Why and How to Transcribe Your Podcast Episodes
Recording your podcast and publishing it are two obvious steps in creating a podcast, but transcribing your podcast afterwards is a great third step to help you turn out a better product. Here’s why you should transcribe the audio into text and how to do it.
It’s impossible these days to overlook the value and importance of SEO. It’s such an incredible asset to us here at The Beat and it could definitely help you take your podcast to greater heights. SEO is all about growing the quality and quantity of website traffic by increasing the visibility of a website on search engines. Basically, SEO means catering to search engine algorithms by knowing how they work. It helps you push your content towards people who may be looking for it.
There are some excellent ways to improve the SEO on your podcast. Be sure to use a searchable keyword, create a site that will host your podcast (some services like Transistor will help you create a website and publish your content), and create descriptions of each episode or even make some blog posts where you basically lay out everything discussed on the episode. Also be sure to include the keyword a few times in posts, link to relevant articles that deal with your topic, create some meta data, and include relatable images. All of these factors impact how search engines will rank your episode.
Then transcribe your podcast and attach the transcription to your episode. This will help your SEO ranking by giving sites like Google a great idea of everything discussed within the episode, which will expand your search-ability beyond something just like a keyword.
Options for Your Audience
I know listens are the most important metric for your podcast. But, some people may want to quickly skim over your transcript before downloading or playing. This is also invaluable to those who are hearing impaired, as listening may not be a viable option for them and it shouldn’t count them out from enjoying your content. I find that the more options you give your audience to engage in your material, the happier and more involved they will be across the board.
A transcription of your podcast, especially if you have timestamps included, is incredibly useful for reviewing your podcast. Take the transcription and read back over it. It can give you a great idea of where to insert chapter breaks within your podcast, and honestly it’s a good idea to have something in text form that you can review if you can’t go back and physically listen to your show.
In this age, sometimes who decides to pick up your content and share it can make the difference between a podcast for your friends or the entire world. When you have a transcription of your show, let’s say for an interesting interview, media outlets or blogs might pick up the text version of the interview for quotes or to share as content on their site. They may not want to share the entire podcast or spend the time grabbing clips from your show, but if they can easily access the transcription media members might help take your podcast to audiences you never had access to in the first place.
What Makes for a Good Transcription
As far as things you can control, most transcription service, state that for the best results you will want as little background noise as possible, and the fewer guests the better. Languages other than English tend to be come at a higher price point, and even thick accents may cost more. Accents tend to be difficult for not just the software completing the automated transcriptions, but also for the humans working on your project.
As for the companies you might be enlisting, the best things to look for are accuracy, how they will export your transcription, turnaround times, and if they have the ability to identify speakers (for example if you are in an interview it will separate between the guest and host). You also want to check if they are automated or employ workers to verify quality, if they provide timestamps within your transcription, what the cost per minute is, and if they have mobile apps to allow access to your projects across multiple devices. Keep an eye out for any hidden costs or extra fees that might rear their ugly heads on the backend, too.
How to Transcribe Your Podcast
Of course, you can always roll up your sleeves and handle transcribing your audio yourself. There is a massive advantage here in that you will know better than any other human or machine what you actually said in the podcast. The DIY method can, however, be extremely laborious and time consuming. Before heading down this route you should at least check out a free option like Otter, listed below. This service offers a playback feature, so the AI can basically set a road map of the transcription out for you. Then you can go back and make finalized corrections later.
There are a ton of options out there for online transcription services. So, I narrowed it down to the three best options that are still different enough from one another to warrant their own specific category. Online transcription companies are going to offer a few of the services listed below, and some offer all of them.
- Purely Automated: The AI listens to the audio you submitted and it will do the best it can to transcribe the contents. Most seem to average between 80% to 95% accuracy, depending on the outliers of background noises and how clearly the voices are speaking.
- Manual Transcription: These are transcribed and overseen by an actual person. Almost every company that offers this has an accuracy rate of 99% and is highly effective. The common turnaround times for these projects is usually 12-36 hours for a physical copy of your show.
- Strict Verbatim: This is where a person makes multiple passes at your audio to triple check that the transcription is perfect. These come with a 100% accuracy listing from the companies who offer it.
