[Checklist] What Matters When Selecting a Closed Captioning Service

July 12, 2018 BY 3MEDIAWEB
Updated: May 31, 2023

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.

ask vendor on accuracy. Do you guarantee 99% accuracy on all files? How do you measure your accuracy rate? Are they consistent in accuracy with all video file sizes?

What matters when selecting a closed captioning service? Process

Process directly impacts file accuracy.

While there isn’t a right way to caption your videos, some methods lend themselves more to higher quality outputs.

ASR only

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?


a file is split into multiple documents that are sent to multiple editors and finally pieced back together

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.

Multi-step process

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.

ask vendor on their process. How do you caption files? Are editors certified? Are single files split between multiple transcriptionist? Are transcriptionist trained on quality standards?

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.

ask vendor on handling difficult content. How do you handle difficult content? Can I upload a glossary with important terms? How do you select transcriptionists? Can I edit transcripts before publishing my captions?

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.

ask vendor on turnaround. What's your standard turnaround time? Do you offer discounts for extended turnaround? What's the quickest turnaround you offer? What are the prices for turnaround?

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.

ask vendor if they offer integrations. Do you offer integrations? How do your integrations work? What platforms do you integrate with? How do you set up and integration?

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.

Ask vendor on their workflow. What are the upload options? Do you have to upload to an account system, or are there FTP and API upload options? Is it possible to upload by providing links? How do you specify things like turnaround, glossaries, speaker identification, transcription settings, and download preferences? Once the captions are completed, how are you informed that they are ready? How do you download your caption files? Can you select multiple formats and multiple files at once for bulk download? If there are errors in your transcript, is it easy to edit them? Can you do it yourself, or do you have to go through the vendor? Once you have downloaded your captions, will they be gone forever? Or are they stored so that you can easily go back and download other formats in the future? If you switch video platforms, will the captioning vendor provide the ability to port captions over to your new platform?

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

piggy bank

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.

ask vendor on their costs. What's your pricing model? Do you charge per minute or per file? Do you round up to the nearest minute? Do you charge extra fees for having multiple speakers? Speaker identifications? Do you charge extra fees for certain caption formats? Do you require a set up fee? Do you offer bulk discounts?

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.

ask vendors on their account system. Can I have multiple users in one account? Can I give users different user permissions? Do you allow for sub accounts? Do you allow for billing across departments or sub accounts? How does invoicing work? Is all billing done electronically? Can you pay directly from within your account? Is everything itemized?

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.

ask vendor on their support: Do you offer support? Can I call? Can I email? How fast is response time? Is there extensive 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.

Download the checklist: Captioning Vendor Selection Checklist


Please email [email protected] for an accessible version of the checklist

Click to view our pricing for captioning!

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