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  • Tom Kelly

9. Do We Need Standardized Terminology for Podcast Production and Service Providers?

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When you say you need to "edit" your podcast, what all does that entail? Removing ums? Assembling the episode by moving this part here, this section there, cutting out all of 24:56-32:37? Compression and equalization? Uploading to Auphonic?


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I see a lot of folks (sometimes myself, even) using the word "editing" as a catch-all term for anything that comes after recording a podcast. If you're a solo creator, meaning you don't collaborate with another on the production, this may not be a big deal. Call it whatever you want, no one has to know. BUT, this becomes a much bigger issue when you hire your first editor, or if you're the editor working with your first client, because the word "edit" and even "editor" means a ton of different things to a ton of different people. In this episode, I'm calling for more standardized terms so we can all be on the same page about what the hell is going on in podcast production.

Here's why I think it's so important. In music production, you can have 5 different people working on the production of 1 song. You can have the recording engineer, the producer, the editor, the mix engineer, and the mastering engineer. Sometimes only 1 or 2 people do all those jobs, but in podcasting, it's typically 1 person working on the production of a show. BUT, that 1 person doesn't necessarily have the tools, experience, and skills to mix and master a podcast, or engineer a podcast, or maybe someone is really skilled at mixing audio but not that great at editing. It's crucial to understand the skills and abilities of the person you're hiring for a couple of reasons.

It affects how much their going to charge (or should, anyways)

Personally, I don't like to be called a podcast editor because I believe I'm much more than that since I've dedicated 10 years to learn the ins and outs of audio, from mixing and mastering, to engineering and restoration. To say I only edit podcasts is untrue, and my rates certainly reflect that. I want my clients to know when they hire me, I fully understand every aspect of their audio signal, I know how to make it sound great, or bring it back from the brinks of death if they lost their mind and recorded an episode on Zoom that week.

The flip side is you need to know if you're paying them for services they're not capable of providing

I've often had people come to me saying they hired an audio editor to work on their show, and they can't hear a difference between the raw and "edited" audio. Unfortunately, podcast editing is kind of a gold rush right now, and there's some real scheisters entering the game. But let's pretend for a minute that these editors had good intentions. They edited the show based on their understanding of how a podcast show be edited, but they don't know a compressor or equalizer exists so while the episode might have a few "ums" and coughs removed, the audio itself is still very quiet, there's too much low end from the Zoom call that's muddying up the audio, and the voices aren't leveled at all. TECHNICALLY, the show has been edited, but it hasn't been mixed, or what some people call "processed". The client got what they asked for, but not what they were looking for.

These miscommunications have even happened between myself and other editors when they said they don't want a show mixed, so I sent them edited, raw audio back, and they mentioned it wasn't loud enough. The problem was they call editing "processing", and what I would call "assembling" they call "mixing". So when they said don't mix the audio, they meant something totally different than my understanding of the word.

These kind of miscommunications happen all the time, and the model I thought of just now as I type out these long-winded stream of consciousness blog posts that I don't think anyone reads is the scientific naming of fauna and flora. You know those 2 word latin names for the genus ad species of plants and animals? That's because a Robin might be 1 type of bird in The US, but a slightly different type of bird in Italy. The informal naming is subjective and regional, whereas the scientific name is a standard across all nations so scientists and birders can be sure to be communicating about the same thing to folks from different regions. This is an INSANELY practical and genius system, and I think we need something like this in podcasting.


Tom Kelly

audio engineer/recording engineer/mixing engineer/audio editor/consultant/coach/educator

"podcastia maximo"


Throughout the episode, I refer to MY terminology for production tasks and service providers, but I'd like to open this up to the group to present some kind of list to SOMEONE in charge so we can all have a better understanding of what these words mean, because "editing" as a blanket term is too vague and requires so much back and forth to properly convey what both parties believe that word to mean, encapsulate, and who is capable of providing those services.

At the end of the day, there's not even a great standardized term for what a PODCAST is, let alone all the intricacies of the elements that go into producing a podcast and the terms for the people who create them. I may be wildly off base and over emphasizing the importance of the matter, but I at least wanted to start a conversation with you all about this and put feelers out for what the rest of the world thinks.

Let me know on Twitter or on Patreon if you think we need more standardized terms or not!

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