Transcripts have long been promoted as ways to make your podcast more findable and accessible. But it's only recently that podcast transcripts have become actually useful!

Although I didn't plan it this way, the timing of this episode is perfect because I just launched a new feature on Podgagement that automatically transcribes audio feedback from your audience!

This topic is also very timely because of the release of iOS 17.4, which brings podcast transcripts into Apple Podcasts! (Learn more about those implications from The Future of Podcasting.)

(As an affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases through some of these following links. But I recommend things I truly believe in, regardless of earnings.)

1. Don't believe the myths about podcast transcripts

For many years, people have been promoting transcripts for the wrong reasons. I've also been pitched by many transcription companies pushing the wrong approach.

While there are elements of truth in these two common myths, the ways people often promote and understand these two ideas are where the information become myth—of “mythinformation”?

Myth 1: “Transcripts are good for podcast SEO”

People have often said that you should publish podcast transcripts on your website to make your podcast findable through search-engine optimization (SEO). But that's not the full truth.

Yes, transcripts are better than nothing or a mere paragraph or list of topics. But transcripts result in a lot of words and actually very little content, resulting in very low quality writing (probably even worse than AI-created text or writing from non-natives of the language).

For example, a two-cohost podcast transcript might look like this:

Jack: Welcome to the our podcast, where we talk about things to help you do stuff! I'm Jack!

Jill: And I'm Jill.

Jack: Before we get into this topic, how are you doing, Jill?

Jill: The weather is sunny today, so I'm great!

Jack: Great!

Jill: Yeah. What about you?

Jack: I'm fine, but I don't know what the weather is, but—

Jill: That's sad.

Jack: What do mean?

Jill: I mean, you're saying that you haven't gone outside or even looked out a window in a while.

Jack: Yeah, but it's okay.

Jill: So anyway!

Jack: Yes! Let's jump into this week's topic.

Note that in this fictional example, there are a lot of words, but you've learned nothing from this excerpt!

That kind of back-and-forth is fine in a conversation and can even sometimes be okay in a podcast. But it writing, it becomes worthless.

Compare that to how the same “information” could be written in a way that's valuable:

Actually, that whole exchange could be edited out of the written content because there's little to no value in reading that!

Search engines prioritize high-quality content that is readable, but unless you're a professional speaker performing a refined monologue, transcripts are neither readable nor high quality. So, no, transcripts are not the “magic bullet” to making your podcast perform well for SEO, especially if you're relegating transcripts to a downloadable file or a web page separate from your podcast episode.

Myth 2: “Transcripts make your podcast accessible”

It's true that people with hearing impairments still consume podcasts! Thus transcripts have been lauded as the accessibility solution podcasts need!

But the problem is that most published transcripts are still difficult to read or—worse—are buried in a link or downloadable file that could actually be even less accessible!

It's like putting up a billboard with a QR Code that drivers can scan to watch a video to learn why they shouldn't be distracted while driving!

Good accessibility doesn't help only the hearing-impaired, it can also help memorability or engagement for the rest of your audience. For example, a word or URL that might be ambiguous, such as “to” versus “two” versus “2” versus “too.” This gets even worse if you've made up words!

Here, properly written show notes or an article can make the information far more memorable and actionable than a giant transcription page.

It's only properly formatted and properly published transcripts that make your podcast accessible! And more on that in a moment!

2. (Optional) Use transcripts with podcast-production tools

You can use the power of transcripts immediately after you record your episodes, even if you never publish those transcripts!

While you could pay for someone to transcribe your podcast for you, AI tools have gotten really good at making fairly accurate transcripts!

Yes, AI has become the ubiquitous tool for all kinds of content-creators. I've joked before, “Look, Daddy! Teacher says, ‘Every time a bell rings, an AI-powered app launches on AppSumo!'” But I'm a big fan of using AI on your content you made instead of for making your content.

The way AI-based tools work with your audio or video podcast is by first transcribing your content. Then, you can use that AI to do impressive and time-saving things with the transcript, like summarizing your episode, suggesting episode titles, and even helping you better edit your recording.

Here are my current favorite transcription-based tools to help when your episode is still in this early post-production stage right after you've record:

Each of these tools can make editing your recording as easy as editing a text document! Plus, they can even export the transcript from your finished production that you can use in the following other steps.

