To cut or not to cut? That is the key question when we talk about creative editing in a podcast interview. On many occasions, we’re inclined to think that editing is a technical process, focused on removing "errors" of speech, incidental noises and awkward silences. But audio editing work goes much further. Today we will explore why editing, even on a podcast interview, is creative work.
In simple terms, editing is the act of selecting and modifying a file, and the only thing that separates a creative edit from a technical edit is the use of the criteria itself when editing. In other words, when the editor, editor, or podcast editor uses her own taste to determine if something is cut, we can consider this act as creative editing. On the other hand, when the root of that edition comes directly from a standard of what we consider correct or commercial, we could speak of a technical edition.
The goal of technical editing is to convey information clearly. As editors, our role is to keep content on target and ensure quality is maintained from start to finish. Corrective editing in an audio podcast normally seeks to eliminate filler words, long pauses, unnecessary repetitions, noises, or part of a conversation that is obviously not part of the actual interview. For example, an instruction from the podcaster to his production team, or the icebreaker talk between the podcaster and the guest prior to starting the episode.
Even when we talk about an interview podcast, we are talking about storytelling. Purely descriptive podcasts or conversations guided exclusively by the stream of consciousness (also known as rambling), will eventually bore your audience. Any great podcast, in any category or topic, in any format (monologue, conversational, panel, documentary, fiction) guides us through a narrative that is usually repeated through each episode.
Our job as podcast creators is to take the audience by the hand through those stories, and find connection points between them. To do a good editing job, you need to ask yourself the following questions:
Audiences listen to podcasts primarily to learn, be entertained and motivated. If we want our content to have the greatest impact, we need to focus on the experience the listener will have while consuming our podcast. By understanding our audience context, we will have a better understanding on how to approach editing. If the content goal is to entertain the audience, perhaps the best way to edit is to do it in a more “natural” way. However, if we want to motivate the audience, maybe we need to remove all distractions to get a strengthen the message.
Think about the treatment that you will give to the dialogue, and the criteria that you will use to decide if something stays or something goes. If you're already bored by the time you edit your podcast, your audience will probably feel the same way. It’s time to get rough on your own words and consider deleting snippets (whole minutes) if you feel no one will care about this. The question you should ask yourself is, “if I remove this, does the sense or the flow of the interview be lost?” If the answer is no, be inclined to cut with no mercy.
Although a podcast is a format that can vary in length, and since it doesn’t have time restrictions like traditional radio, is common that take some extra time during the recording, and unnecessarily extend a topic. At the same time, the audience is used to listening to podcasts with the same consistent length episode after episode. We suggest you to adjust the length of your podcast to an average length, and only make episodes larger in special occasions such as bonnus tracks or special editions.
The sections in a podcast are essential to carry a narrative arc, identify possible micro content for social networks, and maintain attention throughout the interview. Normally, an interview podcast, we subdivide into three parts: we follow a chronological timeline where we introduce the guest, first talking about his personal story, then we dive into a topic of discussion, and finally, we draw conclusions about his experience. This formula works, and although we agree to think outside the box, sticking to a general structure makes the work of editing and listening easier.
Another important part to mention is podcast structure. Many podcasts begin with a snippet or highlight of the conversation, prior to the static intro of the show. This is a trigger that plunges us into the content and prevents all the episodes of a podcast from starting exactly the same. Knowing how to select and reorder segments is one of the key tasks in a good creative edition, as well as selecting segments to generate audiograms or short videos for promotion.
In a sea of podcasts, we need to be unique to differentiate ourselves from other content, and this is where the editing work shines. The transitions of music and sound effects between sections, the volume dynamics, or the exchange between the narrative voiceover and the conversation, are part of the style of each show. We need to know if the pauses and breaths remain natural, or if they are carefully controlled and worked on, like a piece of sonic sculpture. Here, the relationship between producer and host must be close and trustworthy, anticipating the post-production work from the recording, and knowing what the host wants to hear once edited.
A fresh pair of ears, whether from a person on the team or someone close to you, always helps improve an editing job. And sometimes listening to our audience through reviews can be helpful too. The data, on the other hand, gives us an idea of what the audience thinks of the podcast, beyond what the reviews can uncover. If the audience stops listening even though the podcast is 15 minutes away, they’ll probably skipping the outro, or new listeners will give up after a few seconds or minutes, this can give us a good idea of the work we are doing.
Creative editing is sometimes not obvious, and it often involves taking risks or putting on the producer's hat; cut out parts that would be part of the content or even make the decision to leave an “uhmmm” because it sounds more natural than removing it. The goal of creative editing is to synthesize and optimize content for the listening experience. Good editorial skills determine what's important to the content, cuts out anything that doesn't help get the message across, and rearranges the information so it's easier to digest. As creative editors, our role is to give an artistic and aesthetic touch according to personal tastes.