What Is Podcast Editing?
Podcast editing is a process containing four basic steps: planning, recording, editing, and publishing. Podcast editors condense episode content, create a cohesive narrative throughout an episode, improve audio quality, and occasionally create supplementary materials for your podcast. Most podcasters understand the outcomes of podcast editing (a clear podcast with a natural sound and content flow). However, they often don’t know the technical steps involved during the editing process.
What Are the Types of Editing?
Ask editors what’s involved in “podcast editing” and you’ll hear a few different answers. The steps involved in podcast editing are determined by both the client and environmental circumstances. A podcast recorded in a professional studio will need fewer audio adjustments than one recorded in a living room. Similarly, a host or guest with a tendency to go on verbal tangents will need more content edits than someone who sticks to a plan. Still, there are two primary ways to talk about editing a podcast: audio editing and content editing. Look here if you’re wondering how you can clean up your podcast audio.
Podcast Audio Editing Terms
Content Editing Terms
Creating a Narrative
Additional Content: Titles, Show Notes, Time Cards, and Transcriptions
When Should I Begin Editing My Podcast?
Editing a podcast takes time.
Most editors will spend between 3 and 5 minutes of audio editing each minute of a podcast. A twenty-minute recording may only take about an hour and a half of audio editing time, but one-hour episodes easily require half of a workday.
If you’re also interested in adding show notes, time codes, and transcriptions to your episode, plan to spend a few more hours in editing.
Sound daunting? It can be. But podcasting has been around long enough that many people have cracked the code to keeping up with their podcasting schedule. These three methods consistently help podcasters avoid podcast editing burnout.
1. Start With a Limited-Run Podcast
Some podcasts release episodes weekly. Podcasts with paywalls for extra content may even produce 1-2 bonus episodes per week for paying subscribers. This is great for people who are paid to podcast full time, but hobbyists or part-timers struggle to keep up with such a rigorous schedule. The good news is, you don’t need weekly content to be a successful podcast.
Some of the best podcasts (S*Town, Slow Burn, The Dream, etc.) are limited podcasts. Like in TV, limited podcasts have a predetermined number of seasons or episodes. This creates a reasonable production schedule for the creators of the shows. During a season, the editing schedule might be intense, but having a set end date makes the production goals realistic.
We often recommend that new podcasters begin with a limited podcast. If you find that you have tons of additional content to discuss, you can always add an additional season. However, having a break between seasons, or knowing that the podcast will have a conclusion, is often a huge relief for first-timers. Most podcasters appreciate having a break to recap their first project before starting a new one.
2. Record and Edit Your Episodes in Advance.
Your favorite podcasts might release episodes weekly, but that doesn’t mean they’re recording them that way. Often times, seasoned podcasters will record multiple episodes in a day. This gives the editor plenty of time to get a few weeks ahead. Plus, the rest of the team can get back to planning their content or booking and preparing for their guests.
3. Hire a Podcast Editor.
You don’t have to podcast alone. Many podcasters have teams who help plan content, schedule speakers, or assist with podcast editing and production. At Truth Work Media, we partner with podcasters who need help with audio stitching, mixing, mastering, and content editing. We’re also able to provide custom packages that include show note, cover art, or transcription services when needed.
How Much Does Podcast Editing Cost?
Podcast editing costs depend on the editor. Many editors for podcasts charge on a per-episode basis, with audio editing ranging from $300 – $1,000 per month based on the quality of the equipment, the level of editing needed, and more. As a team with a passion for helping creators tell unique stories through podcasting, we value keeping our podcast editing pricing competitive. That way, we get to continue our work, and you can keep making the content you’re passionate about without facing budget walls.
Editing Audio for a Podcast
Audio editing for podcasts shares many similarities with audio editing for music. There are three main steps to editing audio for a podcast: stitching, mixing, and mastering.
When a podcast editor stitches an episode, they add, remove, and re-order the episode content. Editors will need to add content to the episode of the host completed multiple recordings, or needs to include an intro or outdo that’s different from the main content.
If a podcast is known for 20 – 30 minute episodes, and an editor receives a 45 minute recording, they will cut and condense the least valuable content from the episode.
Finally, when podcasters record their episodes, they occasionally do things out of order. During the stitching process, the podcast editor reorganizes the content to create a fulfilling arc for the episode.
Audio recordings include a number of audio layers. When a podcast editor mixes the episode, they manipulate the different layers to create a pleasing sound. This involves turning down background noise like traffic or air conditioning units, and turning up the podcast host and guest.
The most important part of the mixing process is making sure what needs to be heard is heard, and all competing sounds are reduced to a mild hum.
Like the name implies, mastering involves adding extra finesse to the mixer’s work. The overall goal of mastering is to use any creative means to smoothen and optimize the podcast’s sound.
Stitching, mixing, and mastering encompasses most of audio editing. However, that’s not the only kind of editing for podcasts. Most podcasters also need help with content editing, or making sure each episode is presented in a logical order that supports their story or theme.
