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Interviewed on Web Axe Podcast November 25, 2007

Posted by Jeff in Interviewing, Jeff Frey, Podcast Captioning, Podcast Transcription, Podcasting, Rice University.

I was recently asked by Dennis Lembree, the founder of web development company CheckEngine USA which specializes in web usability, standards, and accessibility, to be a guest on Web Axe: a podcast and blog featuring practical web design accessibility tips.

Podcast #59: Jeffrey Frey on Accessible Podcasts

Dennis speaks with Jeffrey Frey and discusses accessible podcasting, guidelines on audio/video web accessibility, and Jeff’s role at Rice University.

Jeff is the Web Services Manager for Enterprise Applications in the Information Technology Department at Rice University. He provides technology solutions for faculty, staff, and students on campus as well as teaches new technology courses at the School of Continuing Studies. He is available for podcasting consulting, is involved in the creation of podcasts for businesses and non-profits, and has owned a technical consulting company and an audio/video recording studio.

Download Web Axe Episode 59 (Jeffrey Frey on Accessible Podcasts)

Links from Jeffrey Frey’s Blog

Transcription and other related services


Podcast Transcription Service Update October 15, 2007

Posted by Jeff in Podcast Transcription.

I’ve got a couple updates to my transcription service postings.

One is about  Kate Smalley of http://www.transcriptionservices.biz.  In my last trancription services post, I had said that her website didn’t seem to have enough info on it to tell if it was a reasonable service or not.  Since that time, I received a note from her along with sought out a few testamonies… all seem to point to the fact that she would be a consciencous transcriber for your podcasts.  Give her a call at 203-641-3739, go to the website listed above, or check out her other website at: http://www.connecticutsecretary.com.

The second is actually a couple people I met at the podcasting conference from http://www.nobletranscription.com.  I liked them and their service a lot.  There are a few big name production shops that you can go with for podcast transcription, but I’m coming to find that a small shop may take better care of you.  Why?  Because they get to know you, your voice, your podcast, and can start to transcribe to what you want… and not exactly what you said.  For those of us at educational institutions, the folks from noble also have an interesting discount rate of $0.99 cents per minute for students.

Hiring Someone to Train a Dragon April 23, 2007

Posted by Jeff in Podcast Questions, Podcast Transcription, Podcasting, University Podcasting.
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This question came through email from a Coordinator of Library Services for Persons with Disabilities from a well known University:

Dear Mr. Frey.  I found your blog about podcasting and I would appreciate if you can provide me with some information. We are concerned about all the new multi-media technology and how to make it accessible to people with disabilities. Is there any software/hardware available to convert speech to text? The only program that we are aware of that does anything with speech to text is a program called Dragon. But this program has serious problems of word recognition.  We are looking for something that will easily convert podcasts and the audio from videos to text. It is obvious to me that you have a lot of experience with all this new technology. Any information that you can provide to me, would be appreciated. Thank you in advance for your help.

I’ve talked about this on the blog before… basically just writing out what I’ve learned when working with projects on transcription.  The following was my response:

Audio and video accessibility is a big deal right now with these technologies and the issues haven’t all been addressed sufficiently, but I’ll tell you what I know so far.

First, I have some things up on my blog about what constitutes “accessible” for these media types, software to get the job done, and how to use Dragon to build your own transcription engine.  Read https://jdfrey.wordpress.com/tag/podcast-accessibility/ from the bottom up to get an idea of where I’m coming from.  Bottom line right now… what I’ve found is that there’s no personal way to easily or automagically create a transcript or subtitles… but we’re getting closer.

I guess I should do an update on my blog due to some new things we’ve been trying.  We’ve found that Dragon really has to be trained for a specific user, and if you have a podcast with multiple speakers or rotating speakers, it’s hard to use.

