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Rev vs. Atomic Scribe Transcription

Rev vs. Atomic Scribe Transcription 2500 1667 Atomic Scribe

12/2/2019 Edit: This post was written in 2016, but we believe these points are still relevant today. As such, this post has not been altered below this point. 

There are a lot of transcription companies out there, so how do you choose the one that’s best for you? In this piece we’ll lay out some key differences between Atomic Scribe and Rev, a popular company that we used for four focus groups to test out their transcription quality. Rev boasts prices of $1/audio min, no matter the audio quality or length. Here’s what we found.

Rev Has No Real Delivery Deadline

Although it is stated on Rev’s site that orders are generally delivered in 24 hours, it actually depends on the file. We also found that they did not give us status updates on a file’s progress in a timely fashion, which can be extremely worrying for those with a deadline.

For example, one of our focus groups files was ordered on Jan. 31st and labeled by Rev as due on Feb. 3rd (already well past 24 hours)… but it wasn’t delivered until three days later on Feb. 6th. That’s a whole week from the initial order date, which is longer than our standard turnaround time. No discount or refund was offered.

At Atomic Scribe, deadlines are important. We have three tiers (rush, standard and discount), and we adhere to whichever tier the client chooses. But sometimes files are harder than expected and more time is needed, in which case we always contact the client immediately and ask if this is acceptable. We also provide a discount if a deadline extension is necessary.

Speaker ID Inaccuracy

Limited speaker ID is included in Rev’s low price, but unfortunately most IDs were unhelpful. While some speakers were correctly identified as “Male” or “Female”, other times names were used as labels sporadically. Basically, there was no uniformity.

In one transcript the speakers were labeled Speaker 1, Speaker 2, Speaker 3, etc. However, it was clear from a re-listen that the transcriptionist could not actually tell the speakers apart and that many labels were incorrect. A good example of this is the number of identified speakers went up to 6 when there was actually 8 participants, but no Speaker 7 or Speaker 8 were found in the transcript (yet they were found by our own transcriptionists).

At Atomic Scribe, we see that as a waste of time. Yes, we charge more for speaker ID, but with that extra charge we come as close to 100% accuracy as we can get. There’s no point in having speaker ID at all if it isn’t accurate, and there should always be the option to add it to an order if it’s helpful to the client. It should also be uniform and not a different format in every transcript.

Too Many Inaudibles

One transcript (the one not delivered until a week after ordering) actually had 337 inaudibles! When our transcriptionist finished it on a re-listen, there was—no joke—10 inaudibles left. There were also quite a few inaudibles across the transcripts that were easily found by just doing research, such as a town or company name.

We’ll admit our audio wasn’t perfect and focus groups are hard, but that’s why most companies charge more for multi-speaker files and pay their transcriptionists more for them. A flat fee system like Rev uses treats all files the same, which hurts transcript quality.

  1. No real delivery timeline

  2. Wrong speaker ID

  3. Inaudibles

  4. Unhappy workers

  5. Poor quality

Low Pay Scale

After we received the transcripts from Rev, we were curious about their transcriptionists. First off, U.S. citizenship is not a requirement to work for Rev. That could mean a larger amount of foreign workers whose native language isn’t English.

We also found out that Rev pays their transcriptionists on average less than half what we pay ours (according to their own site), which probably accounts for the inaudibles. After all, if a worker isn’t receiving a fair wage, what incentive do they have to turn in a good transcript? If their contract is terminated, there are plenty of other companies that pay the same wages as Rev (and many that pay better).

Lower Quality

The transcripts widely ranged in quality. Some transcripts were acceptable, but some had to be almost completely redone. And that’s what is reasonable to expect from a low-cost service, as is expected in every industry. You know you will never receive the best quality, but you hope and pray that you won’t receive the worst either.

That might be okay for some of your projects. But for a higher price (that you only pay once), you get peace of mind, accuracy, correct speaker ID, uniform formatting, communication, research of names and companies, and skilled transcriptionists. It seems to us an easy choice to make.

Note: We confirm that we paid full price for Rev’s services for files in 2014 and are not affiliated with the company. This is a truthful review with no attempt to distort facts.

What Is Transcription and Why Is It So Important?

What Is Transcription and Why Is It So Important? 2500 1667 Atomic Scribe

What? Transcription is converting a recorded video or audio track into a written format, such as a Word document. Most companies offer verbatim transcription, where every single thing uttered is written down, including “uh,” “um,” and other such filler words. Clean edited verbatim takes out those filler words to ensure a smoother transcript.

Who? Transcription may sound easy initially, but anyone who has sat down to do a transcript realizes quickly that transcription takes a lot of time, energy and skill.

That’s why professional transcriptionists who have trained in the field for years are so important. Transcriptionists not only are trained to be able to make out difficult audio, but they also must have an impressive knowledge of grammar. Additionally, they must know how to research terms that they hear to find correct matches for spelling and context, like if an interviewee casually mentions an acronym or a prescription drug name. Incorrectly transcribing a term can confuse the speaker’s intent, which is a big problem.

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Why? Now to the big question: why is transcription necessary? Is it just an extra cost? Well, no. Transcripts can be used for so many different purposes that it would take too much time to list them all.

But the fact is transcripts are often faster to read than the time it takes to listen to audio or video. It’s also easier to distribute to other people, like clients or coworkers. The text can show up in Google searches, unlike audio or video. The Deaf or hard-of-hearing need transcripts to experience content, and many other people just prefer reading to listening.

