When reading articles about marketing, interview techniques and the like, I do get concerned that businesses may be investing money in automated transcription services that do not provide them with the results of their expectations.

What do I mean by this?

Marketers, for example, record their interviews. Recording an interview allows them to keep track of what the respondent/s say, and not relying on note-taking. They can also listen back to the interview afterwards, whenever they need to.

If listening to the interview is not convenient for you each time, you can simply use an automated transcription service and have your recorded interviews converted into text. Reading is quicker if looking for something specific, rather than having to keep playing, rewinding and replaying again trying to find the specific place in the audio. This is all time-consuming.

It is the expectation of the layperson using automatic speech-to-text transcription services, that they will receive a decent transcript, not that isn’t error-free but certainly a lot more accurate than what most are expecting and receive, in reality. Automation does seem on the face of it to be one of the most efficient ways of getting back the results of your interviews whenever necessary. If the audio is clear, you’ll have your transcript in minutes.

But… what’s the catch?


Here’s the catch that I am about to share with you, the one secret that no one will tell you. Not the automated transcription services certainly. However, I will.

Below is a screenshot of an automated transcription services provider.

As you can see the process is very easy with three simple steps. However, the catch is in step 2. There, I’ve told you now! Yes, the catch is they’ve covered themselves that quote, “the benefits of our service, the accuracy can’t be 100%. But this is not a problem, you can easily edit your transcripts by your own.” Easily edit your own…?

Have you ever opened Windows Media Player and listened to an audio recording, either an audio interview, a podcast, music even. When listening to an interview, or podcast, for example, try rewinding just a few seconds if you misheard something. There is the problem.

Typing will always be quicker

From a manual transcriptionist’s point of view, and this I can speak of experience, it is very, very difficult to rewind manually just a few seconds to catch a couple of misheard words.

Any audio player will play audio, yes, automatically rewind five or ten seconds, no. It is not as easy or quick to correct an automated transcript, not without at the very least transcription software to play, rewind a few seconds and replay again.

Trust me, as a manual transcriptionist who recently edited an automatically created transcript from an audio file for a regular client, typing will always be quicker than editing!

The issues I have found with automated transcripts that repeatedly arise to date are the following:

  1. When someone takes a pause where there should be a comma, automation inserts a period. In other words a full stop.
  2. Therefore, when you are correcting full stops to commas, you’re also then having to normalise any capital letters.
  3. For interviews, where there is an interviewer and respondent, which is usually the case the automation cannot intelligently define when the speaker changes.
  4. Therefore, entering to create a new line when the speaker does change, tabbing across to separate interviewer and respondent identifiers, takes time.
  5. Another annoyance is semi-colons for no reason whatsoever!

For transcriptionists and typists with a typing speed of over 80 words per minute, who can quickly listen and type the alterations described above are actually more time-consuming than transcribing in the first place.


How does that affect businesses recording interviews for transcription automation?

The editing of an automatically produced transcript can be time-consuming, trust me. Are you going to do this yourself or delegate the task?

Let’s say you delegate the task, and you work from home, is this going to involve a freelancer may be to do this for you? Or, are you going to do it yourself?

Either way, for the recipient of an automatically created transcript by artificial intelligent transcription programs, then to effectively and quickly edit your transcripts for comprehension and accuracy you need two things:

1) Transcription software to replay a few seconds
2) A foot pedal to accompany the software to play the audio.


Manual transcription services will always be the quicker and cost effective option

With there being so much outcry recently over privacy issues, artificial intelligence and human transcribers training the artificial intelligence, therefore, people are unaware of humans actually listening to their audio. A lot of controversies to say the least.

There is a long way to go yet before anyone anywhere using automated transcription services can upload audio files, receive a transcript back in minutes, checked and very few minor errors.

Virtuadmin transcription services, for example, can turn around clear audio files with up to three speakers in under twenty fours hours. We do not charge extra for quick turnarounds, if time allows we can do it.

All our transcripts are proofread afterwards for absolute quality, accuracy and grammar. What you receive from us is a comprehensive, usable transcript from the moment of receipt.

I, the writer of this blog post am the transcriptionist of Virtuadmin. I undertake all the typing, transcription and other administrative duties that are requested. Therefore, your audio files are assured confidentiality as only one person is hearing the audio from start to finish.

Audio Transcription Services Infographic
Cost comparison of automated transcription versus human transcription

Finally, how does the cost of automated services weigh up against human transcription services, priced per audio minute?

Well, in the USA automatic transcription rates start at 25 cents, per audio minute. That is roughly 18p per audio minute in British Sterling. Using this as a guideline, our rates start at 50p per audio minute. Effectively, for a bit longer time, a day to two days and just 32p more spent on your audio transcription you can receive from Virtuadmin a comprehensive, usable transcript from the outset.

Going the automated route, you have the initial cheap cost combined with a quick turnaround but how quick is that turnaround if you’ve to spend more time checking it, listening to it against the audio file word-for-word? Or, outsourcing the checking, more expense that you probably did not budget for.

If you have any questions at all about our manual transcription services please do not hesitate to get in touch. On weekdays or weekends, we would love to hear from you and answer your queries.