SOLUTION: Hire a student to train Dragon Naturally Speaking from Nuance, then have them listen to the talk or podcast with headphones and repeat what they hear into Dragon.  We’re paying them about $10 an hour, so it’s the cheapest transcript service that I know of.  They can tweak things along the way if needed and it usually only takes 1 to 1and 1/2 times the audio time to make the transcript (5 minute podcast -> 7.5 minutes to create the transcript, 30 minutes talk -> 45 minutes to create).  Posting that to a blog or something is easy.

What about video?  I’ve been recommending to people with budget constraints to post your video to Google video and link to it or put it up in a window on your site.  It cuts down on your storage and overhead… and the branding is minimal compared to YouTube.  Also, and THIS IS BIG, Google video will integrate transcripts with the video you upload.  So, you upload the video and the transcript with some time stamps, settings, and tweaks… and it’s done.  Very easy.

If you host your own video, you’ll want to have it captioned.  I have another company to add to the list of transcription/captioning services: AutomaticSync at http://www.automaticsync.com.  I have some friends using them and they are very impressed.  No hassle and always quality output.

I hope this helps… and let me know if you have any other questions.

Posting Class Notes vs. Class Transcripts Online December 7, 2006

Posted by Jeff in Educational Podcasts, Podcast Accessibility, Podcast Transcription, University Podcasting.

What happens in an educational class determines what should get posted online about that class.

(This topic comes from the idea of posting transcripts of the podcast from a class.  If you have a class, and you record it, then you podcast it, you’re supposed to (508 compliance) also post the transcript of that class.  What if, however, you don’t have the resources to do so?)

I’ve sat in classes where the professor uses it as an opportunity to discuss readings, have the class interact, or introduce ideas off the cuff to students.  If that is recorded, and will be part of the information a student needs to succeed in the course, then the audio needs to be transcripted.

I’ve also sat in classes where the professor reads through notes and doesn’t deviate very much from what they say.  If this class is podcasted, and if the notes read through in class are what a student needs to succeed in the class… then I don’t believe that the transcript needs to be published… the notes do.

Publishing the notes that have already been written is obviously a faster and less expensive or time comsuming endeavor than to transcript every class.

The intent of 508 compliance is to provide individuals with the same opportunity to suceed as other inviduals.  If merely posting notes provides that, then you have met the criteria.

Section 508 Compliant Podcasting and Undue Burden November 22, 2006

Posted by Jeff in Podcast Accessibility, Podcast Captioning, Podcast Transcription, Podcasting.

In general, the purpose of section 508 is to build as much accessibility as is reasonably possible into general products developed, procured, maintained, or used by agencies. I received some email from my post yesterday about Section 508 Compliant Podcasts asking “What about undue burden?”

The actual wording of the text is… do all the accessibility things… “unless an undue burden would be placed on that agency to do so.”

Undue burden is defined as “significant difficulty or expense.” Though significant is relative, when it comes to podcasting, I believe we can break it down to the following:

To be 508 complaint, there are two main things you must do… certain podcasts meeting the agency mission criteria are under the multimedia file definition of the 508 standards and must be (1) captioned or (2) audio described depending on the format and content of the podcast.

Let’s start with (2) audio described. Laying a voice over track to video if you’re doing podcasting isn’t hard. This is something that you should be capable of and not a problem.

In contrast, (1) captioning is not in the typical suite of tools for a podcaster. So far, we have solved this issue with transcripts for audio podcasts, and there are companies that do this for you, or you can do your own transcription. Video podcasts require more time and effort. Though again, there are companies that will do captioning of video, it can sometimes be expensive to do so. Tools and software for closed captioning video are also fairly expensive and some podcatchers do not accept the file formats needed to caption the video.

I believe this is where undue burden can be applied. To the weekly podcaster who is podcasting as a hobby, closed captioning may be out of reach. I think you can safely say that undue burden is met at this point and you will provide a transcript of the audio with audio description to get as close to accessible as possible. For the company, university, or agency that is video podcasting, has a podcast meeting the agency mission criteria, and has the resources to open or close caption the video… I believe the law states that it needs to be captioned.

DIY / How-To Podcast Transcription November 3, 2006

Posted by Jeff in Podcast Accessibility, Podcast Transcription, Podcasting.

