Podcasts are quickly becoming more and more popular. They’re easy to make, easy to distribute, and easy to listen to. However, due to their audio-only nature, they aren’t accessible to everyone. Deaf and hard of hearing people can’t access them at all unless they have transcripts, and others simply have a hard time focusing on audio. Additionally, the digital infrastructure they are hosted on can be inaccessible for keyboard users. Luckily, it’s not that hard to make them accessible! There are three main principles of accessible podcasts: transcripts, accessible websites, and accessible media players.
The easiest thing you can do to increase your podcast’s accessibility is to provide a transcript for it. Not only will it allow deaf and hard of hearing people to consume your content, but people who have a hard time focusing on audio can follow along. People who aren’t in a place where they can listen to something can read it instead. If people want to know more about something mentioned in the podcast, transcripts let them know how to spell it to Google it. People can also search within your transcript for something they want to come back to, rather than scrubbing through the audio. Except for the bit of extra work that it takes to make transcripts, there is no reason not to have them!
Writing a Transcript
There are many ways to get a transcript for your podcast. You can write it out by hand, generate an auto transcript and edit it, or you can pay someone to transcribe it for you. There are three main factors that will influence which one you do: cost, time, and transcript accuracy.
- If you handwrite your transcript, it’s 100% accurate, since you know what you said and how to spell everything, and it’s 100% free. The main downside to it is that it is very time-consuming.
- If you use a transcription service where someone creates your transcript, it will be mostly accurate, but things might be spelled wrong and jargon terms might not be accurate. Depending on the service, it could be pretty quick, but you can still expect at least a day’s worth of turnover. The main downside to this option is the price—it racks up fast.
- If you generate an auto transcript, it will definitely be the fastest. Whatever technology you choose to use shouldn’t take more than an hour to generate the transcript. Then you have a solid base to edit, instead of creating the transcript from scratch.
Both cost and accuracy are going to depend on which transcription service you use. Generally, the more expensive the service, the better the generated transcript will be, though it will never be 100%. When choosing your service, take into account your time, money, and how much editing you’re willing to do.
How to Generate an Automatic Transcript
If you want to look at using automatic transcription services, the University of Michigan has created an amazing comparison table of different services, along with instructions on how to use each one. Be sure to check the pricing yourself, though, as some companies have changed theirs since this table was created.
USU does have a negotiated lower price captioning service negotiated with 3PlayMedia that you can take advantage of if you are part of the university.
Generate a Transcript from Adobe Premiere
If you are an employee or student of Utah State, you have access to Adobe Premiere, a great video and audio editing service. It has a function where you can upload an mp3 or mp4 file, and it will generate rough captions or a rough transcript. While they are never 100% accurate and should always be manually reviewed, they make a great starting place.
Here are instructions to generate a transcript:
Make sure the language is the language of the podcast, and have it label separate speakers. Don’t worry about any audio analysis settings.
When your transcript is done, the transcript window will open. You can edit it directly in Adobe Premiere, but we recommend downloading it and editing it in a simpler word processor, like Word or Google Docs.
This will take you to your file explorer, where you can choose where it downloads to and name it.
Editing Your Transcript for Accuracy
In editing your transcript, you want to make sure that it has the exact same information that someone listening would pick up on. You want it to grammatically match what the speakers say, and you want to include any important sounds that aren’t speech. For the most part, you can use our Caption Quality Standards to help determine how best to represent all of these aspects.
For formatting, though, you should follow these transcript-specific principles:
- Label the speaker every time it changes.
- Include time stamps at every speaker change.
- Divide speech into logical paragraphs.
- For example, if one speaker is speaking for a long time, find where the ideas in their speech shift focus, and split the paragraphs there.
As long as your transcripts follow these main principles, it will be a good transcript! It can be as pretty or as plain as you want it, so long as it makes sense when you read it.
Here’s an example of what a simple edited transcript could look like:
Welcome to the Career Studio, a USU Career Services podcast that helps you navigate your career path. Thanks for joining us for our Friday Face to Face episode. I'm Marissa Armitstead, your host, and I am so excited to have Dr. Susan Madsen joining us today. Welcome, Susan!
Great to be here.
Susan is the inaugural Karen Haight Huntsman endowed professor of leadership in the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business at Utah State University. She's been heavily involved in women leadership research for decades.
Uploading Your Transcript
When uploading your transcript, you want to make sure that it is as close to the media player as possible so that people can easily find it. Generally, the best place for it is underneath the “show notes,” or podcast description.
There are three different ways that you can add your transcript to your website: uploading the text straight to the website page, attaching a document, or as a synced transcript/captions. When making the decision on how to upload your transcript, keep in mind what functions are allowed on your host website, and what work you’re willing to do. Below are a list of pros and cons for each method:
- Good for SEO.
- Most accessible for screen readers.
- Can detract from the aesthetics of the website.
- Easy to upload.
- Easier to style however you want.
- Doesn’t take up as much website space.
- Doesn’t impact SEO.
- Not always searchable.
- PDFs aren’t always accessible.
- See our page on PDF accessibility to help with this.
- Considered the most interactive.
- Provide the best connection between text and audio.
- Can be very hard to code, and very time consuming to sync.
The next best thing you can do to make your podcast accessible is to make sure the website hosting it is accessible too! You won’t be able to fix third party platforms, but you can at least make sure your own website is good.
These are some basic principles you can look at to see if your website is accessible:
- Is your website keyboard navigable? Can you use your website without touching your mouse?
- Do you use headings, and are they used correctly? You can view more information on that on our Accessible Documents page.
- Is there good color contrast on your website? We made a Color Contrast page outlining exactly how you can make sure it’s good.
- For any images you used, including your podcast cover image, did you add alt text? You can learn the basics of alt text on our webpage.
W3 made a great website accessibility checklist that you can use to evaluate your website!
While finding an accessible media player can be the hardest thing to do, it makes a big difference. What makes a media player accessible is that it is fully keyboard navigable, and labels their buttons in ways that make sense to every user.
Finding an accessible media player is hard because there are very few media players out there that are actually accessible. On top of that, most of the accessible media players require a decent amount of coding ability to use. Don’t let that discourage you, though!
Here are a couple accessible media players that we found: