It is important to write a transcript of your podcast for several reasons. A transcript published online will give listeners a way to dig more deeply into your research, providing you with a means to cite your research and to include bibliographies and other resources. You transcript may be enriched with images or other media, which may help to supplement and illustrate your podcast if you reference artworks, films, architecture, or other visuals. 

A transcript published alongside your audio content also makes your podcast more searchable online. While many people may find your podcast through their podcatchers or apps, people interested in the topics you cover in your podcast may find your website first through searching online. Having a well written transcript and a description of each episode will help people to find your content more easily through organic search.

How can I make a transcript?

Transcripts can be typed up by hand, constructed by speech recognition software, or can be created by a freelancer or by transcription service.

One easy-to-use tool to help you transcribe interviews, narration, and full recordings is Transcribe! This software allows you to play selections of an audio track, to loop the recording, and to slow down the speed of the recording without changing the pitch of the speaker’s voice. A free 30-day trial of Transcribe! Is available via their site. 

Mac computer users can also using Audacity and Soundflower, a software that is used to record audio from your computer. Instructions for generating a transcript with these tools can be found here. (You can also watch this video tutorial

Having a quality transcript created can become expensive, especially if you have recorded several interviews to construct a single podcast, or if you are creating episodes frequently. Freelance rates vary widely, but transcription services start around $50 per month. A few reputable transcription services and paid tools include Trint, Descript, and Sonix.

Transcript best practices

The following are good practices to follow to make your transcript useful and navigable: 

Include in the transcript:

  • The names of all speakers.
    • Speakers should be identified for optimum usability. For a podcast with multiple speakers, it is often best to use speakers’ full names the first time they appear in the transcript; subsequently their first names only may be used.
  • All spoken content. If there is speech that is considered not to be relevant, indicate that it has been excluded, for example: “[participants discuss the weather while the presenter reboots his computer]”.
  • Relevant information about the speech, such as volume or tone. This is usually indicated in brackets, e.g.: “Joe: I hate this computer! [shouted]” or “Mary: That was a mistake [whispered]
  • Relevant non-speech audio in parentheses, using lowercase and italics, e.g.: “(computer crashing into bits and parts sliding across the floor)”. Non-relevant background noise can be left out of the transcript, or noted once. For example, birdsong or traffic. 

Edit according to situation:

  • In some cases, such as legal depositions, transcripts must be verbatim, including ‘thinking sounds’ (um, ah) and indicating pauses. This can also be good practice for accessibility, as it creates an exact representation of the audio for those who cannot experience it.
  • For most podcasts, presentations, and such, minor edits for readability can be appropriate. For example, it would generally be OK to edit: “I first met Juan in 2013 – er, 2014 – when we were freshmen at Columbia.” to: “I first met Juan in 2014 when we were freshmen at Columbia.”
  • You should not change the meaning from the original audio. It’s also not appropriate to significantly correct grammar or other mistakes.

Make it easy for people to get the transcript online:

  • Provide the transcript in HTML for maximum accessibility to people and to search engines, and for reuse online. Posting your transcript on a website like WordPress will display your transcript in HTML.
  • Provide a link to the transcript wherever your podcast is available, such as in show notes or descriptions that people can read when downloading your podcast in podcatchers and apps. 
  • Similarly, in your transcript, you should provide a link to or embed your audio file. 

Transcript Accessibility

Podcasts and other audio files need to be transcripted in order for the media to be accessible for people who are deaf or hard of hearing. Failing to provide a transcript for your podcast means that people who have hearing disabilities will be unable to access the information.