A Comparison of Online Transcription Services

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Online transcription services come in a wide range of forms, providing products that differ in turnaround times, in pricing, in quality and in customer support. In this article we will have a look at the most common models for online transcription services. Hopefully, this small but useful bit of literature will help anyone looking to get their audio transcribed and ensure an awesome transcript finds its way into their hands!

Different Types Of Online Transcription Services

In the online transcription services world, there are many, many options that each different business offers - it is a good idea to consider these factors when purchasing online transcription. Whilst there is a large range of different types of transcription companies, each one generally fits into one of the following categories.

Crowd-Sourced Online Transcription Services

Crowd-sourced online transcription services have become quite popular recently! This service involves your audio being posted in the public realm for crowd-sourced transcribers to transcribe. In a nutshell, transcription companies can vastly reduce their costs by chopping your audio into teensy weensy pieces (usually 1 to 5 minutes) and passing it to many different people to transcribe. Once each person has completed their bit of your transcription, a computer program collects the small chunks, pieces it back together and hands it back to you. This is actually a very sophisticated program and clever method of transcribing huge amounts of material - however the customer loses out on privacy and quality:

1. Your audio is public - anyone can listen to it (anyone can, and anyone does - because hundreds of transcribers have to check if they can take on the work by listening to it)

2. The transcribers often have slightly different styles, so punctuation, spelling and grammar, etc. differs between sections of the same end transcription

3. You don't know who your transcribers are! For example, usually the transcribers aren't required to be native-English speakers; issues can be mostly avoided with good training and experience, but at some point the language barrier will show through in the final transcript

4. There is no confidentiality agreement made with transcribers regarding your audio file/s

5. Sometimes the turnaround times can be several months - which is fine as long as you are aware of this from the start

Outsourced Transcription Services

In this service model, a transcription company will be a single individual, a business or a company and when they receive an order from you, they simply give it to an outsourced company (in India, the Philippines or another country) to complete. Don't get me wrong - these services can provide some level of quality for transcripts that have very simple audio (without background noise, more than one speaker, technical terms and so on). BUT! They simply can't provide any sort of quality on more challenging audio. In the testing my friends and I conducted (which I won't post here; you'll have to take my word for it), the transcript we received back from some of these outsourced companies did not even slightly match the audio. Outsourced companies do try really hard to provide quality transcripts, but not having English as a first language means it just isn't a possibility to provide transcripts at 98% accuracy or higher. Some issues with outsourced online transcription companies:

1. Audio not simple = low quality transcriptions

2. Consistent difficulty with names, technical terms, anything that requires researching, etc.

3. Generally, low quality customer service and support. The company taking your money is not the company doing the transcripts. This means the customer is asking questions to someone who isn't actually transcribing their material. The result? Confusion, annoyance and time-wasting.

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