Buried in my desk drawer is a scratched-up relic — a mini-cassette recorder that I used all the time as a young reporter to transcribe interviews. Now it looks like a discovery at an archaeological dig compared to my high-tech smart phone, which lets me record interviews for hours and share files instantly.
But even with this new technology, transcribing interviews from digital files hasn’t changed from the days of my ancient tape recorder. Even if I use my phone or a computer, I still have to hit play, type a snippet of what I hear, hit stop, rewind a little bit to my best guess of where I left off, and repeat the painful process all over again.
A new, fee-based service called Trint is trying to drastically streamline transcribing. And if you have quality audio, it does a pretty slick job.
“Getting the content out of recorded talk is still stuck in the 1960s or ’70s,” said Jeff Kofman, Trint’s CEO and co-founder who sat down for an interview with me via WebEx at Trint’s office in London.
In his former life as an award-winning foreign correspondent, Kofman was intimately familiar with the archaic, time-consuming problem of transcription. Working in television, Kofman often needed to grab just a few key soundbites out of a long interview, but it took precious time tracking down those quotes in his audio.
“In my 30-plus year career, all the technology has changed,” Kofman told me. “The whole workflow has been transformed in ways that we could never have dreamed in the 1980s — except this one part of the journalists’ workflow, which is how do we get the content out of our interviews?”
Trint tries to solve that problem by automatically generating a transcript of your recording. The transcript syncs with your audio. When you play the recording in your browser, you can follow the transcript “like karaoke,” Kofman says, and edit any transcription errors directly in the browser. No more ping-ponging between your audio player and Word document.
Here’s how it looks:
Proofreading an existing transcript can be a lot faster than transcribing from scratch. I used Trint to quickly find and snag key quotes from my interview with Kofman. I read the transcript and highlighted quotes that stood out for me. I listened to the recording to make sure the quotes were accurate. From there it was a simple matter of copying and pasting them into WordPress.
Trint — a combination of the words “transcription” and “interview” — offers various monthly plans but you can sign up for a free trial to test the techie waters. Plans start at $15 a month for an hour’s worth of recordings. If your files are longer you can continue to pay a quarter per minute as you go, and any unused minutes rollover to the next month. Kofman said this is a competitive price compared to professional transcription services.
“The whole point is to make it accessible,” Kofman said. “This is disruptive technology and it’s about making it easy to get a content and share.”