By and large, the most time consuming activity for podcasters is editing. Many edit their own show (something I generally recommend against), which can take 2-3x longer than the actual recording.
Since podcasting is a loss generator for most starting out, it’s understandable that one may not have the budget to hire an editor. So how do we, as podcasters, save some money while also getting a decent edit on the show? There are a few different ways to edit, depending on your process.
1. The Super Polished
I think this is the one a lot of people want to go for at first. The problem is if you’ve never edited before, it can take a long time to learn and the work may go…unappreciated. This is also a lot harder to do if you’re putting out a weekly podcast
For long time podcasters, like Myke and Grey from Cortex, who do a monthly show and pass the edit back and forth, listening to the episode multiple times, a polished edit might make sense.
The same goes for the Gimlets and Wonderys of the world, who have a staff of editors that can clean up already good recordings, add foley1, and edit in a way that tells a story.
This is probably overkill for most shows.
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2. The Quick Clean Up
Instead of going to great lengths to get everything sounding perfect, you can employ the quick clean up, which is what I do for most of my podcast episodes. My editor will combine the audio, clean it up so it sounds better, add the bumpers and sponsors, and remove an retakes2.
Note, that this does not remove ever um, like, ah, and pause from the recording. Most of the time, that will make the recording sound weirdly cut and unnatural.
This is what I’d recommend for most podcasters. And with apps like Descript, editing this way is a bit easier. You can run through a transcript to remove words that correspond with the audio edits.
And with Studio Sound being out of beta, you can even clean up rough audio…just make sure to have a listen first because you may lose some sounds, especially if you trail off while speaking.
Doing this edit allows you to spend some time editing the show, but not so much that you’re sinking 4 or even 8 hours into it.
3. Intro, Outro, and Ship
One of the fastest ways to put some polish on your show without doing too much editing is to add an intro and outro, maybe with a music bed, and ship it. You can create a template in GarageBand, Audacity, or Descript, and record the intro/outro after you record the full episode.
This allows you to make the show a little more dynamic, let the audience know what’s coming, then recap at the end. This also allows you to add a relevant call to action after the fact too.
I will do this when I’m in a pinch, but I really do prefer to do a little more…especially if there are things I want to edit out. A little TLC on your episodes shows your listeners you care.
4. Record and Release
Finally, there’s “Record and release.” Some will also call this “record to tape.” Basically you just record the episode and release it as is, no editing.
This likely works best if you script your show, in a controlled environment. I do this with WP Review, which is mostly scripted, and just me on the mic, recording into equipment I’ve dialed in to sound perfect over years. Not a whole lot of editing necessary for this fortnightly news show.
I would generally caution against this one though, especially if you have guests. The effort you put into the show is evident3. Doing some editing is likely required for every podcast, even the ones that also live stream.
How to Reduce Editing Time
While this topic can be a blog post of its own4, there are a few quick wins for making editing easier. The most important thing to remember here is that any editor will tell you prevention is a lot easier than fixing. It feels like the editor’s version of, “ask for forgiveness, not permission.” If you get a mic that doesn’t pick of every car that drives by, and you move your dog to a room away from where you record, you won’t have to edit those sounds out later.
On top of that:
- Make sure you and your guest are recording in a quiet place, free of distractions.
- Make sure everyone wears headphones. Seriously.
- Have you and your guest record your audio locally and separately. This gives you the completely uncompressed, cleanest version of the audio. You can use a service like Zencastr, or have your guest record in Quicktime or Sound Recorder. Having separate tracks makes editing one person easier too.
- Pre-record what you can. Bumpers, sponsor reads, anything that you can drop in later. Adding short gaps in your recordings help too.
- When you do need to reset and rephrase something, do it at the beginning of the thought. This is a “clean take,” so you’re not trying to merge 2 takes together with milliseconds in between.
- Set up templates in Descript or whatever editing app you use. Having the intro music already in place, for example, makes editing a bit faster.
- Remember done is better than perfect. Clean up what you can, but don’t try to scrub every um, ah, or car that drives by.
Finally remember you can iterate, grow, and hopefully get to a point where you can hire an editor!