How to edit a podcast and the best podcast editing software

How to edit a podcast and the best podcast editing software

2022.05.09

Recording session complete. Only now you’ve got hours of uncut conversation, blips, bloopers and unrelated conversational tangents to deal with. Time for the edit. This is where the magic really happens, as your podcast is transformed from an idea into a fully fledged audio experience. All it takes is the right software — and the killer instinct it takes to cut, cut, cut.

What podcast editing software should I use?

We’ve made a couple of references to audio workstations already, but if those words have had you scratching your head, don’t worry. DAW stands for Digital Audio Workstation, and is the software you’ll use to record and edit your show.

There are a variety of different platforms you can use, and you’ll likely change DAW during your journey as a creator. If you join Acast, you'll get free access to Podcastle to record, edit and mix your show.

Here, we’ve outlined some of the other most popular options so you can get to grips with what’s available.

The most tried-and-tested option for first-timers is Audacity. It’s easy-to-use, free to download for PC and Mac, and provides you with everything you need to record and edit a podcast. Another option at this level is Garageband, which used to come as standard on all Macs and is now available through the app store.

If you feel you’ve graduated beyond Audacity and Garageband, you might decide to go for a mid-range option like Adobe Audition. It’s a level-up that will cost you – $20.99 per month at the time of writing – but many feel like one that’s necessary for producing audio to broadcast industry standards.

If you still don’t feel like you’re achieving the quality you’re after, you might want to upgrade to a professional DAW. These come at a considerably higher cost, but will provide you with even more precise tools for podcast production. Hindenburg Pro is a tool specifically geared towards voice-recording, setting it apart from more general audio workstations – it can be licensed as a subscription for as little as $120/year or $12/month or a perpetual option for $399. Then there’s Pro Tools – perhaps the most advanced DAW available. It’s complicated software to master, but can open up a lot of options if you’ve got the time – it starts at $299 a year.

How to edit your podcast

Mastering the edit is something that will take a lot of time and practice, but there are a few principles you can take into your early shows.

How much you need to edit will depend on the nature of your podcast. If it’s a long-form interview, you might not need to edit much at all – simply “topping and tailing” the beginning and the end and adding an intro and outro might do the job. However, if your show features different sections, or you’ve recorded a lot more than you intend to use, you’ll probably need to make a few cuts.

First, listen back to everything you’ve recorded. Make notes of timestamps, marking the sections in your files that you want to use or cut. Once you’ve got this list, you can more easily return to your master files and start chopping things up. Before you start this process, though, don’t work from your one and only master file. Have a back-up of the original recording saved somewhere, just in case. And remember to keep saving your edit as you go.

‍Once you’ve started chopping your files down and dragging them into order on your DAW, your episode should start to take shape. If you’re cutting big gaps, you might find that the conversation jumps around slightly unnaturally. This is where a simple piece of transition music or jingle can help things run smoothly – you should be able to find some royalty-free music on the internet, but make sure you’re only using something you have explicit permission to use.

‍Remember, you don’t necessarily need to edit out every stutter or stumble. People appreciate natural-sounding presenters — it’s one of the many things that can help a podcast stand out. It’s better to have a well-planned and scripted episode that features a few “ums” and “ahs”, than a well-spoken but sprawling conversation that lacks focus.

What is the best length for a podcast?

Much like a piece of string, there’s no definitive answer to this question. That said, some general rules apply when it comes to finding the right running time.

‍Shorter running times (15-30 minutes) tend to suit more topical, reactive podcasts. Many of these shows are daily so cover less content and are produced at a faster rate. If your show is just you talking about the day’s current affairs, this might be the category for you.

‍Podcast episodes closer to the hour mark are the most common and popular format, with many hitting an average time of around 45 minutes. This is a good amount of time to get stuck into a conversation or story, without people losing interest or running out of commute or bath-time in which to listen.

‍Some podcasts might merit going beyond an hour – very in-depth interviews or episodes that have been recorded from live events, for example – but be wary of the mega-pod. Ask yourself: is this running time justified?

‍However long you decide to go, remember that podcast popularity comes with consistency: so try to stick to the same length (or thereabouts) every episode.

How do you decide (and organise) what to cut when you’re in the edit?

“Apart from the obvious coughs and microphone knocks, the key for me is to remove anything that affects the flow of the episode and takes you too far off topic. Tangents are all well and good and podcasting is the perfect medium for deviation, but a lot of your listeners will be tuning in for the matter at hand, not an irrelevant or self indulgent story about a dream you had last night. That said, you don’t want to cut out everything as that can make the edited version feel disjointed and unnatural. Be ruthless, but be sure to listen back to the sections you edit heavily to ensure they still flow nicely.”

Adam Richardson
Pod Bible

How to share and upload a podcast

The edit is complete. All that’s left now is to upload the finished product to a podcast hosting platform, like Acast. Acast is your one-stop podcast hosting platform for reaching your audience anywhere, any time, across any podcast listening app — including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon Music, and hundreds of others. Acast also provides analytics to help you get to know your audience, as well as options for monetization — more on that later.

‍How you go about exporting your final file will differ depending on your DAW, but mostly the export option will sit under the File menu on the toolbar at the top of the screen. When it comes to what sort of file you export it as, MP3 and M4A are the only audio file types supported by podcast apps — so make sure you choose one of these. Acast supports both.

‍Your DAW will most likely also give you the option of what quality audio you want to export, in the form of “kbps” units. This refers to how much information (in this case audio) is transferred per second. The higher the bitrate, the better the quality. However, higher bit rates also mean bigger files, which can be more difficult to download and play back for you and your listeners. We’d recommend uploading 128-160kbps MP3 files, which offer a decent compromise of good quality and small file-size.

‍Most people use the Apple Podcasts app to listen to podcasts, and Apple limits podcast files to 150MB. To help podcasters avoid this issue, Acast sets the internal limit on our hosting platform to 150MB also, so if yours is too big, you may need to go back to your DAW and re-export it at a lower bitrate. 

Do you have any time-saving podcast editing advice?

“My time saving podcast editing advice is to get comfortable at listening back at double speed, you can start by slowly creeping it up at x1.2 at first but if you can get through the episode it’s going to save you heaps of time. Having the right DAW for you and familiarizing yourself with it is very important, I will always recommend Reaper for editing podcasts. And our biggest time saver is a program called Auphonic which cut down our post-production by about a billion percent.”

Joel Zammit
Sanspants