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We are imperfect beings. It's not an overstatement to say that we would not be the species we are today were it not for mistakes. Mistakes are, quite literally, baked into our DNA.
When a creative person - like a podcaster - makes a mistake, it’s not quite as life-and-death as genetics. Though they might lead to an existential crisis! I know some of the boo-boos I've made as a creative have been really hard on my soul.
But not all mistakes made in the process of making a podcast are bad things. Sometimes, these inadvertent errors can be a gift. To help illustrate that, I’ve chosen 10 completely random examples of probable mistakes that might happen to you as you podcast, along with ways to embrace them as a hidden intention. While I’m reticent to take a “hey, I meant to do that” approach, that’s not a bad mindset to adopt. If you can pull it off.
Publishing Your Podcast Episode On The Wrong Day Or Wrong Time Of Day
This assumes that you have (and you should have) a set schedule of exactly what day and time you publish your episodes. Repetition breeds familiarity, and your core audience quickly begins to expect exactly when they can get your content.
But you can screw that up. I’ve screwed that up. Especially if you're (smartly) working in batch and scheduling episodes far in advance. It’s easy to click the wrong date or time in the publishing system, causing both you and your audience to be surprised to see an episode drop on a random Wednesday afternoon instead of Friday at 2:00p. Oops!
If that happens, it happened. There’s no reliable mechanism to unpublish an episode of a podcast and publish the exact same file again later. So instead of freaking out and beating yourself up over your error, use it an opportunity to learn.
Did the number of accesses to that audio file change compared to other episodes? Did you get more or less feedback from listeners? Did it “feel better” to you to encounter the episode at that unusual time? If the data supports it, you may have stumbled on a better day and time to publish.
Skipping A Plugin In The Mastering Chain
If you're like me, you've a set chain of plugins and filters you apply almost every time you make an episode of your podcast. Even though those are applied much like muscle-memory, you can skip one. Maybe you forgot to add in noise reduction, by way of common example, and didn’t notice until after you published the episode.
As before, examine the results. Sure, it sounds different (worse?) to you. But did it sound different to your audience? Did someone say, again by way of common example, being able to fully hear the background traffic sounds bleeding in from your window was a nice human touch? Their opinion just might change yours.
Adding/Removing Too Much Space Between Segments
Space, silence, music, and effects have a huge impact on your show. If you’re a careful audio engineer, you spend a lot of time getting each transition just right.
But sometimes, you’re in a hurry. Or you accidentally click and drag a segment out of place, and now the bed music plays for ten full seconds before the VO part announces the next segment. Or maybe you normally have super-long roll-off between segments, but now you have one transition that is super-tight.
Clearly, that change in timing was unintentional, and the episode probably sounds weird, with that one bit sounding quite different than the rest of the program. But ignoring the fact that the edit is different, does it sound good? Did the extended bed music give listeners more time to consider the words spoken before the transition? Did the tighter edit make it flow better and feel “snappier”? And is that change of feeling something you’d never considered, but now that you’ve heard it, it’s worth exploring?
Promoting With A Full-Length Audiogram Instead Of A Clip
Ignoring my skepticism on the demonstrable effectiveness of audiograms for podcasts, many podcasters rely on them as a staple of their promotional process. The tools that make it easy to make an audiogram also make it pretty easy to accidentally make an audiogram out of your entire episode instead of the short clip you had highlighted. And if the social destination you’re publishing on will allow it, your audience might see a 30-minute long audiogram from your show in their timeline.
Check the stats of that post! Did it get more or less engagement? Did you stumble across a new publishing platform that at least some of your audience prefer? Or do you have new content you can upload to longer-form video platforms that helps your show stand apart?
Your Podcast Guest Isn’t A Good Fit For Your Show
Getting the right content out of the right guest is a mix of art, science, and the vagaries of the human brain on any given day. You may very well find yourself with a guest that just doesn’t fit. Maybe they weren’t vetted properly. Maybe they’re just “off” that day. Maybe you’re the one who’s off.
