A transcript is a written record of the audio content you present in your podcast.

Creating a transcript of each podcast episode can benefit both the podcaster and the listener. Publishing your transcript online will provide listeners with another way engage with your podcast and delve more deeply into your research. Your transcript can enrich your audio story with images and other media, particularly if you reference artworks, films, architecture, or other visuals. If you are quoting published sources or reference other research, your transcript can give your listeners citations that support your work. You can even use your episode notes to provide bibliographies and link to other online resources.

A transcript published alongside your audio content also makes your podcast more discoverable online. While many listeners may find your podcast through a content provider like Spotify or a phone application, anyone interested in or researching the subject of your podcast can only find your work on the open web if you’ve included written, searchable transcripts and descriptions of your episodes. If a listener is interested in sharing your ideas in turn, a podcast transcript will provide them with a way to verify your wording and link to or cite a published version of your work.

Transcripts for Accessibility

Podcasts and other audio files need to be transcribed in order for the media to be accessible for people who are deaf or hard of hearing. Failing to provide a transcript for your podcast means that people who have hearing disabilities will be unable to access the information. 

Providing a transcript for your podcast benefits you in the ways described above, but it is also an important step in providing equitable access to information.

How can I make a transcript?

Most transcripts are typed up by hand or constructed by speech recognition software. Since creating transcripts can become time consuming, some podcasters will hire a freelance transcriptionist or use a transcription service.

One easy-to-use tool for transcribing interviews, narration, and full recordings is Transcribe! This software allows you to play selections of an audio track, to loop the recording, and to slow down the speed of the recording without changing the pitch of the speaker’s voice. A free 30-day trial of Transcribe! is available via their site. 

Having a good quality transcript created for you can become expensive, especially if you have recorded several interviews to construct a single podcast, or if you are creating episodes frequently. Freelance rates vary widely, but transcription services start around $50 per month. A few reputable transcription services and paid tools include Trint, Descript, and Sonix. For help getting started, a product like Otter.ai can produce a reasonably accurate text-to-speech transcript for live interviews and narration. The web-based application allows you to transcribe up to 600 minutes per month for free, although uploading audio files or transcribing more than the 600 minute limit will require a premium subscription.

Transcript best practices

The following are good practices to follow to make your transcript useful and navigable: 

Include in the transcript:

  • The names of all speakers.
    • Speakers should be identified for optimum usability. For a podcast with multiple speakers, it is often best to use speakers’ full names the first time they appear in the transcript; subsequently their first names only may be used.
  • All spoken content. If there is speech that is considered not to be relevant, indicate that it has been excluded, for example: “[participants discuss the weather while the presenter reboots his computer]”.
  • Relevant information about the speech, such as volume or tone. This is usually indicated in brackets, e.g.: “Joe: I hate this computer! [shouted]” or “Mary: That was a mistake [whispered]”
  • Relevant non-speech audio in parentheses, using lowercase and italics, e.g.: “(computer crashing into bits and parts sliding across the floor)”. Non-relevant background noise can be left out of the transcript, or noted once (For example: birdsong or traffic). 

Edit according to situation:

  • In some cases, such as legal depositions, transcripts must be verbatim, including ‘thinking sounds’ (um, ah) and indicating pauses. While this can also be good practice for accessibility, as it creates an exact representation of the audio for those who can’t experience it, it can become cumbersome to read. For clarity and understanding omitting such sounds is acceptable.
  • For most podcasts and presentations, minor edits for readability can be appropriate. For example, it would generally be OK to edit: “I first met Juan in 2013 – er, 2014 – when we were freshmen at Columbia.” to: “I first met Juan in 2014 when we were freshmen at Columbia.”
  • You should not change the meaning from the original audio. It’s also not appropriate to significantly correct grammar or other mistakes.

Make it easy for people to get the transcript online:

  • Provide the transcript in HTML for maximum accessibility to people and to search engines, and for reuse online. Posting your transcript on a website like WordPress will display your transcript in HTML.
  • Provide a link to the transcript wherever your podcast is available, such as in show notes or descriptions that people can read when downloading your podcast from an application like Apple or Spotify. 
  • Similarly, in your transcript you should provide a link to or embed your audio file. 

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