Why YouTube Videos with Auto-Captions May Be Inaccessible

February 20, 2017 BY ELISA LEWIS
Updated: February 2, 2021

With 300 hours of video uploaded to YouTube every minute, and 1,300,000,000 users, it sounds quite impressive that the video distribution platform is now boasting over 1 billion captioned videos on their site. However, when you take a closer look at their captioned videos, you’ll notice that they’re not always accurate.

A History of Automatic Captions at YouTube

In 2006 YouTube began encouraging content creators posting to their site to add captions and subtitles to their videos to increase accessibility. A mere three years later, the Google-owned company released their Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR) tool to make captioning videos on their site a reality. Despite improvements to their ASR tool, automatically generated captions realistically average 60-70% accuracy, which means that 1 in 3 words are incorrect. Although this accuracy rate can be improved with good audio quality and simple content, it also worsens when there is background noise, accents, or multi-syllable words. All in all, automatically generated captions are not sufficient when it comes to accessibility.

Why Automatic Captions Are Not Accessible

Studies have shown that even 95% accuracy is sometimes insufficient for accurately conveying complex material. In an average sentence of 8 words, a 95% word accuracy rate means there will be an error on average every 2.5 sentences.

Furthermore, ASR technology is prone to fail on the small “function” words that are crucial in conveying meaning in speech. Take a look at the below sentences:

“I didn’t want to do that exercise.” vs. “I did want to do that exercise.”

This example is a very common ASR error, and although a seemingly small one, the meaning of the sentence is actually completely reversed. It is very rare for a human editor to make such a mistake, as they’re able to use context to help identify and choose the correct word.

How to Add Accurate Captions to YouTube Videos

If you’re planning to add captions to your YouTube videos, don’t be discouraged! There are a few ways to improve the accuracy of closed-captions on your online content.

At 3Play Media, we use a 3-step process which includes a combination of ASR and human cleanup. Our advanced technology enables our competitive prices, and our multi-step quality assurance measures ensure we deliver premium quality captions, subtitles, and transcripts far more efficiently than traditional methods.

Our average measured accuracy is 99.6%, and we guarantee over 99%, even in cases of poor audio quality, multiple speakers, difficult content, and accents. Our staff of more than 1,000 transcriptionists gives us the flexibility to assign complex or technical content to transcriptionists with a discipline-specific expertise or a familiarity with a certain accent, enabling us to process a broad range of complex content.

However you choose to get your caption file, uploading it to YouTube is a breeze. Download our free step-by-step guide to learn how now!



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