Your podcast is available on all the main listings, and you’ve got into a good routine of recording, editing and publishing it. What’s next? There are almost endless things you can do next to improve your podcast, yet a lot of podcasters call it a day when their audio sounds good enough to them. But why stop there when there are quick and easy ways to make your show better?
My tips below are born out of the research that makes Audio Audit’s quality checking tool. Of course, if you want the quickest way to find out what’s relevant to your show, head over to audioaudit.io and upload your latest episode. Your report gives you a score and offers guidance on how to use various tools to make the recommended enhancements. Hopefully, you’ll find something that you hadn’t thought about to help you delight your listeners.
1. Improve your metadata
You’ll be used to setting your episode title and show notes for each episode — this goes in the feed — but there’s metadata that can be included in the audio file itself. Why should you care about this? Well sometimes your audio file will be played by someone that’s not using a podcast listening app. People may share the individual MP3 file with a friend or they may download it on their PC. There are also things you can include that are not part of the RSS podcasting standards.
A cover image is essential branding for podcasts so why not embed this so it can be displayed outside of podcast apps? You can even create episode-specific artwork so it’s slightly different each time – for example with photos of your guests. VLC, FFmpeg and others can handle this for you.
Chapters help listeners find a particular part of your show. Maybe you cover several different stories or topics per episode. Breaking your episodes down into sections can make it more digestible and less daunting for longer shows. Some good tools for this are Forecast, Chapter and Verse – find out more here.
Finally, there are a bunch of other text fields — things like copyright info, artist names, show name, and web address, that you probably always want to be attached to every audio file. Most DAWs, VLC, Picard and many other tools will easily let you set text metadata.
2. Check your loudness and peak volume
One thing that can be really annoying is when one podcast finishes and another one starts with much louder or quieter volume. There is a standard way of measuring loudness called LUFS, which outputs a number. Platforms have agreed upon what range this should be but surprisingly few people know how to set it correctly.
Peak volume is another type of measurement, which has an agreed standard and can help ensure levels aren’t clipping. Most DAWs have an option for setting loudness, for example in Audacity it’s under “Effects” > “Loudness Normalization”. -16 LUFS should be the perceived loudness target you’re aiming for. You’ll want to run this normalisation as the final step before exporting.
3. Check your sampling and export settings
Often people will go with whatever defaults their DAW suggests or will set things up once and not re-asses. Audio software can be used for many different types of content and there is a trade-off to be had of quality vs. download time, device storage, and hosting costs. This also skews slightly over time as the average internet speed increases. Most podcasts will sound great if they’re within the most common ranges shown below. If your show is specifically about high-res audio or you have a listener base that is on slow internet then obviously adjust accordingly.
4. Provide transcripts
More and more podcasts are producing transcripts as part of their show notes. These can be quickly generated via AI speech-to-text tools or human freelancers you can hire online. There are several benefits to producing transcripts:
1. SEO (search engine optimisation) — Search engines are primarily building their indexes based on text. Converting the content you’ve already made into a different form opens you up to different audiences. People might not be looking for podcasts specifically but find you because they match with the topics you discuss.
2. Hearing restricted — Some people have impairments, others find it easier to understand content when it is written down. A transcription opens your show up to people that wouldn’t engage with it otherwise.
3. Navigating within an episode — More advanced transcripts are time-stamped allowing listeners to find a keyword and decide where to start listening. This can also be a life-saver if you are adding chapters to your episodes.
5. Consider silences
Sometimes one show can run into another and the listener might hear an abrupt transition. Silences at the beginning and end give your content space to breathe. Slowing down and leaving your listener time to absorb what you have said might work well especially if your content has a narrative. This is a technique used in highly produced, highly scripted podcasts like 99 Percent Invisible. Standards from the audiobook industry recommend 0.5–1 second at the start of a track and 1–5 seconds at the end.
If you’ve already nailed everything above then here are a few bonus jumping-off points that might peak your interest.
• Compressor — Filter that automatically adjusts volume within a short time window which is great if you
have multiple presenters.
• Band filtering — Cut out high or low frequency noise that isn’t speech.
• Equalisation (EQ) — Boost/reduce certain frequencies of your voice to improve the tone.
• Panning — Spread out each person within stereo space to make it easier for the listener to tell who’s
• Noise reduction — Remove artefacts from inferior recording equipment and the environment.
• Sibilance and De-essing — Filters can reduce sounds like “sss” or “shh” which are not pleasant.
Damian Moore is the Founder and CEO of Audio Audit, an automatic benchmarking and proofing tool which checks the quality of your podcast MP3 files, giving you peace of mind before you publish. Find out more at audioaudit.io.
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