For one of our clients, we’re doing an informal series of audio interviews with tech gurus and web geeks about how they manage and back up their digital life. There are various marketing angles on this little project, but one is search engine optimization.
The first interview was with man-about-the-web Chris Pirillo. We talked for about 15 minutes over a dodgy Skype line. I had it transcribed by one of our contractors, and it turned into 2500 words of text.
That’s 2500 words of relevant text that’s reasonably rich with keywords. Assuming a going low-end rate of $25 per blog post, and 250 words a post, that’s $250 of text for the price of transcription and, all-in, about an hour of my time.
Exploring My Transcription Options
Yesterday I did the second interview in the series with the incomparable Vanessa Fox. I figured I could get the transcription done for less money, and I didn’t want to torture our contractor. I started shopping around for options. I also asked on Twitter, and these were the options that I came up with. The interview is 18 minutes, so I’ll include the pricing for that duration where available (all amounts, presumably, are in US dollars):
- CastingWords – Basically an administrative layer on top of Mechanical Turk (more on this later) – $27.50 for a six-day turnaround.
- Escriptionist – $27.50 for a three to five day turnaround.
- Podclerk – $22.50, they charge $0.75 a minute, but have a 30 minute minimum
- Points West – Starts at $120 for an hour of audio. It’s unclear if there’s a minimum fee.
- Production Transcripts – $49.35
- Sunday Personal Assistants – One of many personal assistant companies who do transcription
Then Avi reminded me of Andy Baio’s experiments in transcription with Amazon’s Mechanical Turk project. Andy has written up thorough instructions on how to outsource your transcription in chunks to workers in the system.
I decided to give Turk a try. It’s a little more work than just sending off the file to one of the aforementioned services, but I’ve always been charmed by Turk’s micro-task model. I divided the transcription into three six-minute chunks and posted the job. I offered $6 per chunk, or $1 per minute. I’m sure I could have gotten it done for less, but I’m looking for inexpensive, not cheap as humanly possible.
Mechanical Turk-Powered Transcription
It was mostly a success. The turn-around time was ridiculously quick. Despite my specifying a turnaround of a week being acceptable, I got all three transcriptions back in less than six hours. The quality seems excellent, though I don’t have a ton of experience with transcription to compare.
Despite my best efforts to ensure it didn’t happen, two workers transcribed the same section. Thus, I had to re-post a section to get complete results. And, of course, I have to paste the three chunks of text together and do some proofing. After Amazon’s fees, I paid $19.80 for 18 minutes of transcription.
Next time, I may just give CastingWords a try, as it would save me time and the difference in price is pretty marginal. There’s some interesting discussion on Andy’s blog about the ethics of pricing jobs on Turk. I was interested to learn that 75% of Turk workers are American, and that they have a variety of motivations for working on the service.
Posting Transcripts for Their SEO Benefits
I wondered on Twitter why more people don’t have their podcasts transcribed. The general response was that, for the hobbyist, it was too expensive. I guess it depends on if and how podcasters are monetizing their sites.
If you can get reasonably good transcription for $0.75 per minute, then you’ve got about 3700 words (my two transcriptions average out to 185 words a minute) to post on one or more pages for $15. Can you generate more than $15 from advertising on those pages over, say, two years? Maybe, maybe not, but it’s worth considering if you’re relying on advertising (and particular Google AdWords and the like) for revenue.
In any case, if they care one iota about SEO, a company has no excuses for not posting transcriptions of audio and video content. It’s not world-changing, but it’s another few steps in the marathon that is marketing.