How do you transcript podcasts if you don’t want to pay someone else to? Well, you have three options:

  1. Listen to your podcast and transcribe it yourself.
  2. Purchase some software to help you do it.
  3. There is no number three. :)

When thinking about option 1 and typing it all out yourself… consider this:

  • the average person talks at 140 words per minute
  • there are 4.5 letter per word on average in the English language
  • 140 * 4.5 = 630 characters or key strokes
  • add spaces between words (140) and punctuation (30) and you get
  • 800 characters spoken per minute

Further think about this:

  • the average person can type 60 words per minute
  • 60 * 4.5 = 270 chars or key strokes
  • spaces and punctuation added =
  • 340 characters typed per minute

I like running numbers on things:

  • 340 characters typed into 800 characters spoken =
  • approximately 2 1/2 minutes of typing for every minute spoken

I’ll spare you the rest of what I was thinking, but you obviously can’t type as fast as you talk. So, you’ll have to stop and start the podcast and type what you hear as you go. If your podcast is 5 minutes long, that’s approximately 15 minutes of typing time. A 20 minute podcast would take the average person 1 hour of strait typing to transcribe. An hour podcast would take 3 hours of typing to transcribe.

Want to hear about option 2?

Sorry this is going to be so simple, but… go buy yourself a copy of Dragon NaturallySpeaking. There are several versions of it, but you’ll need the Preferred version for $200. It, unlike the Standard version, gives you an option of dictation with ‘after the fact’ text from audio conversion. It will ‘listen’ to a wav file and type it out for you in a text document that can be saved in word or as a pdf. I’m searching for other options and mac friendly pieces of software that are as feature rich as Dragon, but from the one’s that I’ve seen, I haven’t found one as good yet that I’d recommend.

It’s your choice to post your transcript in your show notes, on a website, etc. I suggest creating a separate RSS feed of the transcripts so those that want to consume your podcast in that format can do so.

As recommended in a past post, CastingWords does a great job of transcribing, and is $0.42 / minute. At that rate, it would take you 476 minutes to use up the $200 that you would pay for Dragon. So, if you like to do it yourself, great, but the overhead may just not be worth it. $200 at CastingWords = Ninety-five 5 minute podcasts = Twenty-three 20 minute podcasts = Seven 60 minute podcasts… you decide?

I leave you with this: the world record for spoken words per minute is 603! 5 minutes of that and you’d be typing for an hour and 1/2… yikes!

Recommended Podcasting Transcription Service November 1, 2006

Posted by Jeff in Podcast Accessibility, Podcast Transcription, Podcasting.

Update: https://jdfrey.wordpress.com/2007/10/15/podcast-transcription-service-update/

After my post yesterday about podcasting transcription services, I was emailed by two transcription services (one that I had on my list, and one I did not). I decided not to contact the one that I didn’t review after browsing their website, but I did actually talk to the one that was already on my list. I found it interesting (take note all you advertisers, companies, and self-promoters) that they monitor search engines for articles, blog postings, and news related to their business so that they can react to trends and respond to what people are saying. Their reaction to my post was positive, but they were wondering if I needed a demo account or could point them to a podcast so that they could ‘prove our worth.’ It wasn’t needed because I already had dealings with them and though they are on my list, they’re not on top. Who is?

There’s something to be said for the cost… more than $1.00 less than the rest of the services. How so cheap? They employ average people to do the transcription (see their application for employment on the website). Also, though there are restrictions on the types of files, audio quality, number of speakers, etc… they fit with what a typical podcaster is already doing… and those restrictions help keep the cost low as well. I think the cost is well worth the accessibility aspect of the service. I refer back to my podcast accessibility post from a couple days ago to prove that point.

Jon Udell recently talked about CastingWords, saying “I’d rate the quality of the transcription as very good.” He also did a follow-up post where he talked about his ongoing experience with the service:

42 cents per minute, 620 minutes of audio, 260 dollars. That’s just astoundingly cost-effective, and the quality of the results is excellent. I submitted the order on August 3, and the work was done on August 9.

I have to agree… cost-effective quality. Every once in a while there is some clean-up involved with some word or term that needs corrected, but those are worth the decreased cost that you pay with this service. You can subscribe to an RSS feed of your transcripts which can be edited and then released to the public.

Number 2 on my list? enablr who has a product/offering called transcribr. Besides good personal experience with the company, I like the business model and the ideas that they have about their pro versions of things. They will eventually subscribe to your podcast and turn the transcription around within a few days… charging you the per minute fee associated with your podcast. I’m anxious for the new offerings so I can send people there and see what they think.

Stay tuned… at the end of this week I’ll fill you in on how to easilty create our own transcription.

Podcasting Transcription Services October 31, 2006

Posted by Jeff in Podcast Transcription, Podcasting.

Update: https://jdfrey.wordpress.com/2007/10/15/podcast-transcription-service-update/

I promised a day devoted to podcasting transcription services, so I’ve listed the narrowed down services here in no particular order. Tomorrow, I’ll tell you which one I recommend for podcast transcription and why (click here to find out). I have used, or have friends / clients using, five of the nine companies listed here. If you have an experience with any of them (or another one), feel free to email me (or comment) so I can update this entry.

I came up with this list, as I stated, because I have had interaction with over half of them. I added the others because they seemed similar in process and cost to the five I know about. You can check out their websites just like I did, but hopefully I’ve given you some helpful information about each of them. If you’d like me to add another column or review another service specifically, let me know. Again, I’ll take some time tomorrow to tell you which one I recommend and why.

First, I check out the procedure for each service (how you get the audio files to them and how you get the text files back), who transcribes the audio files (this is important), and the tun-around time for your files.

Name Procedure Who Transcribes Turn-Around
eScriptionist Email or FTP digital files, or snail mail audio to them, text file can be emailed or FTP’d back “We do not outsource any of our work overseas as many other transcription companies do” 3-5 Business Days
Transcribe It Quick Log into their website and upload audio / download files “staff is all AMERICAN-based” 24-72 Hours
highscribe Send them audio files and text documents / pdfs are returned Canadian based Depends on the project
Production Transcripts FTP MP3 files to their server, and get a Microsoft Word document emailed to you (or download from secure client area) “We use a domestic workforce to transcribe your materials” 2-4 Days
Tech-Synergy They subscribe to your podcast, create the transcript, and upload it back to your website if you choose “With our presence in US India and Philippines, we are able to provide variety of Business and Technology services at an affordable price to our customers” ?
Casting Words They only accept only handle MP3 and MP4 files and return a plain text, html, or rtf file in an RSS feed Anyone on the internet that applies “A few days”
Enablr Give them the URL of your audio and you get an email of the file, learn about subscribing to your podcast and auto transcription from the coming soon link on their website Based in Canada 3 Business Days
Transcription Services FTP audio to them and get an email txt file back, also has a call in dictation service ? ?
PodClerk Submit the RSS feed and they automatically send you a plain text, html, rtf, pdf, or xml file ? 24 Hours

Price is important… so here are the costs. Most split pricing up between one person and good audio, multiple people (like an interview), and bad audio, lots of people talking, or lots of different cuts… there is also rush pricing for some of the services.

Name Single Person $ Multiple Person $ Lots of Cuts / Bad Audio $ Rush Pricing
eScriptionist $1.50 /minute $2.00 /minute $3.00 /minute $2.25 – $4.00 /minute
Transcribe It Quick $1.50 /minute $2.25 /minute $2.75 /minute $2.25 – $3.75 /minute
highscribe $5.95 /minute (not rated this way, see the website) $13.95 /minute Available
Production Transcripts 5 Minute Min = $15
60 Minutes =$90
30 Minutes =$50(approx $1.55 /minute)
60 Minutes =$120
30 Minutes =$65
60 Minutes =$219
30 Minutes =$109
Next Day = $90 – $200 / 30 min
Tech-Synergy $0.50 /minute N/A N/A 24 Hour = $1.20 /minute
Casting Words $0.42 /minute N/A “May turn down work” N/A
Enablr $1.00 /minute N/A N/A N/A
Transcription Services ? ? ? ?
PodClerk $0.34 /minute
(minimum 30 minutes)
N/A N/A $0.40 /minute
(minimum 30 minutes)

Here are my notes on the different services.

