I’ve been consistently producing and editing a podcast for a tad more than eleven years, and like most podcast producers, I listen to more than a few podcasts. In fact, I’m always seeking out podcasts that fit my fickle and changing interests. Maybe my podcast-producing experience has reduced my podcast-listening pleasure because I tend to focus on the quality of the product rather than the content. I’m not perfect, but I know what I’m hearing with my critical ear when I listen to podcasts.
What follows is my rant about big mistakes I hear podcasters making over and over and my tips for fixing some common podcasting mistakes. When you finish reading this, you may label me a podcast snob. That’s okay. But hopefully I’m not as annoying as a friend who is a coffee snob watching me brew a cup of coffee – “you didn’t let the coffee bloom,” you’re pouring too fast,” “you’re water is too cold,” and on and on. It’s tough being a critic.
Okay, into the hot water we go:
- Change Sample Type to Mono! The left and right stereo channels are not separate rooms where you, the interviewer, are in one room and your show’s guest is in the room next door. I get dizzy when I listen to an interview where the host is heard in my left ear and the interviewee is coming through in my right ear. There are call recorders that record your conversation this way; the caller is recorded in one channel and the person you called is recorded in the opposite channel. This is a great feature for the podcast producer. You can adjust the audio in each channel separately so you can match levels and quality using your audio editing software. However, after your edits, if you don’t change the sample type to mono, the listeners of your show are going to feel like the net on a ping pong table with the audio in your show bouncing back and forth between the left and right channel.
- Adjust Audio Levels! One of the podcasts I listen to regularly has a serious audio level problem. The host’s volume level is so low I have to crank the volume up to hear her. Her guest’s audio level is so high I have to crank the volume back down to save my hearing. I’m constantly rocking the volume level back and forth on my iPad. The is a simple problem to fix. Remember when we were talking about your recording software recording you in one channel and your guest in the other channel? You can use this feature when you are editing your audio file to adjust the levels in each channel so the volume levels match, and then you can change the sample type to mono. Your listeners will love you.
- Choose Music Wisely! Please do not use your six year old daughter’s violin practice sessions for your bumper music. Seriously, one podcast I listen to has someone, likely a child, playing the scales on a violin and using this as “music” to end his show. Please save this kind of thing for the grandparents. They will love it. I don’t. It hurts my ears. Consider that your listeners will have to hear your bumper music every time they listen to an episode, and choose carefully.
- Clean Up Language Litter! I spent many years in Toastmasters. If you don’t know what Toastmasters is, Google it. Spending time in Toastmasters’ meetings can do wonders for your podcast and your life. In Toastmasters we try to clean up your language by making you aware of how often you say, “um,” or things like, “yaknow.” I like to call these utterances, “language litter.” Language litter is very common in our culture and difficult to stop using. A podcast is fertile ground for language litter, so make yourself aware of it and try to eliminate it. I still find myself using language litter in my podcasts. I use audio editing software to zap this crap whenever possible.
- Brush Up Your Interviewing Skills! A show I recently subscribed to combined language litter with poor interviewing skills. The host of the show constantly interrupted his guest by saying, “yeah, yeah, yeah,” or “right, right, right.” These three words were blasted out, rapid fire, and sounded like one word with three syllables like, “yehyehyeh,” and “rierieright.” Over the past couple of years I’ve heard this “yehyehyeh,” or “rierieright,” litter creep into our informal conversations, and I assume people think it’s a cool way to let the other person know you’re listening. But if you are really listening, your mouth is shut, plain and simple. Let your guest talk instead of interrupting! Also, please refrain from revealing to the world how smart you are by doing most of the talking when you have a guest on your show. I was so frustrated with this podcaster because his guest was telling an interesting story I really wanted to hear, but the podcaster kept interrupting the story with his own comments, and then talked over the guest with “yehyehyeh,” and “rierieright.” The interruptions were so bad I had a hard time piecing the guest’s story together because the podcaster couldn’t keep his mouth shut. Click-unsubscribe.
I hope you walk away from this rant with a good cup of coffee and one piece of advice: please listen to your podcast with a critical ear and strive for continuous improvement.
-Attorney Barry Kantz is General Counsel and CFO of RawVoice and Blubrry. He can be found on Twitter @kantzb.