1. Rev – The Professional Choice
Rev is becoming more and more of a household name for transcription services. They offer a multitude of services that are not only beneficial for your podcast, but could also prove to be a great asset for your video productions. Rev offers affordable automated transcriptions for $.25/minute. The transcriptions aren’t guaranteed to be completely accurate, but they do have an average turnaround of five minutes. Rev also offers professional transcriptions for audio or video with human oversight for $1.25/minute, that are guaranteed to be 99% accurate and has a turnaround of usually 12 hours. Additionally, they have FCC- and ADA-compliant English captions & subtitles for $1.25/minute, foreign subtitles of over 8 languages for $3-$7/minute, and foreign language written translations in over 35 languages for $.10/word. This is an extremely quick and reliable service that plenty of industry professionals currently rely on.
2. Scribie – Affordable Transcription
Their automated service is more than 50% cheaper than Rev, with a cost of only $.10/minute. Scribie’s accuracy ranges from 80-95% and offers a 30 minute turnaround to give you a Word document of whatever you submit. For their manual transcription service, you are looking at a $.80/min price tag with a 36 hour turn around and 99% accuracy. Their service also includes audio time coding and speaker tracking within that price. Plus, for an up-charge of just $.50/min you can get strict verbatim transcripts that should be completely accurate. So, if you select the strict verbatim option you are only looking at $.5/min more than Rev for an even more reliable transcription.
3. Otter – Best Free Option
Otter is completely automated, and the basic option gets you up to 600 minutes of transcription for absolutely free. The free service will likely include everything you could want for transcribing your podcast. Download the app so you can access your transcriptions across multiple machines. The app even has a function where it will play the audio against what it has transcribed, so you can listen to the audio and double check the service’s AI.
I actually used Otter on my interview with Watchmen DP Gregory Middleton. To be honest, I had to go back multiple times to triple check Otter’s work on our interview, which was only two voices and no background noise. This ended up being very time consuming and a chore, but it did get me the basic outline for absolutely no charge. So, I learned that if something is going to print, I would much rather pay for a professional service, but if I need a transcript of something for review or a simple hard copy Otter would definitely be a great option. Also, if you were about to painstakingly try to transcribe your own podcast, then definitely use this service first and then go back to correct any mistakes. You will save yourself hours.
Put em to the Test!
We decided to pit these three services in a head-to-head battle by having them all transcribe the same piece of audio. I purchased the automated and manual transcriptions done by a human from Rev and Scribie. I also used Otter’s free automatic transcription. The excerpt I chose was a selection from Darin Bradley’s novel Chimpanzee. I voiced it personally in a quiet room, directly into a microphone, and it was exactly two minutes long. I would say this is a high quality audio recording, probably much more so than the likes that these services are used to receiving.
The Results: Automated Transcription
Every single one of these companies was able to get me an automated transcription within three minutes, which is fantastic. Some of the main challenges each automated system faced were obviously nouns such as the name of the park, the character Sireen, or the spelling of the author’s name, Darin. They also struggled on how to interpret the audio grammatically, such as pauses or sentence breaks.
The winner here is Rev. I estimate that to fix the grammatical errors and words the AI got wrong would take me a total of four minutes, and their transcription cost me $1.00 (they have a minimum set fee of $1.00). Now, this means that it would take me four minutes to fix two minutes worth of an audio transcription so please bear that in mind if you intend to submit something that could be hours long, but it was able to lay down the foundation in a way, for just a buck, that probably saved me thirty minutes which I deem well worth the cost.
The completely free Otter came extremely close behind. It churned out the audio as one giant block of text, but was just slightly more erroneous than the Rev transcription. I should note that it was the only automated service to actually nail “excerpt” instead of typing “exert.” I would estimate it took me about five minutes to edit this transcription. Since the service is free and so competitively accurate with a paid service, I would definitely recommend using Otter for automated transcriptions.
Coming in last was the paid automated service from Scribie. Compared to the other two, Scribie definitely struggled the most. It definitely seemed to struggle with how to break up sentences and comprehend the grammatical translation of a spoken voice.
The Results: Manual Transcription
Otter doesn’t offer a manual transcription service, so we have a direct head-to-head competition between Rev and Scribie for these paid services. First off I feel like they let the automated service tackle the transcription before sending over the final files to a human to work on. (This tactic makes sense, and it’s exactly what I recommend you do if you’re trying to transcribe a podcast by yourself.)
