I’ve been listening to more podcasts recently. I’m trying to understand how style, format, and white space come together to share information in audio format.
White space and the case of the crunched podcast
I listened to a sports podcast recently that made me think. But not in a good way. It was a really interesting topic discussed by a couple of guys not super experienced in podcasting. Unfortunately they had ‘crunched’ the show so as to eliminate any dead space. The end of the one host’s question was connected almost immediately to the answer of the other host. The pause between the question and answer had been eliminated with overediting. And so it went. Really fascinating subject matter on AI and sports. Really animated hosts. But something happened when those pauses were eliminated. It made it hard to listen to.
It’s as if you took a 600 word blog post, removed the punctuation and made it one long paragraph with no margins. With effort you could follow it but it would be hard to read. The information is there but the elimination of the key pause points makes the editorial design a fail.
White space as a critical element of editorial design
It’s about the white space. It’s the breathing room that, as a listener, I need to process the question in the most basic way. The pause and subtle delay represents a key part of human engagement and one of the great things that you get from a well produced podcast. The cadence of a conversation says as much as the words themselves. From Jocelyn Glei:
In design, “white space” is negative space. It’s not blank space because it has a purpose. It is balancing the rest of the design by throwing what is on the page (or the screen) into relief. The white space helps focus your visual attention.
Audio files, like written or video files, need to be produced and edited to deliver a product that creates value and respects the bandwidth of the listener. Good editing, however, should be invisible to the reader.
In a world where the multichannel flow of information is becoming more intense, editorial design will become increasingly important for successful messaging. This is the attention economy and the spoils will go to those who know how to keep it.