[Checklist] What Matters When Selecting a Closed Captioning Service
Updated: October 23, 2018
Choosing the right closed captioning service can make a big difference.
While there are many vendors to choose from, not all are created equal.
When selecting a captioning vendor, you want to make sure you find one that is reliable, accurate, and cost-effective.
But with many vendors to choose from, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. We’ve broken down the most important features you should consider when choosing a captioning vendor.
Use this checklist when speaking to a vendor: Captioning Vendor Selection Checklist
What matters when selecting a closed captioning service? Accuracy rate
Not all vendors are created equal. Especially when it comes to accuracy.
Accuracy measures punctuation, spelling, and grammar.
The industry standard for accuracy is 99% accuracy rate. A 99% accuracy rate means that there is a 1% chance of error or a leniency of 15 errors total per 1,500 words.
Many captioning vendors will claim they meet the 99% accuracy standard, but you have to be careful. In a study we conducted comparing two different captioning vendors, we uncovered that their measured accuracy rate actually fell between 84.7% and 94.4%.
Furthermore, the longer the file was, the lower the accuracy rate.
An accuracy rate lower than 99% is detrimental for a number of reasons:
- Low accuracy rates affect the reading comprehension of your content; therefore making it an unequal alternative for deaf and hard of hearing individuals.
- Low accuracy rates affect your SEO. Correct names of products, people, places, URLs, formulas, technical vocabulary, and acronyms are vital for search. Misspellings will make your content unsearchable.
- Low accuracy rates affect your branding. When you have misspellings and poor grammar, it reflects poorly on your company. In fact, a UK study uncovered that what damages a customer’s view of a brand is “poor spelling or grammar.”
- Low accuracy rates mean more work for you because you have to go back and re-edit the captions.
What matters when selecting a closed captioning service? Process
While there isn’t a right way to caption your videos, some methods lend themselves more to higher quality outputs.
Automatic speech recognition (ASR) is good, but not good enough to remove humans from the process. ASR transcripts are often riddled with inconsistencies, lack speaker identifications, and miss important sound effects.
YouTube is famous for their inaccurate automatic captions. They can be so wrong people have made parodies of them. We created a quiz: Can you detect what YouTube’s automatic captions are saying?
Offshore transcription is when a vendor offshores your video to transcriptionist outside of your native-language country. Offshore transcription is cheap but less accurate.
Offshore transcriptionist may not have the same handle of the English grammar, spelling, and intent as native-language transcriptionist have.
Crowdsourcing is when a vendor splits a single file between multiple transcriptionists, then pieces it back together when everyone is done. Crowdsourcing is risky because it’s less safe (your content can easily get leaked), less consistent, and less accurate.
Training is also essential to the process and accuracy of a caption file. If transcriptionists aren’t being trained on quality standards, you can be sure that your file will have a low accuracy rate.
The most efficient way to get accurate captions is to use a multi-step process of technology and human editing. This process is faster, efficient, and cost-effective.
Also, bonus points for a vendor who has a final round of quality review.
What matters when selecting a closed captioning service? Handles difficult content
If a captioning vendor can’t handle the intricacies of your content, is it worth captioning with them?
Finding a vendor who can handle difficult content – while upholding a 99% accuracy rate – is especially important for colleges and universities. More advanced subjects like physics, calculus, philosophy, law, and medicine have unique terminology that is critical for student comprehension.
To tell if a captioning vendor can handle difficult content, ask them how they hire transcriptionists. Do they hire transcriptionists from different areas of expertise? Do they have a transcriptionist who is familiar with your content?
Don’t be afraid to question the vendor.
What matters when selecting a closed captioning service? Turnaround
Sometimes you will need your captions ready by the next day, other times you’ll need them in the next two hours.
No matter how close your deadlines are, you’ll want to find a captioning vendor who offers multiple turnaround options.
Always ask your vendor about their turnaround times. In particular, ask about their standard turnaround. Knowing this ahead of time can help you plan your captioning projects more effectively.
Also, inquire about their extended turnaround options. Sometimes a vendor will offer discounts for extended turnaround. This is a great way to save money on captioning.
What matters when selecting a closed captioning service? Integrations
Integrations allow you to automate your captioning workflow. Through an integration, you can eliminate mundane steps in the captioning process.
An integration works by linking your video player account to your captioning account. Once you select the video you want captioned (either from your video player account or captioning account), the captions will automatically post back onto your video.
Choosing a vendor that offers this option will save you a ton of time and make your captioning workflow infinitely easier.
What matters when selecting a closed captioning service? Workflow
Captioning your own content can be hard and time-consuming; that’s why you want a vendor who makes it easier for you.
A good captioning vendor will have a clear workflow. They will offer different methods to upload videos, they will let you know when captions are ready, and they will store your caption files for you.
Keep in mind a vendor’s workflow should not give you more stress.
What matters when selecting a closed captioning service? Cost
Captioning costs can add up quickly.
When looking at a captioning vendor you want one that is transparent with their costs, while helping you stay within budget.
Ask about their pricing model
Most vendors charge based on the duration of a video – usually per minute or per hour.
If a vendor charges per minute, always ask if they round up. If you have a video that is 3:30 minutes long, you should only have to pay for the 3:30 minutes, not four.
Vendors who don’t round up can save you a ton of money. After all, every penny counts!
Ask about other fees
Some vendors will charge fees for speaker identifications, certain caption formats, multiple speakers etc. As a result, that $1 a minute price begins to add up.
A vendor should be transparent about their costs.
Ask about bulk discounts
If you have a lot of content that needs to be captioned, some vendors will offer bulk discounts. This is a great way to save a ton of money on captioning.
Evaluate cost vs. accuracy
You’ll find a wide range of prices and accuracy levels across captioning vendors. While a cheap price might be enticing, you may be sacrificing accuracy.
Inaccurate captions can cost you more work and more money.
Always try to find a vendor who offers a balance between a cost-effective price and high-quality captions.
What matters when selecting a closed captioning service? Account System
Does a vendor allow for subaccounts? How does invoicing work? Can you pay electronically? Can you have multiple users?
These are all important questions to consider when selecting a captioning vendor.
You want a vendor who can customize the account system to your needs.
If you are a university, for example, multiple departments may require access to a single captioning account. Giving everyone the same password and username isn’t ideal. A captioning vendor that lets you set up subaccounts will help you stay organized and keep track of how much content is being captioned.
You also want a vendor who has a user-friendly interface. You shouldn’t have to spend hours trying to figure out how to upload a file or change account settings. A good interface makes all the difference for users.
What matters when selecting a closed captioning service? Support
One minute you are uploading a file, the next, the system crashes. Who’ you gonna call? Support!
Knowing you have a dedicated support staff can make a crisis infinitely more manageable.
When asking about a vendor’s support, look into how is it made available, how fast they respond, and if they have documentation available.
Making the decision
Before you make a decision on a captioning vendor, rank which qualities matter most to you.
If you aren’t satisfied with your first file, try a different vendor – making sure that this one actually meets your needs.
A good captioning vendor can make all the difference for you.
Please email firstname.lastname@example.org for an accessible version of the checklist
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