Repeat after Me: Experimenting with Transcription

July 12, 2018

Transcription services have traditionally been pricey and slow, but automated technology has allowed new cheaper and quicker services to be introduced to the market. Automated transcription services are certainly easier on the wallet (in some cases almost by seven fold), but there are still advantages to using traditional human-operated services. One thing to keep in mind is that because automated services are so much cheaper, trying them and being dissatisfied has fewer financial consequences.

In SEP’s case, we are looking at options to transcribe meetings or user interviews for us to reference later. We tested three varying services with a 45-minute interview recorded using a Zoom H6 portable recorder to see whether it’s best to stick to what has worked or try something new.

Traditional Services


Price: ~$70 per hr (for a standard script)

Finished Product: DOCX file [emailed]

GoTranscript is a traditional human-operated transcription service. Among the traditional transcription services, GoTranscript appears to be one of the least expensive. When we tried it out ourselves, we found that the final transcript was the cleanest and most accurate of the three services we tried. GoTranscript handled interruptions, false starts, and filler words well (take a look at this sample). Here’s our script when we tried it out for ourselves.

GoTranscript also included more options than other services:

  • Clean / Full verbatim
  • Turnaround time (6-12 hours / 1 day / 3 days / 5 days)
  • Captions
  • Timestamping
  • Language translations

GoTranscript has advantages over other less traditional services, but ultimately the greatest obstacle with it is price. An hour-long transcript with 3 or more speakers, high-quality audio, and no additional captioning or timestamping features is priced at $75 with a 3-day turnaround. If you’re looking for a nearly pristine transcript, we’d recommend GoTranscript; if you need to save some bucks, you might want to consider a different service.

Accuracy: 5/5

Speed: 3/5

Price: 2/5

Automated Services

Simon Says

Price: $10 per hr (offers free trial)

Finished Product: Interactive online script

Simon Says uses AI technology to deliver transcripts more quickly and more affordably. You can get your audio fully transcribed within minutes of uploading. Prices are also much lower at a flat $10 per hour. The final web-based script you receive is also a huge plus: Simon Says automatically adds time stamps and is equipped with editing, auto-scrolling, bookmarking, and annotating features. You can reference our sample here (editing features won’t be visible since it’s a public project).

From the sample, you’ll see that Simon Says doesn’t fair as well with interruptions, false starts, and filler words. This is the most critical disadvantage of Simon Says. If you’re working with an audio file like ours–one with people interrupting each other and unclear enunciations from time to time–it may be best to invest in a more traditional service; simon Says is very much a full verbatim service. Otherwise if your audio is clean or you’re willing to spend a little time on more editing, Simon Says is a great option considering its speed and price.

Accuracy: 3/5

Speed: 5/5

Price: 4.5/5


Price: $10 per episode (60 min. max)

Final Product: TXT file [emailed]

Like Simon Says, Podscripter is also an automated transcription service. Podscripter does have a 60-minute limit on its scripts, but you can contact the company to get a custom quote (will most likely result in a rate higher than $10 per hour). It isn’t clear if the service is fully operated or partially human-operated, but we assume it’s the latter because it’s not nearly as verbatim as Simon Says. Podscripter delivers an overall very clean script outside of including some filler words here and there (see our sample here). Podscripter is also a great option if you record routinely; it offers a subscription option through your RSS feed and transcribes every time you post.

The final script from Podscripter is much less interactive in comparison to Simon Says and offers fewer customizable options than both GoTranscript and Simon Says. Podscripter also has a turnaround time of 24 hours, which is between Simon Says and GoTranscript (although you can pay more for a 6 to 12 hour turnaround with GoTranscript).

Accuracy: 4/5

Speed: 4/5

Price: 4/5

Final Verdict

Out of the three services we tried, Podscripter was our winner. It’s a great balance between accuracy, speed, and price. Nonetheless, how satisfied you are with each service is entirely dependent on the quality of your recording. If your audio is clear, you may find Simon Says and Podscripter to be your favorites. If your audio is very unclear, GoTranscript or other traditional services may be your only options. Whatever the case is, we recommend you first give the automated services a try.

Author: Lianne Yu