If you have 100,000 listeners and you edit out one useless minute you are saving 100,000 wasted minutes in the world. You’re practically a hero.— Roman Mars (@romanmars) April 13, 2018
Editing is an art form and skill. There's a lot of creativeness that goes into editing. This post won't go over how to edit your show, but will provide tips for doing it.
What Editor Do I Use?
Audio editors are sometimes referred to as a Digital Audio Workstation or DAW. To start out with I recommend just going with a free editor. They do ok and you can get started quickly.
Once you get going on your podcasting you might want to purchase a better editor. These premium editors offer more functionality and options. For instance in Audacity, once you delete part of an audio clip, you have to re-import it to get it back. But the premium editors are all non-destructive. So when you delete part of a clip, you can bring that section back by simply dragging the end of the clip back over to have it re-grow that secion back.
Each of these premium editors above are great for podcasting. It depends on if you have experience with any in the past or are working on a team with someone who has skills on that editor. I prefer Hindenburg myself but a lot of pros use Pro Tools. I prefer Hindenburg for podcasting for it's simplicity. There isn't a lot to learn and it's designed for podcasting in mind. The other editors in that list are capable of doing much more than just podcasting. They were built with versitility in mind where they can be used to create movies scores, musical songs, or a podcast. This gives them a lot more features. Many of the premium editors have free trials. Give a few a shot and see which one you prefer.
Here's an additional article if you want to know more about which podcasting equipment you need to make a podcast.
When in Doubt, Cut it
You see the quote from Roman Mars above? Cut out anything that's not adding value to the show. People often prefer a shorter show that's filled with great audio vs a longer show that has some great audio and some boring parts. You want to be ruthless and cut out the boring parts and mediocre parts. By doing so will make your show better.
If you start questioning whether a certain part is good or not, it's usually a sign it's not. Change it, edit it, cut it out, redo it. Because if you're not sure, it means many people will not like it, and many people will. You want to maximize the number of listeners who will like it, and reduce the number of listeners who won't. One important thing to podcasting is to keep the listeners you already have, so don't chase them away because of some boring parts or parts you thought might have not been good. Just cut it out.
The First Take is Often Trash
Alex Blumberg from This American Life, Planet Money, Startup, and now CEO of Gimlet, says that no matter how good you are, the first draft and first recording is bad. Now of course he's doing a scripted show, and many podcasters are doing interviews and banter style shows. So it doesn't apply to everyone. For instance Joe Rogan doesn't do 2 takes. But if you're doing a scripted show and narrating something, recognize the first go was just practice and you should probably edit the script, and reread it again.
If breathing sounds are distracting cut them out. Certain mics will pick up breathing more than others. The way you tilt your head towards the mic will pick up breathing differently too. So if your show hosts are making a lot of breathing noises, it's often just an issue with the mic.
LUFS / Stereo / Bitrate
Take a look at this technical analysis of top podcasts. It reviewed 100 podcasts to determine what the top shows are using and found the following settings are used the most:
- bitrate 128 kbps
- -18 LUFS
Bitrate is the compression used in the mp3 file. A higher bitrate means better audio quality but also bigger file size. Since your listeners are usually downloading stuff to their phones you don't want to put huge files on their phone and use lots of bandwidth to download it. So 128kbps seems to be just fine.
While many shows seem to be played in stereo, they are almost all balanced right in the middle equally left and right. This is preferred because some people listen with one earbud in, or have bad hearing in one ear. When listening to voices there simply isn't a need to have one voice in one ear and another voice in the other.
The LUFS is a loudness rating. The lower the number the louder it is. This is highly debated but I recommend going with -18 LUFS or louder because the listener can always turn it down. But if the listener is in a noisy place like an airplane, they may not be able to turn it up louder if your show was naturally quiet.