September 05, 2013 0 Reactions

Revving Up the Transcription Engine

By , under Content Watch, Make it Work. James O'Brien's work can be found at Mashable, OPEN Forum, TheAtlantic.com, and elsewhere. He writes about media, business, and tech.

When you’re an independent writer working for a client on an article, blog, or story, your time is valuable. Everything you do impacts your hourly rate.

At no point is this more apparent than when you’re burning an afternoon transcribing audio from a recorded interview.

While there are benefits to revisiting the nitty gritty of the interview as a whole, there are many instances when that kind of deep dive just isn’t economical.

What you want is the best and most relevant material at a glance, easily accessible, and ready to be added to your story without first having to sacrifice 90 or 120 minutes to get it that way.

For many freelancers, this means a transcription service. And the advent of online transcription ordering and delivery — Rev, for example — has streamlined the process so that it’s almost the background task you want it to be.

But it’s also expensive. The typical base rate is $1 per minute (and it climbs quickly once you start asking for more detail than a basic pass).

And look what it does to your hourly rate: take a couple of half-hour interviews and send them along for transcription and you just spent $60, $90, maybe $120. That’s as expensive as spending your own time churning them out yourself — even though you’ve, in theory, bought back those hours to work on something else. In the end, you still have to absorb the cost.

What if you could split the difference? What if there were a way to capture audio and synch it to the notes you make?

There is. Your tablet is capable of revving up your “transcription” process to the degree that a traditional service may no longer be necessary. No, it won’t transcribe for you — and apps that purport to do this are for another article — but it can negate the need for traditional transcription in the first place.

Let’s look at the tablet-based audio apps that ease the process of grabbing quotes after the fact — ones that eliminate transcription in its old-school form and put the power back in your hands. Literally.

SoundNote

($4.99; iPadAndroid):

If there’s a template for what tablet note-taking apps can do, SoundNote sets that up. Type as it records for a set of notes synched to the audio file. Later, tap the tablet screen and the audio plays from the point linked to that word. You can also make editable drawings and match those to the audio and you can move files around via e-mail, or drag them directly onto your laptop or terminal’s hard drive.

Notability

($2.99; iPad, iPod Touch, or iPhone):

This app adds a number of features to the idea of a note-taking experience. You can do everything that SoundNote allows, but also import PDFs, manipulate text in terms of color, size, style — and implement text boxes if you wish – plus search all your notes by keywords to find specific sections. Features an organizable library of all your notes, and you can share your content via e-mail or a tweet. Dropbox and iCloud capable.

AudioNote

($4.99; iPad, iPod Touch, or iPhoneAndroid):

Text, drawings, and photos get linked to the audio recording — plus every time you hit return you get a timestamp in the left hand margin. AudioNote offers a highlighting tool, and you can print your notes should you want a hardcopy. Share via e-mail or over wi-fi from your tablet to another device. You can also export just the audio, if you want that for a multi-media effort. Dropbox and iCloud capable.

One thing is true about all of these that are iPhone capable: the interface is tougher to get the hang of without the more sizable keyboard that a tablet offers.

Full disclosure, I use AudioNote the most. It doesn’t include a few of the neat features that Notability offers, but the AudioNote interface is elegantly straightforward whereas its competitors is a bit clunky, in my opinion.

SoundNote is perfect for getting your feet wet in the world of note-taking apps, but why spend five bucks if you can get more for the same money from the other options?

Image courtesy of rockmixer/flickr

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