Transcribe podcast episodes to add value

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Shaun Weston on the benefits of choosing to transcribe podcast episodes, including quality control, transcription services and writing skills.

by Shaun Weston

I edit and transcribe podcast episodes. In the course of doing so, I track the process diligently by using a to-do template for each project. I name each section of tasks like this:

  1. First stages (12 tasks)
  2. Graphics (4 tasks)
  3. Headliner (2 tasks)
  4. Uploading (6 tasks)
  5. After publish date (9 tasks).

Producing a podcast is a lot of work! It also demands that you are multi-skilled, being able to handle audio recording, mixing and mastering, writing, artwork, website editing, social media, and so on. If you’re not a professional podcast producer, I hope this article improves your perception of the value of the role. For now, let’s take one of the tasks from the list and focus on it: the art of transcription.

The SEO benefits of a transcribed podcast

A transcript is the written version of the podcast episode. I don’t obsess over metrics, never have and never will. However, I do value the importance of search engine optimisation (SEO) especially if my client considers analysis of traffic crucial to the success of their business. The task of transcribing a podcast episode is therefore not simply a convenient alternative to the audio, it can help drive people to the content you’ve produced by means of being, for instance, Google-friendly.

Think of what your transcript includes, such as keywords from the episode, a strong sense of topic, and perhaps timestamps and show notes. I add chapter marks to podcast episodes to help the listener find and jump to the section that most interests them. I also add timestamps to the YouTube version of the podcast. This not only helps the listener, it encourages me to really delve deep into the episode, pulling out important points I may have missed first or second time around.

More words means more content

Another benefit to transcribing your audio is being able to produce more content. You could add the transcript to the podcast page on your website, and even host it on its own page; or draw out new content using sections of the episode to create new stories and ideas. Having a transcript around also helps when you’re creating social media posts, being able to quickly find what you want from the transcript.

More content means increased stretching of your imagination (another undervalued trait). With a completely transcribed podcast episode at your disposal, there are more social media avenues to explore, more threads to eek out and more stories to impart. And if you have created timestamps to accompany your transcript or show notes, listeners/readers can quickly access those pieces of content that correlate.

Of course, the written word makes your podcast more accessible. The ability to take one piece of content and turn it into different formats is a real skill, and audio broken down into words is a great way to increase visibility across various platforms. Think here of subtitles across audio snippets, full transcripts for the hearing impaired, and so on. There’s a lot to think about once you have your transcript, but first you have to get that audio down onto paper, and here’s how I do it.

The process I use to transcribe podcasts

I recently began experimenting with transcription services. There are quite a few out there, some better than others, but all fallible to some degree. I’ve used a couple of paid-for services but found them poor value for money. Right now, I use Amazon Transcribe, which isn’t perfect, but it provides a solid foundation for what comes next.

And what comes next is simple, laborious but accurate manual transcription. It’s perhaps not what you wanted to hear, but I can’t offer you a better alternative. Transcribing your own podcasts is simply the best way to do it. You’re in charge of quality control, so you end up digging a little deeper in making sure someone said what they said. You go over things a few times, soaking up the context of the conversation, which leads to better ideas about how to share the content. It also helps you produce better podcasts in the first place, as you appreciate and take into account the issues related to overlapping voices, or background noise.

Having a service do some of the grunt work for you is helpful, and that’s why I sometimes use Amazon Transcribe. I then take this transcription and fine-tune it while listening to the audio. It saves me a lot of time, but to be honest I think manual transcription is time well spent. We’re all trying to shave minutes and seconds off our routine tasks, which is understandable if your workload is tough to manage. Yet, if shaving time off tasks is at the expense of quality, I don’t think it’s worth it. Quality should always be top priority.

You may choose to use audio software to help get the best transcript, such as Transcribe! by Seventh String, or Audacity. These can slow down the audio without distorting it, enabling you to transcribe at your own pace.

The skill of the writer

There is one great downside to producing your own transcript, and that’s your skill as a writer. Podcast audio is often conversational. Incomplete sentences fly around unchecked and voices frequently overlap. These are just a handful of challenges associated with transcribing audio. How you interpret these challenges is a challenge in itself, and this is where your knowledge of how to present words comes to the fore.

If your transcription looks like a stream of consciousness (think James Joyce), it may be fabulous literature to some but anathema to others. Keep it simple. If the conversation you’re listening to trails off, have a set of rules in place for showing this to the reader. It may be a good idea to … use ellipses, and change the colour of sentences so that each podcast guest has their own shade. Use punctuation to help your reader as much as possible. If you’re not a good writer, ask someone who is a good writer to check the transcript before you publish it.

With a solid transcript to accompany each podcast, you’ve hugely increased content visibility, accessibility and convenience for your curious followers. And with an eye on quality and accuracy rather than haste, you’re set up for a successful podcast and strong content strategy from the start. Best of luck!

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