Feb 07, 2022
4 mins read
There may not be a formula for success in podcasting, but there are many established best practices that we dutifully follow as we work to perfect our craft. But does that come at the cost of our creativity?
I'm afraid I'm making boring podcasts. No, change that. I know I'm making boring podcasts. Not necessarily episodes of Podcast Pontifications. But if I'm being honest, the episodes I make on behalf of my clients are...well, boring.
And while I'm being honest, I'll take it a step further and say that most of the podcasts made by just about everyone are also boring. This means most of the podcasts you and I and everyone else listens to are, therefore...boring.
I need to put some parameters around the word "boring,” lest you think me some sort of masochist. I am not referring to the information presented during the episodes. That's not boring. By and large, that's solid content that was painstakingly developed to be exactly what it is. And the intent wasn't to make it boring.
But did it happen anyway?
In most cases, at least for all the episodes I produce, deliberate efforts were made at the planning stage, the recording process, and even in post-production to reduce imperfections in and increase the content’s consumability. Both of those—reducing imperfections and increasing consumability—are Very Good Things, I think we'd all agree.
But focusing on those things is exactly what leads to making boring episodes.
Have We Edited In Boring?
I struggled with whether or not I should put out this episode. My biggest fear is that someone will misinterpret this episode and article and assume that I advocate no editing. Or worse that I condone the record-and-release style of podcasting. So let me state clearly and vociferously that that is not my position. Quite the opposite, in fact. I am the kind of podcaster who would rather err on the side of too much editing—at all stages of the production process—than too little editing. When in doubt, edit it out. (I need that on a t-shirt.)
So yes, we need to edit. But we need to edit in a way that keeps the life in our podcasts. And we need to make sure that life transmits all the way to our listeners' ears. Because most of the time, that's all we have: the sounds we put in our listeners' ears. That pipeline is all we have. And today, we're making that kinda boring—all of us.
We're editing in boring-ness in three areas of podcasting: music, voice, and structure.
1. We're using boring music in podcasts.
Music is often an afterthought for many podcasters. A quick perusal of a royalty-free music library usually does the trick. Others hammer out a few seconds of unassuming or neutral music on a keyboard.
You'll often hear some of the top podcasters out there using that very adjective—neutral—to describe the type of music they prefer to use in their podcasts. I've even heard some of the best and most successful podcast producers say specifically that they intentionally use boring music on their shows.
2. We're making the voices in our podcasts boring.
Podcasting is usually spoken-word audio, and it's up to the voice or voices, specifically tone and cadence, to convey the information to the listener. Talk slow; we instruct our talent. Do your vocal warmup exercises. Please speak directly into the microphone.
And if you can't control your quirks, like adding filler words, your heavy breathing, or your tendency to get quieter as you end your sentences, we'll control all of that for you in post-production. It's our job to get your vocals as close to perfect as we can.
3. We're using boring formats and structures.
Good producers spend a lot of time carefully crafting a structure for a show that gets the point of the episode across to our listeners as quickly as we can. No one wants their time wasted. We use a format that most people would find pleasing, with an overall "feel" that is markedly unchallenging to listen to. Heaven forfend we offend someone's ears.
Now examine that list: Neutral music. Perfect voices. Pleasant structure. None of that screams excitement, does it?
None of that allows for the messy, chaotic, and just human nature of how we express ourselves in the real world.
I don't have a solution to this problem. Heck, I don't even know that this is a problem. It's just something on my mind.
Maybe it's the inherent rule-breaker in me struggling to be heard. Maybe it's my nature to want to challenge the status quo. And maybe you have similar thoughts about making better and more interesting audio.
If so, I'll back you if you want to buck the trend. I think we could use more trend-bucking in podcasting these days. And the more podcasting grows, the wider and wilder and wooly-er podcasting is going to become.
I, for one, welcome that change.
I shall be back tomorrow with yet another Podcast Pontifications.