Transcribing Your Podcasts and Video: Transcription Tools & Services

This post is in response to a great comment left on my previous post, “No-Cost Content: Free Alternatives to Content Creation Tools,” which provided free/cheap options for image sourcing, image editing, infographic creation, newsletter and email marketing, and more.
One area I didn’t touch on was podcast and video transcription (thanks to Marylou for bringing it up!). This can be a particularly tricky pain point for content marketers looking to get the most bang out of their content buck for two primary reasons:

  1. Transcription can be incredibly time-consuming, arthritis-inducing, and mind-numbing  (if you choose to do it yourself)
  2. Transcription can be notoriously unreliable (if you go with an automated solution or a sub-par service provider)

There also isn’t really a truly great free solution (at least not one that I’ve found — please feel free to make any recommendations in the comments). That means transcribing your videos and podcasts is going to cost you one way or the other. So why go to the trouble?

3 Benefits of Podcast and Video Transcription

If you’re not sold on the value of transcribing your audio/video content, or if you think it’s something you can simply put off, head on over to the Moz blog for Steve Morgan’s terrific breakdown of all the reasons transcripts are gold.
Here are my takes on three great reasons to invest in transcription:

1) SEO

As Morgan points out, search engines can’t read audio media. At least not yet. That means that your videos and podcasts can contain incredibly valuable content, but for search purposes, it essentially doesn’t count.
Don’t sell your multimedia content short! Adding transcripts to your podcasts and videos (on your site and/or on YouTube) gives search engines more keyword-rich text to crawl, increasing your chances of getting them found via search.

2) User Experience

If you’re like me, there are plenty of occasions when you prefer good old fashioned text to audio/video. You may be at work or in a public space without your headphones, or you could simply not have time to sit through a full half hour podcast/webinar and prefer to skim through the highlights, instead. That’s when having a transcript available really improves my experience as a user/reader. Being able to search the content via the “find” function is a nice bonus, as well.
In addition to providing readers/viewers with more options, it’s possible that providing a transcript can also lead to a more engaging experience. According to video captioning and transcription company 3PlayMedia, studies have shown captions can increase the average completion rate of video from 40% to 80%.

3) Content Repurposing

As a content marketer, I’m always looking to create more with less. That’s why I think one of the biggest benefits to creating transcripts for your podcasts and videos is that it makes it easier for you to adapt and repurpose them into new content. We routinely use transcripts from our podcasts to create separate articles that dive deeper and provide additional info on particular points.
If you’re not repurposing each of your podcasts and/or videos in at least one way you’re missing out on an opportunity and letting it go to waste.

Transcription Tools: Automation vs. Service Providers

So how do you go about transcribing your media? Assuming you don’t have time to listen to them over and over in an attempt to type it all out yourself — not a terrible option if your content is short and you’re not producing a lot of it — you have two paths to choose from: automation or service providers.

Upsides & (Mostly) Downsides of Automation

I’m personally a little amazed there haven’t been more breakthroughs in the realm of speech recognition / transcription automation, but as is it’s still really tough to find anything even close to reliably accurate.
Theoretically, the pros for automation are that it saves you both time and money and makes scaling your content production viable. Unfortunately, the cons are that those theoretic pros really don’t transfer over into the real world.
If you’re feeling lucky you can give automation a shot, but be forewarned that entire sites have been dedicated to mocking the often hilarious and head-scratching results.
Here’s an example of what YouTube’s Transcript option produced:
YouTube caption fail
I don’t know Christopher, but that doesn’t sound like a fair assessment of him. Come on, YouTube.
Automated Options:

  • YouTube Captions/Transcription
  • Dragon Dictation

Upsides & Downsides of Service Providers

With automation still not quite there, that leaves going the service provider route. The plus side here is that a human touch can go a long way towards making transcriptions more accurate (though they can still be hit or miss). The downside is that human touch is going to cost you (though affordable options are cropping up).
Here is a closer look at some of the most popular options.
Service Provider Options


Rev is a newcomer to the transcription service space, having launched this past spring. It relies on a workforce of freelancers, but is also using technology to help them really push it in terms of quick turnaround time and low cost.
Cost: $1 per minute of audio/video (ex: 15 min podcast would cost $15)
Turnaround: 48 hours
Rev guarantees 98% accuracy.
Rev Audio Transcription


Speechpad has been a leader in transcription for a while now, serving clients like HubSpot, Moz, and (full disclosure) OpenView.
Cost: Tiered based on turnaround time:
$1 per minute of audio/video for 1 week turnaround
$1.50 per minute for 48 hour turnaround
$2.50 per minute for 24 hour turnaround
Ex: YouTube video; length, 7 minutes. Back in one day, $14.00; two days, $10.50; five business days, $7.00.
Speechpad Audio and Video Transcription


Actually much more than a transcription service, Wistia helps customers with video hosting and marketing, providing conversion, analytics, and promotion tools and features, as well.
Wistia partners with 3Play Media to provide transcription service at a cost of $5 per minute of content. Transcripts are completed in one business day and are also “interactive,” with the words in the transcript being highlighted as the video plays. This also enables cool features like moving the video forward by clicking ahead in the transcription text (see Wistia’s explainer video by clicking the image below).
Wistia Video Transcripts
Wistia’s pricing is tiered based on usage. You can see a breakdown below:
Wistia pricing
Wistia also offers a 2-week free trial with unlimited videos and full support.
Other transcription options for those really looking to get down and dirty for a deal
If budget is your primary concern and you don’t mind sorting through to find the good apples, there is always Fiverr or your local university job boards!

What are your transcription tools of choice? Please feel free to cast your vote for the best option or make your own addition to the list!


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