Making Podcasts More Accessible
With podcasts becoming such a staple in the cultural conversation, accessibility is more important than ever. Many podcasters continue to neglect a significant audience made up of hearing-impaired individuals.
"an estimated 100 million people listen to a podcast each month and it's expected to reach 125 million in 2022."
With podcasts becoming such a staple in the cultural conversation, accessibility has come up more than once. Deaf or hearing-impaired individuals are often left out with no alternatives to audio. Where TV shows and movies almost always offer closed captioning, many podcasters continue to neglect a significant audience made up of hearing-impaired individuals.
According to the CDC Vital and Health Statistics Report, “15% of adults aged 18 and over had some hearing trouble.” That’s over 37.5 million people. Not only is it bad form to shut out potential consumers because of disabilities, but that’s a significant number of people who could be valuable and loyal fans.
By 2021, we should be more adept at accessibility and inclusivity for people with all kinds of needs. With approximately one out of seven (6.67) Americans being hearing impaired, it’s a need that cannot be ignored.
How Your Podcast Can Be More Inclusive
One major way that podcasts can cater to a larger audience is to create transcripts of the podcast episodes that can easily be read by people who are deaf or hard of hearing. These transcripts can be uploaded to your website on the release date of the podcast episode so that more people can enjoy it.
This offering is essential to bring in a neglected potential audience of hearing-impaired individuals, but your hearing fans may appreciate it as well. It’s not just those who are deaf or hard of hearing who may struggle with an audio-only podcast. Some individuals, such as those with an auditory processing disorder, may have difficulty fully comprehending the things that they hear. People with these kinds of disorders struggle to comprehend audio while multitasking — like listening to podcasts while they drive, do chores, etc. These individuals would also greatly benefit from being able to read the transcript on its own or while listening to the podcast.
As podcasts continue to become more popular, all of these potential fans are left out of the conversation, and they don’t have the option to join in. As a podcaster, you have the power to change that by creating transcripts to draw more people in, welcoming them to the conversation.
Not only is it a win for those who are interested in podcasts, but it’s a win for you and your business. Your audience will increase, and you will see expanded reach with very little extra effort on your end (especially if you use a third-party service to create your transcripts).
Transcribing your episodes
If you decide that you want to create full transcripts of your podcasts, you’ve traditionally had tow options: type it up yourself, or use a third-party service to do it for you.
If you don’t have any experience with creating transcripts, it’s more time-consuming than you might expect. That’s why third-party services are a good option.
In recent years there’s been another affordable option introduced. Automated services, such as podse.io take the time and pain out of transcriptions often providing a good base with minimal editing required. With complete and accurate timestamps, these services can also help identify key topics, long pauses, over-use of “um”, and a number of other phrases for editing.
If you also produce show notes for your podcast, the automated transcript is extremely helpful for identifying these areas to highlight and providing accurate timestamps. Show notes may be written directly in the tools and exported with timestamps for use in your podcast hosting platform.
The Marketing Benefits of a Transcript
You might be thinking, “That’s an extra expense that I can’t afford right now.” It’s true that it’s an added expense, but the benefits far outweigh the cost. You increase your audience by being more accessible, and you also add great content to your website.
By adding written content to your website that’s rich with keywords that your audience might search for, you improve your SEO (search engine optimization) marketing.
For instance, if you run a podcast where you review the latest New York Times bestselling books, your website could show up when people search for those author names, book titles, or even just “New York Times bestsellers.” This increases your audience to include not just the hearing-impaired people or those with auditory processing disorders but also anyone who might perform a Google search for something related to your content.
The larger your audience, the better the chance at marketing partnerships. And the more marketing partnerships you acquire, the more money you make. It’s a win for your audience, which is a win for you. It may cost you a bit extra to offer transcripts, but you’ll quickly see that the benefits are worth it.
The Risks of Not Transcribing Your Podcasts
Of course, we’ve already covered that many individuals are neglected by the lack of accessibility in the podcast industry. If that alone isn’t enough reason to begin offering transcripts to your audience, excluding those with disabilities or disorders can also land you in legal trouble.
Gimlet Media (a large podcasting company that was bought by Spotify in 2019 for $230 million) was presented with a lawsuit in 2020 for not taking accessibility measures for hearing-impaired listeners. The plaintiff, Kahlimah Jones, argues that Gimlet violates the Americans with Disabilities Act by not providing captions or transcripts for their podcast episodes.
Many more cases like this are likely to come up. Thousands of cases are filed each year about ADA compliance on websites and with other digital materials, but the Supreme Court has yet to decide how to handle these kinds of cases. Regardless, it’s better to be safe and take measures to create better accessibility.
Offering transcripts is an easy way to cater to a previously neglected audience. It expands your audience reach, has benefits for your marketing strategies, and could help you avoid expensive lawsuits. With so many reasons to offer transcripts, the excuses for not doing so become irrelevant.
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