You can also upload your read-to-publish audio to some transcription-based tools to get suggestions for titles, chapters, show notes, social posts, keywords, and more! The best tools for that are:

Even if you don't use any transcription-based tools, you can still use a transcript of your recording to help you find places to edit, excerpts for sharing, and reminders of your content. And you can do this without ever publishing those transcripts (but I still recommend that you do)!

3. Make properly formatted podcast transcripts

In order to be actually useful, a transcript needs to have more data with it. At a minimum, transcripts need timestamps for when lines or even words were spoken. But transcripts can also include the speakers' names, formatting, and more.

The most common transcript formats are VTT and SRT, but VTT—specifically WebVTT—is the superior format, but it's not as widely supported as SRT.

In its vanilla state, VTT and SRT will look similar:

00:01.000 --> 00:04.000
Never drink liquid nitrogen.

00:05.000 --> 00:09.000
It will perforate your stomach.

And then WebVTT can add a whole bunch of additional features and formatting over this.

You can get these properly formatted transcripts from the transcription-based editing tools I shared above, or you can generate them through AI or third-party help.

The most important thing here is to get the transcripts in the right format! A big block of text in a PDF or text document is not going to be as useful as the structured data like you get with SRT or VTT.

Easy access to artificial intelligence (AI) tools has made creating transcripts a whole lot faster, easier, and cheaper. The editing tools I mentioned all use AI to generate their transcripts, or you could use other services, too:

(This list might not be up-to-date because these features are coming to more tools quite frequently.)

I like the more modern AI-based transcription tools because they understand language better and are thus able to make transcripts that actually read well and are usually quite accurate. Compare that to transcripts from only a few years ago that transcribed what they thought they heard, even if it didn't make sense.

Most likely any tool that requires Internet access has limits to how much you can transcribe or has pricing based on your usage.

So, alternatively, consider these two fantastic apps you can install on your computer to generate the transcripts without the Internet or usage fees or limits. These use OpenAI's free and open-source Whisper model.

Because these apps run everything on your computer, you'll get much faster results on a more powerful computer. For comparison, MacWhisper Pro's largest language model on my M1 MacBook Pro can transcribe a 30-minute podcast episode in only a couple of minutes. But my maxed-out Intel iMac takes much longer to process the same audio with the same app.

With the launch of iOS 17.4 in March 2024, you now download the transcript Apple automatically generates for you through your Podcasts Connect account!

4. Edit your podcast transcripts

Regardless of whether you transcribe your podcast with AI or with a person, the transcript will most likely need some editing.

Some automatic transcription tools will smartly break lines at logical points, like on punctuation or at the end of sentences. But that's not mandatory.

The best thing to do would be to read your entire transcript to edit for accuracy. I think it could even be okay to edit for clarity. For example, if the speaker said, “There are 5 ways—I mean 6 ways—to do this,” you could edit the transcript to simply “There are 6 ways to do this.”

Pay close attention to anything that could cause you legal trouble, too! For example, your guest might have said, “I love two li'l puppies,” but your transcript might incorrectly say, “I love to kill puppies.” YIKES!

But this is where I notice the good modern transcription tools (like Whisper or Gemini Pro 1.5 and later) that use updated large-language models (LLMs) can often do a better job because they seem good at combining what they think they hear along with what makes grammatical and contextual sense.

But if you're in a hurry, here's the quick hack for editing your transcripts: double-check all proper nouns and URLs.

For example, one transcription tool I tried would always transcribe “Podcasting 2.0” as “podcasting 2 point oh.” Or even MacWhisper Pro sometimes transcribes “theaudacitytopodcast.com” as something like “the odacity2podcast.com.” For these things, I've made a list of the common errors so it's easy for me to run a find-and-replace operation on them. MacWhisper actually has that built in! And some transcription tools let you enter terms that are important to get right. For example, I might enter “Podgagement” since that's a made up trademark and the AI models might not understand it, yet.

But I've also been surprised, especially by Whisper, how often it not only gets the spelling right but even the capitalization!

5. Put the podcast transcripts in the right places

Now that you have an accurate transcript in a good format (SRT or VTT), we've had a standard place to put that in podcasting for a couple of years now, and even Apple Podcasts is now on board!

