Podcasts are a growing form of media. Podcasts can be used by pretty much anyone to voice facts, opinions, and stories, so it’s become a mainstream interest. Chances are everybody knows somebody who’s started one. While the collective rise in seeking another mode of information in our downtime is positive, it isn’t accessible to everyone. There’s a recurring trend in podcasts: they lack captions and transcripts. Federal accessibility guidelines for audio-centric media are far less strict than those that utilize audio and visual media. Most podcast hosting platforms don’t have built-in features for captioning and transcripts, so creators have to outsource the service.
What about Automated Captions?
There are, of course, options for automated captioning. Text-to-speech apps are available, and built-in features in software such as Google Chrome’s live captioning. However, we’ve only managed to achieve a certain level of artificial intelligence in technology. Automated captions frequently mishear phrases and deliver the wrong words. Automatic Speech Recognition has difficulty picking up the dialogue in an environment where the conversation is natural and flawed. Speakers on podcasts are frequently interjecting and speaking over one another, so automatic captions often have mistakes.
Transcripts vs. Closed Captions
Transcript refers to the entirety of the episode’s audio converted into text. Some podcasts may have this posted beneath the audio on their website. Captioning refers to the time-coded portions of that text displayed as the synchronized audio plays. It divides the transcript text into sections called caption frames. In general, captions are more helpful, but both help improve SEO! There is a sort of hybrid option called an interactive transcript. It displays the full episode transcript but highlights the current text of audio as it plays in real-time.
Accessibility is best with an early start! It’s much easier to plan for closed captions and add them as you release content than to go back and add them later. Closed captions can be added to mp3/m41 and mp4/m4v files for audio and video.
If you are doing captioning yourself, know that you should plan for significantly longer production. Some tips: include contextual captions such as introducing new speakers and labeling any sound effects or music.
Benefits of Captioning Podcasts
It will draw in new subscribers to your podcast through the accessibility factor alone, but you will likely see a 5% traffic increase through search engine results due to the improved SEO. Search engines can’t decipher the content of a video or audio file, so giving them a way to read the podcast’s content will yield an increased number of inquiries. It helps not just the d/Deaf and hard of hearing but also improves comprehension for those who speak English as a second language. We would be more than happy to work with you on making your podcast inclusive! If you are interested in adding captions to your podcasts, contact us today.