Editing can be a sticky subject for some podcasters. There are those who say editing destroys the authenticity of a show, and there are those who say editing is a necessary component of almost any successful recording of any kind. I definitely fall in the latter camp, and I’d like to tell you why.

In my opinion, the biggest reason to edit audio is that it is audio, and is therefore about listening. When someone is listening to your podcast, all they have to hold their attention is the sound. They can’t see your expressions or gestures, and they can’t interact with you in real time. You may be an enthralling an dynamic speaker, but your listeners are only getting a small fraction of your actual performance coming through their headphones. As someone whose job is to be an enthralling and dynamic speaker and who has also produced well over one hundred audio pieces, I can say that I certainly need all the help I can get! This is similar to what I said when discussing podcasting lectures: too much is lost in translation for most people to pull off a good recording without help.

Of course, I don’t advocate using editing to completely change what was said. What I do think should be done is more of a “clean-up” job. If someone rambles on for too long, try to remove part of the comment without changing the meaning too much. Removing some ums, uhhs, and stumbles can go a long way to making someone sound interesting. As many of my guests tell me, editing “makes them sound smart.”

If you edit a segment respectfully and skillfully, you can improve the listening experience without changing the speaker’s meaning or manner of speech. To demonstrate this, please listen to the two samples at the end of this post. Your task when listening isn’t to figure out what I edited out or why, but to compare the clarity and feel of the first clip to the second.

If this were you talking, which would you rather have the world hear?

icon for podpress  Sample of Unedited Speech [0:37m]: Download
icon for podpress  Sample of Edited Speech: Download

Many businesses, conference organizers, and educational institutions see podcasting as a way to distribute recordings of their lectures and classes online. This has its uses and its problems, and I’d like to take a look at a few of them.

Before I lay out my views on the subject, I want you to take a minute and think about what it is like to sit in an auditorium listening to a lecture. Do you have a good feeling about it? For many people, the answer to that question is no.

Now, think about listening to the same lecture without the “live” component of the experience. This live component is very important, so think about it carefully. A “pros and cons” question arises right here: a good lectures is made far better by being there, but an average lecture could benefit from a pause or fast-forward button.

I have been to many lectures, most of them mediocre ones, and there is only one that I would have enjoyed as much in a recording as I did in person (it is luckily available as a download).

The main point is one that I’m sure I’ll make many times on the site: not every recording makes a good podcast. If a lecture has been recorded, by all means post it online! It is important to open up access to these resources and expand their reach beyond the “one room, one time” audience (this is the premise of the popular site IT Conversations). Ideally, this recording will be edited slightly to clean up mentions of PowerPoint glitches and pauses for sips of water – just this small amount of work will improve the listening experience tremendously.

However, if you truly want to engage your audience, I would advocate podcasting an interview or edited “audio profile” of the speaker to give your listeners a good feel for the content. If you have also posted the complete lecture, invite them to download it from your site if they want more information on the topic. This way, you entertain and invigorate your audience with well-produced content, then drive the most interested group of them to your site for the full story.

It takes extra work to do this, but that work could make the difference between a podcast with a few casual listeners and one with a large number of loyal fans. Not only are you producing a podcast series that people will actually want to subscribe to, but you are also serving the smaller number of people who do want to hear recorded lectures by making them available as well.


Once you start podcasting, you may start to think “I wish I could show my listeners things as well as tell them about them.” Of course, if you go too far down that road, you arrive at the video podcast, but let’s assume you want to stay with audio but somehow enhance it.

Lucky for you, there is a way to do just that. It is called — not surprisingly — an enhanced podcast. I don’t want to get into the details of how to put together an enhanced podcast, as there are plenty of places that will tell you how to do that. What I want to do is address why you’d want to do it, and more importantly, if you’d like to. (more…)

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© 2010 Adam Weiss: Podcast Consultant