Like anything, making a better podcast takes time. Sure, spending more time on the craft of podcasting is probably a good idea. But how much time should you budget for your podcasting efforts, especially if you’re short on budget?
We’re investigating time in this four-part miniseries. Yesterday was all about your personal time-horizon. Today we’re going to tackle the hard question that a lot of podcasters avoid: How much time does it take to make a better podcast?
You already know that anything worth doing is worth doing well. Yeah, but for a lot of us, it doesn’t take much effort to sit down behind a microphone and talk. If fact, many of us can do that pretty well. Some of the most popular shows out there don’t seem to require a lot of time to produce. In fact, many people who have been podcasting for a very long time they will tell you that your audience will forgive you for your low-effort show, and that you should just get behind the mic and hit record. And honestly, I’m OK with that advice. Heck, I think I’ve given that advice in the past.
But that’s not going to make a better podcast.
This season, Podcast Pontifications is focused on making podcasting better. When podcasts are better, they better serve their audiences. Better podcasts are more appealing to their avatars. Better podcasts have a better chance of being more successful.
But how much more effort does it take to make a measurable impact on the “better-ness” of a podcast? Does 5% more effort cut it? How about 10% more?
Probably not. So instead of talking about how much more time you should spend on your current show, I want to give you some realistic numbers you can use to budget the amount of effort required for a brand new show.
Minimum effort for a better podcast: 8 hours per episode.
“That’s insane!” you say, knowing your podcast episodes are only 30 minutes long. How could you possibly spend 16x more time making an episode than it takes for a listener to consume it? That sounds like a Brewster’s Millions-level of silliness, right?
It’s not silly, I assure you. It’s just not what you’re doing on your current show.
Using a human to transcribe your episodes takes 5x the length of an episode. Writing a detailed article/blog post for your episodes takes 1.5x the length of an episode. Just scrubbing your audio file to make it sounds as good as possible takes 3–5x the length of an episode.
And that’s just time spent on doing a few things after you’ve finished recording. If you really do want to make a better podcast, there’s a lot of work to do — and to budget for — before you get anywhere near a microphone.
Have you noticed the rise in popularity of scripted shows? All first drafts suck, so what you hear probably went through more than a few rounds of edits. Those edits take time. Would you rather work from an outline instead of a full script? Great. All first drafts suck, even of outlines. Prepare — budget — for some revisions before it’s ready to roll. Ask anyone who’s been doing business for a long time, and they’ll tell you that more time spent up front makes for a better final product. Always.
So at a minimum, eight hours is required per episode to make a better, high-quality show. But that’s the low-end extreme on the spectrum.
Par excellence effort for a better podcast: 100+ hours per episode.
The best shows in the podcasting world today are well-produced, well-researched, and worthy of competing with other professionally-produced content from other mediums. The budget for making a show of this caliber is over 100 hours. And no, that’s not one person doing tasks for 100 hours. That’s a team of individuals that not only engineer the sound, but also those who work on the story of each episode. It’s a grueling editorial process that has nothing to do with engineering. It’s poring over hours of “tape”, scraping bits that don’t work, and getting back in the booth to record something that does, perhaps with a dozen retakes. It’s sending the “final” file off for professional mixing and mastering. And then it’s a team of marketers and publicists working — often well before the episode is released — to make sure it spreads as far as it can.
Yes, that’s a lot of work for a half-hour episode. But that’s where the bar is set to compete at the highest level.
Sensible effort for a better podcast: 20–50 hours per episode.
100+ hours is a lot to swallow. And even if you could figure out the ROI on the effort, you’d probably be stuck not knowing how you’d spend those hours! So start with a more sensible budget of 20–50 hours.
That’s enough time to do a well-crafted narrative show. That’s enough time to something more than just an interview show, but not quite the level of effort to create a Hollywood-ized production. But it’s probably enough to make a better podcast. The kind of better podcast so that when people listen, they’ll say “I had no idea a podcast could be this good.”
You don’t get bonus points from listeners for time savings during the creation process.
Consider an amazing piece of art you’ve seen. A high-quality piece worthy of hanging in a gallery. A creation that almost everyone would consider, amazing, wonderful, and beautiful. You enjoy this masterpiece because it is a masterpiece, and the amount of time it took to create the masterpiece doesn’t matter to you in the slightest. In fact, if you had the opportunity to meet the artist, you probably wouldn’t start with “How much time did that take you?” Because that’s a dick question to ask, and you don’t want to be a dick.
We don’t want the creators of the things we enjoy the most to spend less time making the things we enjoy. Conversely, we don’t want them spending more time making the things we enjoy. If anything, we want them spending the right time making the things we enjoy. But in reality, we give only a fleeting thought to the amount of time in the creation process.
Because the amount of time spent creating something and the amount of time we spend enjoying that something have absolutely nothing to do with each other.
Why you make your next podcast is up to you. Is it art? Is it business? Is personal? You get to choose the why and the how. It’s the what I’m interested in, and I hope what you’re interested in making is a better podcast.
If you want to make a better podcast, you need to budget for making a better podcast. Time and money require budgetary allocation if you really do want to make your next podcast a better podcast.
If you need help making your next show better, let’s chat. We can help with strategy, pre-production, post-production, copywriting, and much more. Email me at email@example.com and go to PodcastLaunch.pro to see a list of some of the services we offer our clients.
Since you got this far, how about mashing that 👏 button a few dozen times to let me know you dig the written-word version of my thoughts on these podcasting topics? I’d sure appreciate it!
This article started life as a podcast episode. The 204th episode of my four-times-a-week short-form podcast called, oddly enough, Podcast Pontifications. It’s a podcast for working podcasters that’s focused on trends in our growing industry and ideas on ways to make podcasting not just easier, but better. Yes, you should listen. Here’s an easy way: 👇
Evo Terra (hey, that’s me!) has been podcasting since 2004, is the author of Podcasting For Dummies and Expert Podcasting Practices for Dummies, and is the CEO and founder of Simpler Media Productions, a strategic podcast consultancy working with businesses, brands, and professional service providers all around the world.