Podcaster Questions: Should I Transcribe My Show?

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The cover image for this post is by Edho Pratama

This blog post was written by Mark.

Should you provide transcripts of your podcasts? This is a question I get asked a lot, and the answer always remains the same:

If you have the personal bandwidth or budget to provide them, then you really should be providing transcripts for your episodes.

- Mark

Why Provide Transcripts

But why should you be providing them? Essentially for accessibility reasons. But also because there might be a legal responsibility to provide them - depending on where you live or where your podcast is produced and hosted from.

Why does accessability matter?

Imagine that you woke up one morning unable to hear, you would be unable to listen your favourite podcasts, unless they provided a transcription for you to read. You might not think that people with hearing issues account for a large part of your potential audience, but one report from 2021 has some interesting statistics:

Number of people in high-income countries with disabling hearing loss by 2030: 58 million.

Number of people with disabling hearing loss worldwide by 2030: 0.5 billion

That’s a lot of people.

I’d recommend taking a look through the charts and graphs on that report. There are way more people with hearing issues than you might think.

it’s a hidden disability; you can’t look at someone who has hearing issues and immediately identify it.

- Jamie

So where do you start? Well, every podcast hosting platform has a slightly different way to provide transcripts within the podcast media download. Some have support for adding an “.srt” file, some have support for pasting a transcript directly into the episode details, and some don’t support it at all. This is largely because there is no one standard for providing transcripts for podcasts. And because there isn’t one standard, the majority of podcatchers support different things.

Side note: What’s an srt?

An srt file is a plain text file which contains the transcript of some video or audio content. Each line of the transcript has a start and end time, and the content to display. The following is a very short example of an srt file:

00:00:00,000 -> 00:00:04,150
The first thing to learn about srt files, is that
they contain sections of your text content with timestamps

That example tells the media playback application to display the text

The first thing to learn about srt files, is that

they contain sections of your text content with timestamps

from the start of the media playback (i.e. from 00:00:00.000) to the 4 seconds and 150ms (i.e. 00:00:04,150)

How To Provide Transcripts

But one of the easiest ways to supply a transcript is to have a website for your podcast and include a transcription for each episode on it’s own page. Jamie’s .NET Core Podcast does this for every episode of the show: each episode has a separate page on the site, and they all contain a transcript of an episode. Here’s a recent (at the time writing this post) example: Episode 99 - Copy-Pasting with Iris Classon.

Providing transcripts on your show’s website will get you 90% of the way to being more accessible than the majority of podcasts out there. These transcripts also have an added bonus of increasing the SEO (search engine optimisation) of your podcast, as the web crawlers for search engines like Google will index the transcription content, and may rank you higher in search results based on the contents of the transcript.

One word of caution is that SEO should not be the goal: accessibility should always be the number one goal when providing transcripts.

Another bonus for providing transcripts is that listeners will find it easier to quote your show, should they want to. They no longer have to listen to a section multiple times in order to write out a quote

Jamie: this can also be helpful if your show is picked up by the press, as will a press kit

However, just having a transcript on your show notes page will only help if the show notes page (and indeed your website) is accessible itself. This is a much bigger topic than we have space and time for in this post, but some easy wins are:

  • a clear typeface for your text content
  • a high contrast ratio for overall content and design
  • a podcast player embedded into the show notes page, which plays the specific episode
  • alt tags on any images; these should describe the image to anyone with sight issues
  • easily clickable elements on your pages

Jamie: there are tools built into web browsers which can help you with this; they are embedded in the "developer tools" section of your browser

One thing which puts some podcasters off of providing transcripts is the cost of having someone listen to your show and writing out a transcript from it. And to be fair, this is a real concern. But there are lots of ways to get low cost transcriptions done - or started, at least. There are subscription based apps like otter and descript which will get you to somewhere between 50% and 75% of the way to a completed, readable transcription.

Note from Jamie: On Transcriptions

These services usually require you to read out a piece of sample text in order for them (or more correctly the machine learning system they use) to learn your voice and accent. You may also have to supply a list of words and phrases which appear a lot in your show, this is to help the service pick out some of your domain specific words.

For The .NET Core Podcast, I’ve had to add the following words (this is a very short list):

  • Xamarin
  • .NET
  • .NET Foundation
  • .NET Maui
  • Blazor

With those words added to the dictionary that they use, services like descript or otter have a much better chance of producing a good quality transcript.

One thing to point out is that almost all transcripts will require a human to read through and edit them. No computer system for producing text from audio is perfect.

And Finally, Some Resources

With that in mind, you really should be providing transcripts for your podcast. Here are some resources for podcast transcriptions: