How the Internet Changed the Rules of Transcription (Part 1)

Nov 14


Jeff Noctis

Jeff Noctis

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The power of the internet allows a business to upload all of the work they need transcribed onto a secure server, where a trusted transcription service can access the files, perform the necessary operations, and upload the finished project to the same server.


Transcription is a service that is necessary to many different fields,How the Internet Changed the Rules of Transcription (Part 1) Articles such as the medical, legal and business sectors. In the past this had been both time consuming and costly; the equipment involved in analog audio before the digital age was more cumbersome than most people today have to deal with. Add this to the time it took to mail or hand deliver an audio recording to a transcription office and back again and you can see how the delays can pile up quickly. There was a good reason why so many organizations, however reluctantly, set up their own in-house transcription departments.

Fortunately for us, technology continued to advance, which included a shift that brought the internet into mainstream use - and with it a much faster way of distributing information (including audio and video). With this new tool, the in-house transcription office has become virtually obsolete.

The power of the internet allows a business to upload all of the work they need transcribed onto a secure server, where a trusted transcription service can access the files, perform the necessary operations, and upload the finished project to the same server - all without the cost of postage or shipping (not to mention the time that is saved.)

Putting Feet to the Pavement

Of course it wasn’t always necessary to mail the hard copy. In most cities there were transcription services of varying skills, specialties, and experience. When a company needed transcription handled for analog audio they often had an office worker or courier hand deliver the hard copy to the transcription service. Some transcription companies even offered pickup and delivery services. However, all of this travel by the tapes and finished paper transcripts meant it would take longer for the final product to be in the hands of those who needed it. And regardless of who did the pickup and delivery - it added cost to the service. Even transcription companies that offered free pick up would have to factor it into the overall prices charged by the company.

Another downside to dealing with hard copies is that many companies didn’t have the time or inclination to make backup copies. The transcription service had to deal with an original recording. This was sometimes necessary anyway because analog copies of analog tapes always resulted in inferior recordings. However, the more a cassette was handled and used in a transcriber, the more likely it would be damaged.

Seeking Outside Help

Outsourcing has long been a viable and attractive option for organizations and individuals trying to squeeze every penny for what it’s worth. While most organizations that required regular transcription understood the benefit and turnaround of using a local transcription company, they also knew what it meant to save money.

As the internet grew in popularity and advances were made in download speeds and security, online transcription became more widespread which increased the level of competition and drove prices down. It also became easier for professionals and companies to find more specialized transcription services. It takes little time to do a national search for forensic, financial, technical, foreign language, verbatim, edited, autopsy, budget and many other types of transcription.

Crossing the Border

Less skilled and off-shore transcription services began to appear on a national and international level. Unfortunately, in many cases, these agencies lacked the necessary skill to manage audio files that contained technical or specialized transcription requirements. They could however, provide a cost effective alternative for general and other transcription projects where security or accuracy wasn’t the primary concern.

For those organizations that require regular transcription services, it can be appealing to have an option that is a fraction of the cost. Budget transcription services proliferated in other countries such as India. Unfortunately, for professionals and companies looking for specialized or secure transcription services, the quality and/or security of the project was in danger of being compromised for the sake of trimming costs.

In-House Transcription by Non-Transcriptionists

For those organizations that didn’t have a local option for analog audio transcription, but refused to mail what they deemed to be sensitive material in an effort to safeguard original copies, they frequently turned their attention in-house. However, to save on costs, a number of these organizations imprudently chose not to hire experienced transcriptionists and instead turned to their existing employees.

Office staff, secretaries, accounting, and payroll – a warm body would do the trick in many cases. At least that was the idea. Employees were frequently taken away from their normal duties and used for transcription. Due to a lack of experience and an untrained ear, the quality of the transcription was often less than ideal.

Many people assume that anyone who can type can transcribe. However, a good transcriptionist will have an above average knowledge of grammar, punctuation, spelling, vocabulary, and a deeper understanding of the field he or she transcribes (e.g., medical or financial). In addition, speech can sometimes become difficult to decipher and someone without experience listening to (and possibly manipulating the audio) will include more entries of ‘unintelligible’ or ‘inaudible’ than necessary.

Faster, Easier, Safer

While the web has been around for about two decades, the transfer rate of data was nowhere near capable of handling the size of most audio files. When this type of file transfer was attempted just 15 years ago, it would take hours to upload and/or download audio and video files such as .wav and .mpg.

More recently, with broadband transmissions of digital information over newly created fiber optics networks, many organizations are able to quickly and safely transfer large digital audio and video files. With the advancement of technology, equipment used to digitally record is not only affordable but quite reliable. Audio formats have advanced with regard to convenience from the very large .wav files to more compressed and transfer-friendly formats such as the .mp3. However, even large .wav files generally don’t take an unreasonable amount of time to transfer – especially if you just have one or two 1GB files. Many businesses that deal with quality audio recordings regularly transfer .wav and other large files online.

Unless a company is still recording to and handling analog audio, digital formats can now be easily managed through a secure upload process which virtually eliminates the need to deal with couriers or shipping hard audio copies to local, national or international companies in order to get data transcribed.

Now, with outsourcing readily available online, it’s easier than ever for an organization to locate the right transcription service for the job.