I say this because it’s one of the only ways I can wrap my head around one of the only mistakes that Rev made. They nailed the spelling of the author’s name, Darin Bradley, the first time but then later in the exact same line spelled it differently.
Both companies have a 99% accuracy rate on their manual transcriptions, and they did in fact deliver, pretty much nailing the transcription. Rev was able to spell the character Sireen’s name correctly while Scribie still thought the name was Irene. But, really we are splitting (fictional character’s) hairs because both services were almost flawless.
So the best way to compare these two services and know which one to recommend lies beyond the transcription. The Scribie service cost roughly 2/3rds of what Rev cost, so if you are submitting lengthy podcasts this can save you quite a bit. Scribie also included time stamps, which I find extremely valuable. Timestamps are especially useful if you decide to add chapter breaks within your podcast episodes. It’s much quicker than scrubbing through the edited audio to place your chapter. You just search the transcription for the keyword for what you were talking about, and you have a timestamp for the exact spot you are looking for.
Rev, however, does not include timestamps. And, despite only having one speaker they broke the audio into nine paragraphs. This is unnecessary and actually involves more editing just to take those breaks. What Rev does offer, and this is big, is the ability (like Otter) to play back the audio at different speeds while the service highlights the exact word it transcribed to the audio. Playback makes the editing process so much easier. Rev also allows you to take notes in the margin beside the text of the transcription, and offers the ability to download the document how you please. In fact, the overall UX and design of Rev is much better than Scribie and honestly more aesthetically pleasing. Scribie offers document downloads only, but in every kind of file you could possible want.
As far as turnaround, Rev absolutely dominated with an incredible thirty-three minute turnaround for the transcription. Meanwhile, Scribie took about thirty hours to transcribe the exact same piece of audio. This is a massive difference and definitely something to note if you are in a crunch and have to decide between the services.
Ultimately, for specifically transcribing a podcast I’m going to recommend Scribie here after testing the two. It is more affordable, and since the transcription is 99% correct from both services, you don’t really need to do much editing. Just paste the text directly to your site.
The more advanced UX and editing features of Rev would win out if I need audio transcribed for a published article. But, strictly speaking about podcast transcriptions I’m going to pocket the extra cash and call it a day.
Here is the written excerpt that I read:
An excerpt from Chimpanzee by Darin Bradley, copyright 2014 Darin Bradley. (Reprinted with permission.)
They didn’t always shoot people.
In the beginning, when civic offenders were conscripted into the Homeland Renewal Project, they were monitored only by crew chiefs. Hourly employees with managerial experience. People used time sheets. Signatures. They carried their meals with them in paper bags. But when the crews organized, when they started collecting protection money, to keep you from harm at the hands of other people on the crew—gang affiliations, race riots—workers disappeared. The crews became micro-politics. They followed the examples of the mobs in the larger cities, looking for someone to blame. They carried weapons in their lunch bags. Renewal became a safe opportunity to sell your contraband, in your standard-issue, reflective red jumpsuit.
They deputized the crew chiefs. Gave them shotguns. At first, they tried non-lethal rounds, but those caused an uprising. So they killed a few. It no longer makes the news.
The lien against my education is twenty-three pages long. It contains abbreviated transcripts of my yearly audits, when I, like every other student borrower, sat down in the loan therapist’s office on campus and let him index my cognitive chemical tendencies, my entrained associations, my affective self-models, which source most of my intellect.
It’s important to remember that we are not “in charge.” You don’t own your body, it owns you. It’s the same thing.
You don’t own your education. It’s on loan until you pay it off.
I am good at being unemployed. I can act interested and positive when Sireen, my wife, calls to check on me in the middle of the day. She stays concerned about my moods. About all of this. I am good at walking downtown—from our borough at the other end of the city because Sireen and I lease only one car, which she needs for the job she still has. I know which blocks are the most vacant, so to avoid them. I know whom to talk to. I know which times of day are safe for spending an hour in Sentinel Park, in the heart of downtown, doing nothing but being a guy with a coffee sitting in a park.
Cover image by Anselia.
Looking for even more tips on getting your podcast out in the world? Check these out.