Editing your podcast audio is not always easy. While we do it professionally, you can take the power into your own hands with some articles we created for you!
- How to edit podcast audio in GarageBand
- How to edit podcast audio in Adobe Audition
Now you can take all you’ve learned about podcast editing and put it into practice yourself!
Building a Podcast Content Strategy
You probably created the content strategy for the topics of your podcast episodes early on in your creation process. In fact, we suggest that people map out their first 8-10 episode topics before they jump into a recording booth for the first time. Planning that much content in advance means you’ll avoid the worst-case scenario—realizing your topic doesn’t have enough content by episode 2. (Note: if you don’t know how to make good podcast content, our podcast startup kit can run you through mapping out a content plan).
The content strategy in the podcast editing phase is different. Once you’ve recorded your episodes, your editor needs to know how to create a good content flow from start to finish.
Creating a Narrative With Your Podcast Content
Most podcasts intend to tell a story. The story could be a fiction drama or a biographical piece. Even interview-based podcasts use storytelling arcs to keep episodes compelling.
Even if the story of your podcast is told over a season of episodes, each individual episode needs to have some kind of arc. A beginning, middle, and end. Conflict, and resolution.
The podcast creator’s job is to come up with the story they want to tell and record content that supports that theme.
The podcast editor’s job is to make sure each episode’s content is presented in a sensical order that supports the narrative framework.
Planning Your Podcast
When you’re coming up with your podcast season and episodes, your strategy might change depending on the kind of podcast your producing.
Fictional podcasts need to hit the major beats of the hero’s journey throughout their season: the call to adventure, acceptance or refusal of the call, meeting with a guide, etc. etc. etc.
(Our favorite book resources for learning The Hero’s Journey are The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler and The Hero with A Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell.) At the same time, each episode needs to have a satisfying arc of its own. Think of a TV show. Throughout a season, a character may travel from a small town to a big city with the goal of making it big on Broadway, but each episode still has smaller, complete stories.
The good news is, the major qualifications for a complete story are pretty simple. Does the character have a desire or need and something that creates conflict with that? Boom. You’ve got a story.
Using the NYC example, an episode could be about a character looking for an apartment without having much money to pay for one. Later, the character my endure an episode of auditions with rejection after rejection after rejection. The character’s journey to their goal is an uphill battle, one that leaves the listener wondering: will the character ever achieve their goal?
Interview based or informative podcasts don’t necessarily require that level of storytelling. Rather, they need to present a problem, theme, or main question. Then, the rest of the episode should be devoted to addressing that topic. This creates a beginning, middle, and end structure for each episode.
What is the problem, question, or theme?
Addressing different topics around that theme.
Final conclusions – what did you learn? What remains unknown?
That may sound simple, but there’s still an art to it. The best interview-based or informative podcasts have hosts who have done their research. That means knowing what research supports your claims, and what research supports your opposition.
When interviewing someone, it’s good to have read or watched the interview subject’s own materials. Additionally, the best interviewers are familiar with their guest’s other interviews. Studying a guest’s other interviews allows the host to dive deeper into questions that have already been asked, or present new, interesting questions that keep the listeners engaged.
The Editor’s Role in Content Editing for Podcasts
Most of what we discussed above is the podcaster’s role. By the time a podcast recording gets to an editor, thoughtful scripting or research should already have taken place. However, podcast editors still need to be familiar with these storytelling techniques to they can do their part in creating the final product.
Podcast editors are primarily responsible for making sure that the podcast is audibly clear (like we discussed earlier). But, they’re also in charge of condensing the podcast recording and putting it in an order that best serves the story or theme of the episode.
Whether you’re editing your own podcast or outsourcing, make sure your podcast editor is familiar with storytelling. The best podcast editors will be collaborators with you, and the end result will be a podcast that matches your vision and is accessible to your audience.
Bonus Content: A Podcaster’s Cherry on Top
Some podcasters ask their editors to provide additional podcast editing services, like helping with titles, show notes, time cards, and transcriptions. Aside from titles, these are all additives that aren’t required for podcasts but do enhance your listener’s experience.
The name of each episode should support the theme of the episode. Sometimes, titles can be clever, humorous, or mysterious. When in doubt, use a straightforward title that gives the listener a hint of what to expect from the episode.
Not everyone is able to listen to podcasts. Transcribing your episodes is a nice way of making your podcast accessible to a broader audience. As an extra bonus, adding a transcribed version of your podcast episodes to your website (if you have one) may help your podcast get a bigger audience online.
Along with show notes, many podcasters like to add time cards. These can alert listeners to when topics they do or don’t want to hear about will come up in the episode. For example, podcasts that discuss popular books, movies, or TV shows may have spoiler and non-spoiler sections. Adding time cards that tell a listener when spoilers will appear is a great way to avoid upsetting listeners who don’t want to know future plot details.
Adding an extra paragraph or two of information about the podcast episode can help someone decide whether that episode matches what they’re looking for. Show notes should be engaging, and avoid extremely long paragraphs. Often times, show notes can be as simple as a list of bullet points that explain the content of the podcast.
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