Ask any Facebook group of podcasters whether you should edit your podcast, and here’s what you’ll get.
You’ll receive a barrage of comments ranging from unhelpful “yes” or “no” responses with no elaboration to “never! because podcasts are supposed to be authentic” and “yes, of course, because no one wants to hear your um, you know, uh, like imperfect speech habits and off-topic jibber-jabber.”
Previously, I’d be tempted to answer the question, “should you edit your podcast?” with “it depends.”
After all, we all have different goals in podcasting. We have different audiences who want different things. And of course, Rule 1 in podcasting.
But I don’t believe that anymore.
Rule 5 in podcasting:
Your podcast needs editing.
Some people edit every mistake, mouth noise, stumble, and what some call verbal “crutches” from their podcast. In fact, if you ever listen to public radio (broadcast or podcast), that’s what you’re hearing. It’s highly edited. Hosts and guests sound impeccably polished.
To hear an example of this, check out this segment from the public radio program On The Media.
On the other hand, there are podcasters that believe genuine podcasting means being yourself. I say “ya know” and stumble over my words. I don’t have a script. I’m just saying what I think with no filter. If I go off on some rabbit trail, I don’t care. Don’t edit me. Leave it all in because that is who I am.
By the way, I’ve produced podcasts both ways.
My default has been to edit out every flaw. It’s a perfectionist tendency I’m fighting—this 500-words daily challenge is one strategy in defeating that.
A few times, I’ve attempted to podcast without editing. They sounded pretty bad. Probably because I also didn’t prepare. Even if you don’t like editing, preparing talking points, at least, is helpful.
I’ve also been interviewed on different podcasts. A couple of times it was for a live production. And on video. No editing there.
I’m a rambling man. I often have trouble clearly and concisely expressing my abstract thoughts. So I much prefer editing.
And I prefer hearing edited podcasts because it’s hard to follow other people’s abstract expressions. And when they talk about the weather on an episode from three months ago, and the podcast is not about meteorology, it makes me reach for the unsubscribe button.
But that’s not the biggest reasons I’m writing Rule 5.
Your podcast needs editing because of how your audience experiences your show.
Here are two edits you need, no matter your editing philosophy.
When we talk, we often move from quiet to loud speech. For in-person conversation, that’s okay. It’s normal. And we hardly notice.
But when you record, those variations in loudness are noticeable, if not annoying.
That can happen on a solo show as you intentionally change the intensity of your speech. It can happen accidentally as you move too far from the microphone.
It can happen in an interview format if you are louder than your guest. Or vice-versa.
It can happen in either format if your music or pre-recorded intro/close is at a higher level than the rest of the podcast.
It’s incredibly frustrating to be constantly adjusting the volume during a podcast. It can be dangerous if you’re driving a car while listening to a show.
The leveling process makes sure all parts of the podcast are at a similar loudness throughout the entire show.
So when your podcast has been leveled and the entire file is at the same loudness, the next edit has to do with making sure it’s loud enough.
Have you ever been watching a movie on television when they switched, without warning, to a commercial break? That jump in loudness is jarring.
Perhaps that will happen less and less as loudness standards are put in place.
Loudness normalization helps to make sure the show, the commercial break, and the shows that follow are all presented at about the same loudness.
Just as leveling helps keep the entire file at about the same loudness during the show, loudness normalization helps the transition from podcast to podcast stay on the same level. At least that would be the case if every producer paid attention to their loudness.
In an effort to get there, a standard has been created. In some places, it’s required. In other places, it’s voluntary.
Broadcast media is supposed to be at about -23 or -24 LUFS. Sometimes you see the acronym LKFS. If you want technical details, read this here.
Podcasts and mobile media are different. In order to be loud enough, you should set your LUFS levels to -16, at least. Spotify and Alexa requirements are actually a bit higher at -14 LUFS.
This difference can be heard when a podcast made from a broadcast is not adjusted. There’s a local public radio show I listen to occasionally that has this problem. Listening to the podcast version in the car is difficult when you have to turn the volume all the way up in order to hear it over the road and driving noise.
One way to tell if your loudness level is okay is to listen to several different podcasts and play them before and after your own show in a playlist. If you can barely hear your own show (or have to turn the volume down quickly when you get to yours), then consider editing the loudness.
One tool is available that will do both leveling and loudness normalization. And it’s free for up to two hours of audio a month. And it’s not to expensive if you produce more than that.
Auphonic will level your audio file from start to finish. It will also set your loudness levels to specified LUFS.
So if you don’t do any other kind of editing, at least level and set the loudness.
This is why I say Rule 5 in podcasting is “your podcast needs editing.”