Behind the scenes – the story of our transcripts

16th February 2022 – written by Cathy Booth

After 3 years, we’ve started producing transcripts because we’ve made surprising discoveries about their benefits and found an amazing transcription service called Sonix.

From the podcasting community I had understood 2 main reasons to produce transcripts:

  • For accessibility purposes – for the hard of hearing
  • For discoverability – via search engine optimisation 

Why we haven’t transcribed our podcast before

However, because bell ringers have to be able to hear their bell, I’ve assumed that the first of these reasons didn’t apply to my target audience and we expect that we will be discovered through the pre-existing community rather than random Google searches.

Also athough our amazing editing software, Descript, produces a rough transcript, I thought that the process to correct it would be just too hard and time consuming. I just didn’t have time over and above the work to host, edit, produce, and promote the podcast.  

Why we have started to transcribe our podcast now

However I really wanted to follow best practice and produce transcripts so I thought that maybe someone would help me do this. I put out a social media request for a volunteer. I was so pleased when Emily Watts responded and subsequently transcribed her first episode, using the Descript transcript as a base, although this took some time.

What I hadn’t appreciated was that a sizeable number of the potential audience of the podcast prefer to read. Simon Linford, the President of the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers blogged that there was a transcript for our latest episode for those that ‘don’t do podcasts’. After this I was amazed to see, via Google Analytics, the volume of people who were looking at the transcript page.

But then I realised there were more uses for an accurate transcript.

Importing the transcript back into Descript, I was able to make an accurately captioned video of the episode, to put on YouTube, complete with ‘talking heads’. 

Before posting it to YouTube, I thought I would distinguish it from the audio version further by making it an abridged version – ie 15 minutes rather than 40.  This editing was easier to do because I could easily read the content.

Finding a better way to produce the transcripts

The reception we got from the pilot transcript and YouTube videos made me excited to repurpose our back catalogue – which has 23 hours worth of audio content.

However, whilst Emily had transcribed one 40-minute episode, I realised that we needed to make the process easier if we were to transcribe more within a reasonable time frame.

I was also now more fired up to complete some of the transcripts myself.

Therefore, I researched automated transcription services, used the free trials of several of them and found the one that I consider to be one to best suit our needs –

Sonix uses cutting edge artificial intelligence to automatically and speedily transcribe and timestamp our audio files to produce a transcript that is surprisingly accurate, identifying speakers and a good stab at the correct punctuation.

However, all automated transcription services require final clean up by a human being and so after the speed and accuracy of the transcription, the next thing I considered was how easy it would be to correct it to get the final version.

Emily and I have now both tried out Sonix and found it to be very easy to use, starts with a pretty accurate transcript to start with and will speed up our processing significantly. Sonix provides a Word document-like editor in a browser window.  It has lots of useful intuitive functionality.  Amongst other features, I particularly like the feeling of progress as you can tick off paragraphs when you complete them and your completion percentage is shown.

The job of producing an accurate transcript is therefore much easier and more enjoyable.

So, we chose Sonix because it compares very favourably with its competitors through a combination of the following reasons:

  • Speed
  • Accuracy
  • Excellent user experience
  • Reasonable pricing

It is well established with use by over a million users and has extra features should we need them, such as the ability to automatically translate to another language and to embed a media player in our website.

Sonix is now one of our podcast’s key tools and I have no hesitation in recommending it to others. Click here to try it out for yourself – the first 30 minutes is free.