7 reasons you need a transcript for your podcast (and not just for access)

Nov 15th

Offering transcripts for podcasts isn’t something that everyone does yet. Many podcasters – including big production companies and broadcasters – still see transcripts as extra to the audio content. In the UK transcripts are rarely made available for BBC audio content.

But it is becoming more common to transcribe podcast content, in large part because we need to make the audio accessible to those that can’t hear it. In the USA, SiriusXM is currently facing a lawsuit for failing to provide transcripts for its podcasts.

Many people are starting to acknowledge the necessity of transcripts for podcasts, and it goes beyond accessibility – there are several benefits to podcasters as well.

Read on to find out why you need to have a transcript for your podcast.

It makes your podcast more accessible

Starting with the obvious reason you need a transcript – it means you can reach an audience beyond listeners. According to the British Deaf Society, there are an estimated 9 million people in the UK who are Deaf or hard of hearing.

But that’s not the only audience you might be missing – people who have less English might use transcriptions to help understand spoken content, and of course some people just consume content visually.

Whilst these people might not listen to podcasts, they might still benefit from your content, and a transcript is the easiest way to make audio accessible to them.

It helps journalists write about your podcast

If you’re looking to get press for your podcast, having a transcript is a real bonus. Journalists writing about podcasts listen to a lot of shows, and they won’t always (if ever) be taking notes as they listen.

A good transcript can help them find accurate quotes to use in articles and reviews, check spellings, and find timecodes for a part they’d like to relisten to. This all makes the journalist’s job easier, and you want to make writing about your podcast as easy as possible.

It helps you repurpose content

Transcripts shouldn’t be seen as extra content, but they can help you create extra content. If you want to make social media posts, blog posts or other written content to go alongside your podcast, it is much easier to start with a written version of your episode.

You can use the full transcript to pull quotes for socials, or you can edit the script down to create a blog-style post. However you repurpose content, it is much quicker to do it from a transcript than it is from audio.

It helps with SEO

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is all about making your content easy to find. If you have your own website for your podcast, uploading your transcripts adds extra content and more mentions of keywords that can be found by search engines.

To add extra SEO value, consider adding some relevant images to your transcript pages so you can use your keywords in their alt-text (the text that describes the image). These alt-text descriptions count towards search-engine indexing, meaning that your podcast’s website is more likely to be found for your keywords.

It helps you fact-check

Hosts and guests give their audiences information all the time, and it’s important that information is always correct. You could stop to fact-check as you are recording, take timecodes to remind you or fact-check during editing, but transcripts make this process much quicker.

Here’s an extra tip: whilst you are recording, have a set phrase you say when you know you’ll want to check something later, for example, ‘future me’. ‘Future me, check that date’ or ‘future me, confirm the pronunciation’. That way you can search the transcript for that phrase (using CTRL + F, or COMMAND + F) rather than scroll through the whole audio.

It helps your guests engage with the interview

It may seem strange to us as audio makers, but many guests won’t listen to their episode after recording, even if you specifically ask them to. This might be because they are busy, but it might be because most people don’t actually like listening to their own voice. Sending your guests transcripts at the same time you send finished audio can be a really good way of helping them re-engage in your interview. Transcripts remind them about the conversation, it helps them find quotes to share and helps them avoid that awkward ‘do I sound like that?’ feeling.

It keeps your content with you

The last thing worth considering is who will offer transcripts if you don’t do it yourself. Spotify is rolling out its own transcripts for all podcasts on its platform and as RSS feeds are open, there is nothing to stop other platforms hosting transcripts of your shows. On the one hand, this seems like a good step for accessibility.

But these are going to be automatic transcripts, and won’t be checked for accuracy. Mistakes can be worse for access if it obscures or changes meaning, and this is more likely to occur in the less-common and more specialist content.

It also takes this content away from the creator and brings listeners to the big platforms, not where you want your listeners to go (such as your website). This is great for places like Spotify that want to increase their market share of listeners. But it means you are competing against them for SEO.

Offer your own transcripts, and you are more likely to keep your audience coming to you for the right information.

How to get transcripts

Now that you know the merits of having a transcript for your podcast, how do you get transcripts? There are several ways depending on your time and money budgets.

You could transcribe episodes yourself. This ensures that transcripts are accurate, but it is time consuming – even for fast transcribers it will take 2-3 times the length of the audio (so a one hour conversation could take three hours to transcribe).

The other option for highly accurate transcripts is to buy a human transcription. There are loads of services that offer human transcription, and prices vary but you’ll be paying for the time of the transcriber and how quickly you want a turnaround – tighter deadlines cost more.

The good news for those on a tight budget is that AI has come on substantially, and auto-transcriptions are very accurate now. If you have clear audio, auto-transcription services like Rev, Otter.ai and Temi will often only need small corrections. It is still important to give transcripts a read through for accuracy (particularly if you are sending to journalists) because strong accents and less-common names and topics can be especially difficult for AI.

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