You only need to upload the transcript somewhere online (if it's not already publicly hosted for you) and link to it in your Podcasting 2.0 <podcast:transcript> tag in your RSS feed, which your podcast-publishing/hosting tool might do for you.

This makes the transcript visible to a growing list of Podcasting 2.0 apps, and now even Apple Podcasts supports the Podcasting 2.0 transcript!

Even if Apple Podcasts generates the transcript for you, the app will use your transcript if you provide it through the transcript feature in your RSS feed. This is so much better than how Spotify, Google, and Amazon currently do it!

Putting your SRT or VTT transcript in the right place also exposes it for other apps and services to use. As this becomes more popular, more podcast apps will use these transcripts to learn what your episodes are about and help expose your podcast in more relevant searches. For example, even if you keyword-stuff your title, author, and description tags with something like “real estate investing,” if you're not literally talking about real estate investing in your episodes, your podcast probably won't rank well for that term. What makes this podcast SEO different from the SEO myth I shared above is that this Podcasting 2.0 method exposes your transcript in a specific structure that make it easy for applications to read and process. You don't get that when you dump the whole transcript on your website (or in a download).

But if you really want to publish a transcript in a readable format, you can convert your SRT or VTT transcript into formatted text and offer that through your website. Just don't expect much to come from it!

6. (Optional) Use your podcast transcripts for promotion

I'm not a fan of creating new content with AI (also called “generative AI”). I think the results are cheap, unoriginal, and in a legal gray area because most generative AI models were trained with copyrighted content and without the content-owner's permission.

Putting aside those potential legal and ethical implications, I do love artificial intelligence as a different “AI”: assistive intelligence. So instead of creating new content for you, the AI analyzes the content you created and helps you describe it, improve it, repurpose it, and more.

And this all starts with a transcript of your podcast!

My favorite AI tool right now is Magai because it includes multiple models (not just ChatGPT) and you can now easily upload your entire podcast transcript to then work with inside Magai. For example, you could ask it to write a promotion for the episode in the first-person tone of your guest so you can send that to him or her to more relevantly share their appearance on your podcast.

Castmagic, Capsho, and Buzzsprout's Cohost AI also have features like this built in. For example, Castmagic (which I use, too) automatically recognizes separate speakers in the audio and can also automatically generate a whole bunch of different content from my content. This includes social posts, titles, X-Twitter threads, engaging questions, outlines, and more.

So even if a tool can't transcribe your content for you, yet (as is the case with Magai), you can still give it your transcript to analyze and use for many more purposes!

It all starts with the transcript of your content. (Or in my case, since I write such thorough articles for my podcast episodes, I frequently give Magai my published webpage URL instead of uploading a transcript.)

(And in case you're wondering, the entirety of this article and podcast episode were created solely by me. And even though some people might call my intelligence “artificial,” I didn't use any AI for this episode!)

You can also use a tool like Descript, Headliner, or Opus Clip to find good excerpts from your episode to share as clips, like I'm doing for this very episode! This, too, starts with your transcripts, and you'll probably get even better results if you can edit or provide a more accurate transcript.

Try Podgagement, now with automatic transcripts for voicemails from your audience!

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Disclosure

This post may contain links to products or services with which I have an affiliate relationship. I may receive compensation from your actions through such links. However, I don't let that corrupt my perspective and I don't recommend only affiliates.

About the Author
As an award-winning podcaster, Daniel J. Lewis gives you the guts and teaches you the tools to launch and improve your own podcasts for sharing your passions and finding success. Daniel creates resources for podcasters, such as the SEO for Podcasters and Zoom H6 for Podcasters courses, the Social Subscribe & Follow Icons plugin for WordPress, the My Podcast Reviews global-review aggregator, and the Podcasters' Society membership for podcasters. As a recognized authority and influencer in the podcasting industry, Daniel speaks on podcasting and hosts his own podcast about how to podcast. Daniel's other podcasts, a clean-comedy podcast, and the #1 unofficial podcast for ABC's hit drama Once Upon a Time, have also been nominated for multiple awards. Daniel and his son live near Cincinnati.
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Rob Kirkpatrick
Rob Kirkpatrick
3 months ago

Daniel, if we edit our transcripts to make them more readable, will that mess up the timestamps that Apple Podcasts or other Podcasting 2.0 apps need to connect the written words to the audio?

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