Transcribing Audio Content: Resources and How-to

August 30, 2018 BY SAMANTHA SAULD
Updated: April 1, 2021

So you want to transcribe audio content? Well, you’ve come to right place. Whether you go through a third-party transcription service or DIY (do it yourself), it’s important to weigh the pros and cons, and choose which option works best for you.

There are a wide range of benefits to transcribing audio content:

Transcription includes benefits such as: increased chance of being quoted, improved SEO, making content accessible, creating better user experience, and audio can become written content

Additionally, based on the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 and 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, many businesses and organizations are legally required to create transcripts for their content. WCAG 2.0 is a set of guidelines put in place by the World Wide Web Consortium to make digital content more accessible for users, including those with disabilities. WCAG 2.0 has three levels of compliance: Level A, AA, and AAA. Section 508 has been revised to be compliant with WCAG 2.0 Level A and AA. According to the lowest level, Level A, transcripts are a recommendation for audio-only content.

We’ll provide the different resources you’ll need to transcribe from an audio file and help you determine the most viable choice based on your budget, time, and particular needs. Good luck and happy transcribing!

DIY Transcription

Manually transcribing audio can be a daunting task, especially when you have longer forms of content. It usually takes 5-6x the actual time of the content. Luckily, there are many free and low-cost tools available to help simplify the process. Before you begin transcribing, make sure you capture clear and loud audio. This will help to reduce red flags and inaudibles in your transcript.


video player in web browser

If you host your audio content on YouTube, you can utilize the free automatic video transcript tool. It automatically transcribes audio into text, but keep in mind that it comes with a lot of errors. Transcripts produced by YouTube’s tool are too inaccurate to be used on their own. Therefore, it’s highly recommended to clean them up since they can hurt your video accessibility and ranking on search engine results pages (SERP).

Here’s how to leverage YouTube’s automatic video transcript:

  1. From the video manager, select your video and click Edit > Subtitles and CC. Select Add Subtitles or CC and choose your language.
  2. Select Transcribe and Set Timings, and type the transcript in the space provided. YouTube will automatically pause the video as you type so you can transcribe more quickly and accurately.
  3. Once you are satisfied, select Set Timings. This will sync your transcript with the video. You may always edit once the transcript is published.

Similarly, you can create a transcript beforehand and upload it onto YouTube:

  1. First, create a transcript with YouTube’s recommendations for formatting.
  2. Go to the Video Manager in YouTube and click Edit > Subtitles and CC. Select Add Subtitles or CC and choose your language.
  3. Choose Upload a File, select Transcript, and choose your .txt file for upload.
  4. Once your transcript has uploaded, click Set Timings to sync your transcript with the video and create closed captions. You may always edit once the transcript is published.

You can also download the transcript file later with timings as a caption file:

  1. Go to the video that you would like to download the transcript from. Click on the More Actions button (3 horizontal dots). Hint: it’s located next to the share button.
  2. Select the Transcript option.
  3. A transcript of the closed captions with the time codes will automatically generate.

ASR Software

Microphone icon on yellow background

Automatic Speech Recognition, otherwise known as ASR, is a technology that picks up on human speech and converts it into text. You can upload your media onto an ASR software, and it will automatically transcribe audio into text. This method still comes with many errors, but it’s much easier and faster to clean up an inaccurate transcript than to start from scratch. There are many options for transcription softwares that are free or for a small cost, such as Express Scribe, EureScribe, Dragon NaturallySpeaking, and many more.

Google Docs

Google offers an awesome feature that allows you to turn Docs into a free transcription software. If you don’t have a Gmail account, you can sign up for one free of charge. If you have an existing account, you already have access to a feature called Google Docs: it’s a word processing tool where you can create text documents right in your web browser. Using voice typing, Google voice transcription can create text transcripts from audio. Like many of the other manual transcription tools, there will be errors so make sure to clean it up before using it. Follow these steps to create your transcript:

  1. Using any browser of your choice, go to the Google Docs website and Start a New Document.
  2. Click on Tools and select Voice Typing. It will enable voice recognition.
  3. Click the Microphone icon on the left to activate Voice Typing. Google will transcribe anything being said onto the word document.

google chrome gif


note taking app on smartphone

Another way to transcribe audio content is by using your smartphone. Similar to Google Docs, the microphone will pick up on the audio and transcribe it into text. Transcribing on your smartphone tends to work a little better than Google Docs since the microphone on your phone picks up less background noise, however, it still doesn’t compare to a high-quality microphone. Recording on your smartphone won’t ensure a high accuracy rate, so you will have to clean up the final transcript when you finish. Here are step-by-step instructions on how to do so using your smartphone:

  1. Open up a word processing app on your smartphone.
  2. On the keyboard of your smartphone, select the Microphone button and it will start recording.
  3. Hold your phone near your computer or other device, and Playback the Video. Your phone will automatically turn the audio into text.

Pros vs. Cons of DIY Transcripts

Pros include being more budget-friendly & good for short content, cons include being time-consuming, labor-intensive, and having a low accuracy level

Transcription Services

Another option to transcribe audio content is to use a third-party transcription service. If you’re looking for high-quality, accurate transcripts, this is definitely the way to go!

3Play Media offers a 3-step transcription process that utilizes both technology and human transcriptionists, ensuring a 99.6% accuracy rate. When the audio file consists of difficult content, has background noise, or accents, the accuracy rate decreases. ASR typically provides 60-70% accuracy, so the use of human transcriptionists is what distinguishes 3Play from the rest.

Our patented technology utilizes ASR to automatically produce a rough transcript, which is useful for creating accurate timings, even if the words are incorrect. Using proprietary software, our extensive database of transcriptionists with backgrounds in a variety of subjects, go through and edit the transcript. All of our transcriptionists go through a rigorous certification process and have a strong grasp of English grammar, which is important for understanding all the nuances of your content. Finally, after going through the editing process, your file goes through a final review called quality assurance. This is reviewed by our top editors, and ensures your transcript is virtually flawless.

One feature we also offer is the 3Play Interactive Transcript. It allows users to interact with your video by searching the video, navigating by clicking on any word, and reading along with the audio. Interactive transcripts make your content more accessible and improves the user experience.

Pros vs. Cons of a Transcription Service

Pros include a higher accuracy level, more reliable, provides access to unique tools and skilled staff, and handling large quantities of content; Cons include being a more expensive option

Transcription Best Practices

Now that you have a better understanding on manual transcription vs. a transcription service, you can make an informed decision. No matter which option you choose, it’s important to know how to make the most out of your transcripts.

  • Grammar and Punctuation: ensure that there are no errors in your transcript so that it is easy to read.
  • Speaker Identification: use speaker labels to identify who is speaking, especially when there are multiple speakers.
  • Non-Speech Sounds: communicate non-speech sounds in transcripts. They are typically denoted with [square brackets]
  • Verbatim: transcribe content as close to verbatim as possible. Leave out filler words such as “um” or “like”, unless they’re intentionally included in the audio.


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