September 23, 2017

Helping PR pros make smarter decisions

Naked Podcasting: Good idea?

Naked Podcasting: Good idea?

A few blog posts have come about lately on the issue of whether podcasts need to be edited, or if they can go out “raw” or “naked.” While I commented on Shel Holtz’s post on the topic and John Wall kindly referenced me in his, I thought I should expand in my own separate post.

C.C. Chapman (host of “Managing the Gray“) and Mitch Joel (“Six Pixels of Separation“) most recently raised the topic, and have more than once talked about why they record podcasts live and upload them as is. I have stated that I see a fundamental problem with that, not because I think “one take” podcasts are bad, but that the idea of “unedited” may be taken to mean that the audio file shouldn’t be touched at all. This is a problem in particular with Mitch’s “Six Pixels” podcast. While it remains one of my favorite marketing podcasts, the level disparities that sometimes (occasionally!) occur on the program can make it very hard to listen to.

A little background; I spent more than a decade in college and the radio industry recording and producing everything from live music of all types to full-length radio dramas. I suppose that means I come to this topic with an audio professional’s bias towards a produced, finished sound. However, that’s not my bias. My only bias is towards the listener. If your audio levels are not consistent- for example, the host is very low, then a pre-recorded listener comment comes in at a monstrously loud level, or the host coming back in at a low level cannot even be heard over the car’s audio system- that’s not a discrepancy, that’s a crime on the eardrums punishable by lost subscribers.

My preferred method, which I used when I was involved in recording the “PRobecast” at Topaz Partners, is to record as much as I possibly can live, then go back and fix gaps and errors and normalize audio levels (using Levelator is a breeze). This basic method was introduced to me years ago when I was lucky enough to work on a series of radio dramas for NPR, directed in many instances by BBC pros. In fact, I got to go to London to observe a BBC radio play being recorded. Again, as much as possible was done live, then it was cleaned up in the mix.

I am not saying people like C.C. or Mitch should edit their programs for content. The one-take “from the heart” method works very well for them. I am saying that if anything in your podcast will detract from the listener’s enjoyment or edification, then fix it, even if it’s just some simple tweaking.

Rather than go through a step-by-step editing instruction, I’ll just direct you again to Shel Holtz’s post doing the same. What I will do is point out a few reasons for either editing podcasts or “going commando.”

I threw out the question to folks on Twitter, and here are some of the responses, reflecting a wide variety of opinions, and more importantly the reasons behind those opinions:

jeanniecw Edited podcasts all the way! I tried in vain to listen to others, but give up when there is crap noise and bad pauses, segues, music help!

Drwright1 unedited podcasts are possible if the people are really good at what they do and are not focused on a bunch of sound effects.

dykc some people can naturally flow and others cannot. i think being able to do that, maintains the raw w/o edits needed. I don’t edit!

jmeserve We (NetworkWorld.com) only edit for listenability (coughs, disruptions etc) and not for content, particularly with our vendor podcasts. Luckily, we have an awesome audio guy that can make just about anything listenable.

cyberdyne: The podcasts I usually do are about 5 minutes long. So I’ll do one take. If there’s a problem I’ll do a second take. That’s it.

PaulDunay: I used to go nuts editing second by second for Ums and Ahs or anything odd but in the end I felt it made it too sterile – so no …

blacktar: I for one am a sucker for raw, unedited nerve. Be it audio or video. More appealing, more authentic to me.

Spinfluencer: Unedited podcasts are more authentic.

ecc1977: Edited vs. unedited podcasts/videos for me come down to whether I have time to do editing.

tgwilson: Just personal preference: audio/video are inherently difficult to “scan” (unlike text). And time is precious. “Edited” respects listener.

CK67 : I edit all my shows because I want them to be clean and without dead air in case someone doesn’t speak up right away. Quality #1.

There is no shortage of opinion on the topic, and I am not saying “naked” podcasting is a bad thing. But much of the time, some simple modest dressing will keep you from scaring off your listeners.

Doug Haslam is a public relations professional with SHIFT. Doug blogs at DougHaslam.com and can also be found at Twitter.com/dough.

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3 Comments

  1. aazrock@yahoo.com'
    Adam Zand

    The best Naked Podcasting is done in private, but that’s a probably a better topic for http://www.boobik.com.
    Doug covers all the angles here. We all balance a need for immediacy (“I’m here and I want you to know about it now”) vs. deeper reporting “Here’s the best way possible for me to communicate these ideas.”
    I see merit in both approaches, but tend to lean on the side of editing and all that the term “quality” means.
    For example, I’ll bounce from a bad CEO video on Vator.tv and will look around for the best “sounding” old Clash videos on YouTube. Whatever the content – Sound quality can bring you in or it can repel.
    PRobecast was a blast to work on when I was at Topaz Partners with Doug, Tim Allik, Rob Capra, Todd Van Hoosear and others – we’d get topics, grab a room (and beers) and record for around 30 minutes. The show flow might have been lame (joking), but the production values were excellent and listenable because Doug took the time to mix and make minor edits (well, we did edit out that talk about the Pope’s policies, right?).
    The social media and communication tools we use are great for instantaneous life/client/event streaming, but don’t forget about the audience that wants to listen.

  2. bperson@gmail.com'
    Bryan Person, LiveWorld

    Good post, Doug. I’ll point out some of what I wrote in a comment to Shel’s post that you reference — and I very much agree with you: Podcast editing respects the listener and is a good practice to follow.
    Now, “editing” can take several formats:
    * Removing some/most/all of the “uhms” and “ahhs,” as Paul Dunay used to do.
    * Bringing up the lows and bringing down the highs — normalizing, Levelating, etc.
    * Cutting out whole portions of the original recording for a tighter sound, to cut out repetition, etc. (as many professional radio programs would do for non-live programs)
    * Trying to remove or minimize distracting background sounds, room noise, etc.
    * Adding music/voiceovers at the beginning/end and/or intermixing stingers and jingles?
    My own preferences for the podcasts I edit?
    * Normalizing/Levelating is an absolute must when there are segments with widely varying volumes.
    * Beyond that, it’s usually a question of how much time I have. I like to remove particularly egregious “uhms”/false starts in interviews, especially for my guests. It makes them sound better, and what’s wrong with that?
    The idea that editing is somehow less “authentic” is nonsense to me. That’s like saying you shouldn’t reread your blog post or run a spell check and make obvious corrections (mixing up “their” and “there,” correcting a bad spelling, deleting a sentence or phrase you accidentally repeated because you were typing too fast) before you hit the publish button because it would take away from its authenticity.
    Overediting can be a problem, surely, but that’s a whole other discussion. That’s just bad editing.
    I understand that editing takes time — often much more time than I have, or have the patience to spend (that’s part of the reason I’m not podcasting regularly anymore). But for me, at least, putting out a completely unedited podcast is not the answer, because I don’t think that respects the listeners.
    Guys like C.C. and Mitch can generally get away with recording good podcasts in a single take, and I envy them for that. But most of us really should spend some time polishing our recordings before sending them out to the world.

  3. leslie@bgwe.org'
    Leslie Poston

    Very much unedited here. Partially this is because my podcast Topics on Fire is set up as a panel with conversational elements to it, and partially due to time constraints.

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