How Apple’s Useful Podcast Transcripts Help Strangle the Open Web

  • Apple will automatically transcribe podcast audio.
  • You will only be able to read the transcriptions in Apple’s Podcasts app.
  • Facebook, Twitter, Discord, and Slack all hide user-created information behind logins.


Apple Podcasts.

Apple



Apple is adding automatic, searchable transcripts to all podcast episodes. The catch? It’s only available to users of Apple’s own Podcasts app.


The new feature will come in iOS 17.4, and will automatically transcribe any episodes submitted to Apple’s podcast catalog, as long as they are in English, Spanish, German, or French. New episodes will be transcribed and indexed immediately, with back-catalog episodes added as they are processed. Ubiquitous, accurate, searchable transcripts of podcasts are a massive win for accessibility and for the sharing of knowledge, but unfortunately, Apple’s approach is typical of today’s platforms, which prefer to lock up user-generated data for competitive advantage rather than share it on the open web for all.


“The practice of siloing user-generated content behind membership walls hampers the democratization of information and inhibits the potential for collaborative knowledge sharing,” Mohammed Mukhtar, the founder of PocketAI and a networking expert, told Lifewire via email. “When platforms like Apple restrict access to automatic podcast transcriptions, it limits the discoverability of valuable content. Opening up this data to indexing and search engines would greatly enhance the accessibility of information, making it more inclusive and beneficial for a wider audience.”



Searching for Accessibility

Apple’s new tools automatically transcribe a podcast’s audio and make it available in the Podcast app. Listeners can read the text, search it, and tap on the results to play the audio that it corresponds to. It’s hard to think of a better integration.



Searchable text is amazing, accessibility-wise. People with hearing challenges can read it, software can summarize it, and anyone can translate it into their language. It’s also essential for researchers. Think about the amount of knowledge locked up in specialist podcasts that cannot be freed without listening to or individually transcribing an episode. Now imagine the opposite—if the only way to read the contents of a website was to know it existed, visit it, and read it.


Search and the aggregation of all the data created by all the humans posting stuff to the web has made human knowledge way more accessible and allowed research that would otherwise be prohibitively difficult.


Fortunately, while podcast transcripts are only made available to listeners in Apple’s Podcasts app, the transcripts are also available to the podcast creators. In Apple’s online Podcast Connect tool, creators will be able to access and edit transcripts, and if they wanted, they could make them available on their websites too. But will they? After all, many (maybe most) non-tech podcasts don’t even put links in their show notes. Or even have show notes.


“My concern has been that podcast hosts (I host my own show as well) have not been making podcasts more accessible to all. I embed a transcript onto my website for every episode I create. With our advanced technology, pulling a transcript is much easier and affordable; in some cases even free,” Michelle Glogovac, aka the Podcast Matchmaker, told Lifewire via email.



Apple Podcasts Transcript Availability.

Apple



“I do think that it’s not only up to the podcast listening platforms to ensure accessibility but should also be put on the hosts of the podcasts. Apple Podcasts is simply removing a step that podcasters should already be taking, but it doesn’t mean a transcript shouldn’t still be provided on the host’s website or any other listening platform,” says Glogovac.



Something Is Better Than Nothing

Apple’s transcription is a helpful tool and better than not transcribing, but it’s a shame that it’s not more easily available outside of Apple’s apps. In this regard, it follows the current trend of locking user-created media behind a paywall or a login. Twitter now requires that you be signed in to read it on the web, effectively cutting off access to anyone who doesn’t give their email details to Musk’s X. And platforms like Slack and Discord are increasingly being used for semi-public discussion, replacing open internet forums which can be read by anyone, and will continue to be available for decades.


The answer is probably to avoid these aggregators altogether. Instead of using Twitter or Instagram, start a blog. And if you have a podcast, post that free, Apple-provided transcript on your show’s website.


“It doesn’t bother me that Apple’s transcription is hidden away because many shows include full (or sometimes partial) transcripts on their websites. That’s true for the big names like This American Life and much smaller indie shows,” former podcast producer Jim Markus told Lifewire via email. “When I produced Frugal Living, I published the transcripts on our sponsor’s site. I also published those transcripts on some free podcast aggregators. That made the text widely and freely available.”

By 111 Tech

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