You obviously can’t force them to say the content you were hoping they would say. But are they saying interesting things? Do they have a compelling story far afield of what you wanted to talk to them about? Can you find a way to use the content they are giving you for a different episode, perhaps one you haven’t even conceived of? Unless you’re really struggling with hard drive storage, save the odd conversation and see if you can make something out of it later, maybe as a bonus episode.
Recording Without Your Favorite Microphone
I can’t count the number of times I’ve wished I had my mic with me when I traveled. You remember when we used to travel, right? Or when I have remembered to pack my gear but stupidly forgot batteries for my portable mic. D’oh!
But I do have a microphone that I carry with me pretty much everywhere. You have one too. In fact, you might be reading these words on it right now. Yes, I’m talking about your mobile phone. While no one is going to confuse the depth of sound captured by an SM7B with the built-in microphone on any cell phone, those mics are certainly capable of picking up a decent representation of the sounds around them. What can you capture on your phone in the field that you can use to build a great episode when you get back in your studio?
Losing Access To Your Sound Library
Many serious podcasters subscribe to one or more music licensing services. These typically come with monthly or annual agreements. But if payment fails, you may find yourself without access to your trusted library of music, effects, and loops. Now what?
Maybe this is an opportunity to try one of the newer services. Or if you’re really in a pinch, you now have an excuse to revisit the Freesound project, if only until you have the time to carefully vet new services.
Losing Access To Your DAW
Computers break down. The latest OS may automatically install, but your expensive podcast editing software doesn’t work on it. Or you’re traveling only with your laptop and it just can’t handle the big DAW. None of that matters, because you still have an episode to produce.
I know it’s been a while, but free software like Audacity is still out there, and you still remember how to use it. No, you probably can’t do all the things you normally do or have access to the same plugins and filters you normally do. But it’s still there. And sometimes, doing “less production” is an interesting break for you and your audience.
When “Oh Shit, I’m Recording TODAY?!” Happens
Through a fluke of scheduling, you’ve nothing lined up. No guest. No well-researched topic. Or maybe you’re passing a kidney stone and have only the energy to beg your audience’s forgiveness while you let the waves of pain and opioids wash over you. You know, for instance.
Lean into it. It’s not like you can go back in time and fix those problems. So just go for it. Riff on a topic all on your own. Respond to some listener feedback. Talk about future plans for the show. Don’t try to fake a normal episode. instead, take the opportunity to give your audience something different from you and the show.
You Forgot To Socially Promote An Episode
Normally, you're really good about promoting episodes after you’ve released them. In fact, you've built a near-bullet-proof, cascading process that takes the guesswork out of your episode promotions.
But only if you remember to kick it off. At some point, you’ll forget. So… what happened? Did the number of accesses (downloads) change for that episode compared to others? Do you see more or less engagement overall across your promotional channels? Are you getting positive responses from people thanking you for not flooding your social profiles with promotional messages they just see as noise? What do those data suggest to you about your future promotional plans?
Not All Errors Are Created Equal
I’m a fan of fixing errors before they make it to the public. Some things that are “wrong” are just that: wrong. And you should fix them. Don’t take my words as permission to publish a .wav file “to see what happens”. We know what happens. It’s bad. If your mix has all of the vocal tracks playing at the exact same time so that all voices are incomprehensible, don’t publish it. Or if you did, delete it and republish a corrected version. If you said the wrong date when you were talking about the War of 1812, fix it in post.
But for non-factual errors or glaring mistakes, treat other boo-boos that happen on your podcast as a gift. Maybe they were your hidden intentions all along.
You can help me by telling one person you know about Podcast Pontifications. Assuming they’re a working podcaster, send them a personal note and ask them to listen. Please? Word of mouth is really the only way this show grows.
And if you like what I have to say, go to BuyMeACoffee.com/EvoTerra and toss a few shekels my way. It really helps keep the show going and shows me that you appreciate the 12-15 hours of my work week that I dedicate to the show every single week.
I shall be back on Monday with yet another Podcast Pontifications.