We work with companies and individuals in the legal, entertainment, market research, police, government, radio, church, and other fields to make their content easily accessible to all, because that is the main point of transcripts. It’s a one-time cost for content that you can keep forever and use in multiple ways. Make sure you take advantage of transcription services so you don’t miss out.

4 Major Problems With the Translation Industry

4 Major Problems With the Translation Industry 5988 4000 Atomic Scribe

The translation industry is booming. There are large companies bringing in millions of dollars in profit each year. Some of those companies claim to have over 10,000 translators available to help clients. Most importantly, there are more ways than ever for a potential client to get what they need, and they have many translation agencies, apps and freelancers to choose from. But are those in need of translation really getting the best service?

Let’s look at some problems that are currently plaguing the industry as a whole, and then at how some are doing things right.

1. Translators Aren’t Being Properly Vetted

On Glassdoor, a site where employees can post reviews of their employer, someone wrote on one of the biggest companies in the industry:

“They lie to clients that their documents will be handled internally, while all are sent to unverified translators in other countries. Anyone can work for [redacted] if they have a computer and pass an easy 300 word test.”

That was copied word for word because it holds such truth for how a lot of agencies in this industry are run. It’s a good business model: get cheap labor from another country (or even within their own country), charge the client 200% more than what you paid the translator, and then pray the poorly-paid translator did a good enough job that the client won’t complain.

Almost all agencies use independent contractors and not employees. That means many agencies only speak to the translator through email, where it’s much easier to disguise fluency in languages, credentials and even if you’re the person you’re claiming to be. It’s a slippery slope, which is why a thorough vetting process needs to be in place.

2. Translators Are Barely Being Paid

There is a great group on LinkedIn with over 7,000 members where translators share ridiculous offers they receive as a warning to others. Unfortunately, offers seem to be getting lower and lower with each passing day.

It’s true that you get what you pay for, but most clients don’t realize how little some translators are being paid because they only work with the agency, who charge a high price to the client and keep most of the fee for themselves. But if the translator isn’t being paid a fair wage, then what incentive do they have to turn in a high-quality translation? If the agency breaks their contract due to poor quality (if they even catch it), they can simply go get paid peanuts elsewhere.

3. There Are Few Quality Standards

An agency likely doesn’t have someone on staff that can proofread a translation from English to Burmese or what have you. Because agencies use independent contractors, they have to put a huge amount of faith and trust in the translators they work with.  And if their translator is being poorly paid, again, what incentive does that translator or proofreader have to spend hours slaving away to make a translation perfect?

They don’t, and who can blame them? So with no way to correctly assess quality and little knowledge about who the translator even is, that means an agency’s knowledge of whether a translation is acceptable or not could be just guesswork. But a lot of clients don’t have a way to question the translation because they’re not fluent in the language pair, and it would be too costly to ask an independent assessor to look over the completed translation. So they put faith in their agency, because what else can they do?

4. A New World: Machine Translation

We’ve said it multiple times: sometimes Google Translate is truly all you need. It is absolutely nowhere near perfect, but it can work if you need a quick, low-quality translation. But lately a new trend in the industry is an agency using machine translation on a piece and then asking a translator to proofread it for a very low fee.

This is probably the future of the industry. As machines become more adept at language services, we’re going to have to change how we translate. But, at the moment, machines aren’t capable of 100% accuracy on anything that’s beyond simple and short, which only makes up a minority of projects currently. We still need capable translators that can edit machine translation, and they need to be compensated fairly. Together machines and humans can help the industry… but don’t forget the human part of that equation.

“A bigger company doesn’t always mean a bigger commitment to quality.”

“Just like in every other industry, you get what you pay for.”

Maybe some of you will read this and say, “So what?” Maybe for some translations it really is okay if the quality is mediocre at best. But it’s not okay what many of the translators in this industry are being paid. And it’s not okay that non-vetted translators are working on legal documents, doctors’ reports, government files, and more with limited knowledge. It’s not okay that the quality of translations is going unchecked.

Here’s some good news: a lot of agencies actually do great work. They know their translators personally and have thoroughly tested them, checked their credentials, and have proper proofreaders checking their work. So don’t despair! Just do some research on who you’re working with and follow these tips:

1. Shop Around

Don’t just go for the lowest price. Thoroughly research the company you’re looking at. Look at how their workers rate them on places like Glassdoor or translator forums. Look at their job postings and see what they require from translators. A bigger company doesn’t always mean a bigger commitment to quality.

Also, there are a lot of freelance translators available who don’t work with agencies, which might be better for your project if it’s small or if you work better directly with a translator. It takes more time to find a good match, but it could be a great option for some.

2. Don’t Expect Great Work for Free

Just like in every other industry, you get what you pay for. It’s normal to want things for free, but translators work extremely hard. They’re providing a specialized service that most people can’t do or don’t have the time to do. They need to be paid a fair wage and deserve most of the pay from the client. If you’re paying an agency a few pennies per word, just imagine how little the translator is actually getting paid.

3. It’s Okay If an Agency Tells You No

The other day we had someone email us who wanted to translate a book into Russian from English. While it sounded like an amazing project, we referred them to a small translation agency that specializes in literary translations and where the owners themselves do great Russian translations personally.

The truth is we could have done it. We have Russian translators. But that’s not their area of expertise, and literary translation needs to be done by specialized translators. It requires nuance, passion, knowledge, and a whole other host of things to make the cost of translating worth it. So it’s okay if you and agency aren’t a good fit. Just make sure you find this out before you pay them!

This industry isn’t cheap, but it’s worth it when done correctly.