Updated at 2:07 p.m. on Thursday, March 16
Technology’s changing everything, and nowadays we can combine everything from photos and videos to tweets and maps to turn a chunk of text into its own web project.
Yet for all the things technology has done to make our jobs a little easier, transcribing interviews is still one of the most tedious parts of the job. Let’s face it, no one becomes a journalist because they like listening to recordings on repeat and typing every word.
There’s a range of transcription services on the web, but it’s hard to find good help these days and most still can’t do the job as well as biting the bullet and writing it yourself. Here are a few of the better ones on the market. They won’t all do the transcription for you, but they’ll make it a little less daunting.
Cogi: A personal favorite for recording interviews with my phone, it’s a free app for both iPhones and Androids. The reality is that when recording interviews, you simply don’t need every word, and Cogi makes sure you catch the important parts. When you start a session, it will buffer the recording without saving anything.
When there’s something important, press the button and Cogi will “rewind” 15 to 40 seconds to record what was just said. You’ll be able to better focus on your subject without taking notes, and I’m sure you’ll appreciate the shorter recording at the end.
oTranscribe: This browser-based app is proof that sometimes less is more. It essentially combines two simple tools — an audio player and a text editor — into a single interface. Everything is controlled through your keyboard, from rewinding the audio to putting in timestamps. oTranscribe won’t do the work for you, but it eliminates the need to switch apps or take your hands off the keyboard to rewind or pause, small diversions that can add up fast. The real disadvantage is that it’s still another open internet tab, so if you have trouble focusing when surfing the web, I’d recommend putting oTranscribe on full screen.
Dictation.io: Dictation.io functions similar to oTranscribe and can be opened in your internet browser (although it only works for Google Chrome). It’s a straightforward blank text document that will dictate everything you say. It’s not the most accurate, but it’s free and can be useful when you’ve got other open windows and don’t want to type everything you’re saying. It also comes in more than a dozen languages, differentiated by regions.
Rev: When you just can’t muster the time or energy to type up your notes yourself, Rev is one of the better sites that will do it for you. It’s a simple process — you upload your audio online, pay the fee and receive your transcription by email. Your work will be transcribed by real people, not machines, so it’s fairly reliable, has a decent turnaround time and a money back guarantee. At US$1 per minute, though, the price can add up quickly.
Dragon: Widely accepted as one of the better dictation tools out there, Dragon is a straightforward version of what a dictation tool should be — you speak into your device and your words appear on the screen. It offers a free mobile app that isn’t perfect, but can save you a significant amount of time and is great for simply thinking out loud. Dragon offers a range of different versions and editions of its product in nearly any language. Some of the more advanced dictation won’t come cheap, though, as prices can range anywhere from US$50 to upwards of US$150.
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Main image CC-licensed by Flickr via Sebastien Wiertz.