3Play Media, the media accessibility platform that provides closed captioning, audio description, and subtitling for television and video content, is reaching into podcasting. The company has already begun working with several podcasters, including This American Life, to provide transcription services to make shows accessible to the deaf and hard of hearing communities.
“3Play Media has always supported transcription for audio-only files, but this new solution for podcasters represents an entry into an underserved market of podcast creators who’ve been largely left to their own devices to solve their production and publishing workflows,” said co-CEO Josh Miller. “Time is money in the content industry, and our solution makes it possible to have the high-quality transcript produced in the background while producers focus on what they do best,” he said in the announcement.
Boston-based 3Play Media will charge podcasters from $2.95 per minute to transcribe a show into text. While some podcasters may balk at paying for such a service, 3Play says there are other benefits — including making a show more discoverable by search engines. It says a study it did with This American Life showed that adding transcripts allows search engines to crawl the full text of audio content so that is can be properly indexed, thereby boosting search engine optimization.
Legal Challenges Loom
The availability of new tools to offer transcripts comes as some deaf and hard of hearing activists are turning to the courts to push podcasters into making their shows more accessible. The National Association of the Deaf and Disability Rights Advocates in December filed a lawsuit against Stitcher and Pandora parent SiriusXM on behalf of five deaf members alleging it was not doing enough to make their programming accessible to people who are hearing challenged. The complaint asks the federal court to order the podcasters to not only make transcripts available, but also award the plaintiffs unspecified compensatory damages and legal fees.
Several podcast companies have been looking for ways to make their shows more accessible. Spotify announced last May that it was rolling out a “limited beta” test of a new auto transcription feature as part of several updates to its app.
Amazon said in November that it is also making a synchronized transcription feature available on its Amazon Music app, giving listeners the option to follow along to an episode with a written transcript. Synchronized transcriptions are being rolled out in phases.
So far Amazon Music has made them available in the U.S. for recent episodes of select Amazon Original and Wondery podcasts like SmartLess, Dr. Death, and Uncommon Ground With Van Jones, plus popular hit shows My Favorite Murder, Crime Junkie, Modern Love, and This American Life. Transcripts will also be available for select shows from American Public Media, Audiochuck, Cadence13, The New York Times, Stitcher, and TED.
The National Association of the Deaf says there are more than 48 million deaf and hard of hearing Americans.