would you even send all your email without using the delete or backspace key? Would you write a brochure without having anyone edit it? Would you get dressed in the morning without looking in the mirror? Are you going for the thrill of “Live without a Net” or do you want your content perfect? There’s no “right” answer, it’s just about creating great stuff. If Saturday Night Live was done by some random people on your street you’d never stay up to watch that, but on the other hand if it’s taking you 10 hours of recording and post-production to do a 20 minute podcast maybe you could be more productive by lightening up a bit.

I can give you one right answer though: if you cut out the crummy parts, it will suck less.

ps – this post had no editing of any kind.