Editing a podcast trailer isn’t as easy as it looks

If I have to look at one more transcript, I’m going to have a breakdown

In my last column, I spoke about trying to understand the business side of podcasting, as someone who has zero background in this area, but this month I decided to challenge myself in a new way: I tried my hand at editing a podcast trailer.

It’s safe to say that my audio and video skills aren’t exactly advanced - I don’t have much editing experience apart from the basic Adobe Audition and Premiere Pro skills I learned over the course of my university degree and my short-lived attempt at becoming a YouTuber (please don’t Google that). 

However, I figured that since I’m now a part of the podcasting industry, it couldn’t hurt to freshen up those skills, and the easiest place to start would be to edit a podcast trailer… Or so I thought. We’ve spoken about podcast trailers multiple times on PodPod, and even interviewed The Diary of A CEO’s head of trailers Ant Smith about his magical editing skills, so it felt reasonably manageable. Alas, naivety can only get you so far and I soon discovered that it’s actually not as easy as I thought. 

Editing a trailer for a podcast in its pre-launch phase seems straightforward enough - you need to introduce the name of the podcast, the hosts, a brief description, maybe a guest teaser, and even play around with sound design if you’re feeling snazzy. Editing a trailer when you’re already nearly a year into a podcast with 30-plus episodes is a bit more intimidating. Where do I even start? What are the best episodes to highlight? How do I put into words how great this podcast is? 

So I did what anyone else would do in my situation - and went straight to Google. After doing some research into the generally-accepted best practices for nailing a podcast trailer, I decided to learn from previous examples. I found as many real-world podcast trailers as I could get my hands on, and binge listened to 10 different ones for inspiration. 

Once I had an idea of what I wanted to do with the trailer, the next step was to outline it. I knew that I wanted to have brief highlights from some of our latest episodes that show the diversity of our guests’ backgrounds, while also retaining the humour and light-hearted tone of the podcast. 

One of the first things most guides tell you to do is to write a script, but I ignored that, thinking that I can manage without, only to find out that I was so so wrong. It’s safe to say it took me nearly a whole afternoon to look through old transcripts and pick out the best one-liners from these episodes - not to mention the time it took to edit them down in Audition - but I ended up being relatively happy with the results. The trick is to not be too precious with the audio and to harshly cut down anything that feels too long, because it’s surprisingly easy to end up with a trailer that’s over five minutes. 

Even after editing down all the clips, I still had to go back to script and record some more links to ensure the entire package made sense - which actually made the editing flow a lot smoother. I did also face another setback when I realised that the majority of my audio files were in the wrong setting, meaning I had to go back and edit each individual cut I made - a mistake I’ll definitely never be making again. Eventually, after some feedback and one or two minor revisions, I ended up with a cohesive one-minute product that I was happy with. 

If I’m being completely honest, though, I’m not sure how effective the trailer will be in terms of attracting new listeners. During a session at the Radio Academy Festival on podcast discoverability, freelance podcast strategy consultant and former head of podcasts for Apple Danni Haughan said that trailers only really work during the build up of a show before it launches. On the other hand, industry figures like Arielle Nissenblatt have spoken before about the value of updating trailers throughout a show’s lifecycle, and for podcasts like The Diary of A CEO, trailers are a key driver for promoting new episodes thanks to the unique and creative way they’re put together. 

Still, even if you’re not planning to make it a central part of your promotion, I’d recommend experimenting with editing a trailer as an exercise, because it really makes you look back at the highlights from your show and reminds you what the message and tone of your podcast is supposed to be - and if it happens to bring in new listeners too, then that’s just a plus.