Name Notes
eScriptionist Spoke with an individual directly to ask a question, seemed professional
Transcribe It Quick Lots of different business sectors listed as being transcripted
highscribe Full broadcast transcripts, overkill for most podcasts
Production Transcripts Many different types of audio listed (conference calls, seminars, documentaries) along with a specific podcast section and pricing
Tech-Synergy Not just transcription services, someone I know used the service and had to make multiple corrections to the text… but it’s cheap
Casting Words Lots of specific requirements, but podcast specific… and cheap
Enablr Podcast specific (I’m looking forward to the new offerings on their website)
Transcription Services Not enough info on the website to make me feel good about this one
PodClerk Podcast specific, but 30 minute minimum may limit some people from going with them

I hope this helps you in your quest to transcribe your podcast. Tomorrow, I talk about the one I like (click here)… but later this week… I’ll tell you how to do your own podcast transcription!

Accessible Podcasts October 30, 2006

Posted by Jeff in Podcast Accessibility, Podcast Captioning, Podcast Transcription, Podcasting, University Podcasting.

Audio and video podcasts are not accessible to deaf (audio) or blind (video) individuals. Accessibility of emerging technologies is always an issue that I try to deal with early on in the process of rolling it out. Being at a diverse university, and it is highly important that all that my team does be usable and accessible. We set up a usability testing lab last year and incorporated accessibility testing equipment/software as well. We run our web sites and applications through rigorous testing, but what to do with podcasts?

There are a couple ways to go about making your podcasts more accessible. Podcast transcription services and closed captioning services are available. Podcasting accessibility not only opens up your podcast to individuals with disabilities, it allows consumers who like to receive their information in a different media type the opportunity to do so. I’m not saying that accessibility for the disabled is not a good enough reason to do some of the things I’m going to mention, but there are many other benefits that you have to consider.

Since this issue is so large, I’m going to dedicate this week to discussing it with you. If you have any questions surrounding the accessibility of podcasts, be it this week or in the future, email them to me. I’ll try to answer all the questions that I’ve received so far, as well as give you a run down of the services out there with my recommendations. I also will focus on a day on building your own transcription studio.

I haven’t given you any tips or help today… and I can’t leave without doing so…

If you would like to make your podcasts more accessible, there are three main groups of people to consider.

  1. Seeing impaired
  2. Hearing impaired
  3. Sight and Sound impaired (combo of 1 and 2)


  1. Podcast Transcription. Consider transcribing your podcast and posting a link during the podcast (if video or enhanced) or in the show notes for the podcast. – see my updated transcription post
    Problem? The complaint I’ve heard is that it doesn’t help the person that wants to subscribe. In this case, the best solution is to publish a blog of the transcription/show notes that individuals who would rather read your podcast can subscribe to.
  2. Podcast Captioning. Captions on the video of your podcast are not the easiest or least expensive thing to do, but it will solve the issue. As I stated before, it’s not just for the hearing impaired. I was at the gym today and saw an individual ‘watching’ his iPod with no headphones. – see my updated captioning post
    Problem? The complaint on this one is that the words are too small to read. I’ve seen captioned podcasts and I disagree. If it is a problem, consider pausing the video and inserting a slide of text, like an old silent film. You can publish the two versions of your podcast and people can choose which they’d like to hear/read.
  3. This is hard with podcasting. Minor sight and hearing issues can be taken care of with background noise, volume control, large text captioning like you could use on my silent film idea above, etc., but unless either 1 and 2 are ultimately transcribed to braille, the media will never truly be accessible to this subset of the population.

I hope this weeks helps you in making your podcasts more accessible.