Podcast Editing: How Much is Really Needed?

Podcast editing is one of the most varied processes in podcasting. It might be as simple as chopping off 5 seconds of silence at the start of a recording. Or it might see you meticulously arranging dozens of clips on a 20-channel multitrack session.

This is yet another example of “it depends,” because these shows are going to be very different from one another. It’d be impossible to give the same production advice to both of them. 

How much editing should YOU do? 

To press on and try to answer this question anyway, let’s assume you didn’t get into podcasting because you wanted to spend a lot of time on editing and production. Instead, it was probably because you had something to say. 

Similarly – though I’ve given one as an example – most podcasts aren’t highly-produced documentaries or dramas, but linear conversations. Conversations either directly with the listener, or with a guest or co-host. 

Does this fit the description of your own show? If so, let’s see what your editing options are.

Minimum Effective Editing

The simplest form of editing is the “top and tail”, combined with basic processing. 

Top and tail means to cut the parts of the recording before the content starts, and after it ends. You don’t touch anything in-between. That all stays in, as it was recorded. 

Minimum processing then makes sure that the volume is reasonably standard. To do that, find the ‘amplify’ tool inside your podcast editing software, and normalize to -2db. Done!

To see the details, check out one minimum effective editing process here. 

Maximum Ineffective Editing

The other extreme is one where you comb the entire episode for issues. You spend hours cutting out every single “um” and “ah”, and editing out the slightest breath sound.

I’ve seen people spend a day or more on this. It’s just unsustainable. Worse, it’s also unproductive since the results don’t reflect the effort. Removing a few “ums” doesn’t turn average content into excellent content.

The Macro Content Edit

Finally, there’s the wider “content edit” approach. Instead of making time consuming micro-cuts, you make macro-cuts: removing entire segments.

This could be a long rambling answer from a guest that didn’t really go anywhere, and adds nothing to the content. Or maybe your guest answered the question, then continued answering it again in a more longwinded manner. In cases like that, cut out the entire second part, and save your listener some time!

If you want to follow this approach, or the one above, Alitu is one tool that can make it easy. It will take care of the volumes, the noise reduction and the theme music – you just need to mark the sections to cut out. Or not! Go one-take and save even more time!

If you’re using Audacity to record your audio, follow along with our tutorial below for tips on adjusting volumes, adding fade effects, and more:

The Right Approach is Personal to You

You can use one of the above approaches, or a combination of them. Ultimately, you want to serve your audience the best-presented content you can, whilst also keeping it sustainable and avoiding podfading

To do this, you need to work around your time constraints, and inside the scope of your podcast format. 

Don’t Remove Past Mistakes. Instead, Prevent Future Mistakes

When choosing your approach, consider the fact that spending more time on editing won’t necessarily make your podcast better. Nor will it make YOU better as a podcaster. 

Even if you did have the time to cut out every “um” and “ah” , would this be the right thing to do? It might actually make the conversation sound unnatural and jarring.

Editing should be a tool, rather than a crutch. So should you rely on it to make you sound like a more assured presenter? Or, could you instead spend the time by practicing becoming one?

If you stumble over the odd word, no big deal – that happens to everyone. Just correct yourself and press on. Treat it like you’re actually broadcasting live. 

Sure, chop out any big obvious “uhhhmmms” you spot in your waveform. But going forward, see if you can try doing that less when you’re actually recording. By removing the ‘editing crutch’ you’ll find the pressure accelerates your learning. The ums will melt away! 

Spend Time Planning to Save Time Editing

Another way to save yourself time in the editing process is by spending a more time preparing before you hit record. 

Firstly, there’s the structure and planning to consider. Have you prepared a script, or bullet notes? Do you know how you’re going to open the episode? Do you know the points you’d like to hit in the conversation? And have you thought about how you’re going to wrap up and close the episode too? 

Then, you should think about minimizing disturbances in your recording. This can be things like putting your phone in the other room, telling family members not to disturb you, and having a glass of water on hand to keep your chords hydrated throughout the session. 

Also, consider adopting the click-editing method. Sometimes there will be points during a conversation where you absolutely want to make an edit later on. Instead of having to listen through the entire episode to find it, simply pause, wait a few seconds, click your fingers at the mic 3 times, then start that section again. 

This creates a very easy to spot marker on your waveform. Then you can quickly make the edit and move on to writing the shownotes and publishing the episode. 

These are all good practices you should think about turning into habits. They can save a lot of time in the editing phase going forward, as well as improving the quality of your source material and your content. 

Going forward

It’s entirely up to you what editing approach you take, so don’t let anyone tell you how much time you need to spend to create a successful show. You know your own listeners best, after all.

But with a solid preparation routine, a drive to improve your presentation abilities, and some simple techniques like the ‘3-click’ method, you can spend far less time on editing, and much more time on creating great content. 

If you’d like any more help with getting started in editing, or the wider art of launching and running a podcast, check out this How to Start a Podcast guide. It’ll take you through everything, step by step!

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