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.


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.

5 Ways Focus Group Moderators Can Improve Transcripts

5 Ways Focus Group Moderators Can Improve Transcripts 5472 3648 Atomic Scribe

A focus group moderator’s job is not easy, but neither is a transcriptionist’s. It can be very difficult to capture everything that is said in a long discussion with as many as a dozen people speaking. But, working together, here are some tips for moderators on how to help make their focus group transcripts as high quality as they can be.

1. Identify Group Participants

Many focus groups are built around a theme. For example, a company could want a focus group on breastfeeding, which means the participants would likely be women within a certain age range. Unfortunately that also means that it’s possible many of the group participants will have similar-sounding voices, and that can make speaker identification problematic.

A focus group moderator can help the transcriptionist be more accurate in their identification by simply using participants’ first names frequently. A “Thank you, [Participant],” or “[Participant], what do you think?” is all that’s necessary. And even if a moderator doesn’t identify a participant after every response, doing so frequently at least gives the transcriptionist lengths of audio they can use to compare non-identified portions with, which is incredibly helpful.

2. Test Background Noise

Before a group arrives, record a minute of audio in the room the group will take place in (and speaking while sitting in the seat farthest from the recorder is also advised). When you play it back, notice if there are any background noises that could be hindering the audio. There are sounds that may be quiet in person but loud on the recording, such as a running air conditioner or hallway chatter. A quick test run will help you figure out where best to position the recorder, or give you time to figure out if there is a way to lessen any background noise.

3. Cut Out Crosstalk

The whole point of a focus group is to get a discussion going, and moderators never want to discourage participants from speaking their honest thoughts. That said, sometimes a moderator has to take charge and stop side conversations or multiple people speaking at once in order to keep the audio intelligible.

But moderators can fall victim to crosstalk as well. It’s natural during a conversation to use filler words (“Okay,” “Mm-hmm,” “Yeah”) when a participant is speaking to let them know you’re listening. Instead, it’s best to nod if it’s possible so that nothing blocks out the respondent’s speech.

4. Bring a Back-Up Recorder

There is not much worse than moderating a great focus group and then checking the recorder only to find it didn’t record or that the audio is damaged. That’s why we always recommend using at least two recorders in every group. Even if your facility offers to record your group, also use a second device (such as a free recording app on your phone) as well to ensure you have a back-up. Better safe than sorry!

5. Summarize Quiet Answers

Unfortunately some moderators learn the hard way that no matter what you do, some participants are just quiet or difficult to understand when the recording is played back. It’s a big help to a transcriptionist if the moderator quickly sums up what the hard-to-hear participant has just said. The moderator can do this by framing what has just been said as a question to the group. Example: “So, [Participant] thinks [Summarize Participant’s Answer]. What do you think?” It also gives participants something directly to respond to.

We’re all here to help the end client get everything from a focus group that they can, which means we’re partners in this. So talk to your project manager. Give them a template, if you have one that you prefer. Don’t be shy about asking for changes. Just as a moderator needs honest feedback from group participants, so too does a transcription partner need to know any changes that need to be made to ensure the highest quality possible.

We’re all here to help the end client get everything from a focus group that they can, which means we’re partners in this. So talk to your project manager. Give them a template, if you have one that you prefer. Don’t be shy about asking for changes. Just as a moderator needs honest feedback from group participants, so too does a transcription partner need to know any changes that need to be made to ensure the highest quality possible.

Build Your Audience By Transcribing Audio and Video

Build Your Audience By Transcribing Audio and Video 1920 1280 Atomic Scribe

So many different industries and individuals take advantage of audio and video content today, and that number will grow at extraordinary rates in the next few years. But the work doesn’t end when you have the audio or video in your hands. You need to go one step further and create transcripts for your material. Reasons for this include:

It’s Useful. The amount of time it takes to read text is usually less than watching a video. Also, many people absorb information better through reading rather than audio or visual learning.

Use Text. The text from the transcripts can be copied into anything you want – reports, blogs, e-mails, web sites, study guides, newsletters, etc.

Deaf Accessible. There are almost 40 million Deaf or hard-of-hearing individuals just in the United States. That’s a huge number of people who don’t have access to your material without added text.

Storage. A transcript is much less data to store on your computer, site, or database than audio or video files.

SEO and Keywords. Your text can be used in searches to help bring more visitors to your site. You can also use keywords to help search throughout the text, which can’t be done with just audio and video.

Translate. Transcripts can be more easily and accurately translated into other languages.

So, now you’ve decided that transcription really will help you. Which company do you pick to help you? Here is where an old business adage comes into play: you can have good, fast, and cheap services… but you can only pick two of these qualities and not all three.

That’s very true in the transcription industry. The cheaper the prices, the lower the quality. For some projects, that might be okay, but it’s not for most. That’s why at Atomic Scribe we think the most important element is quality and that paying for a service is useless without it. We promise 98% accuracy or more, and we do so with fair rates and turnaround time.

Interested in transcription services? Get a quote!


The Dangers of Outsourcing Transcription

The Dangers of Outsourcing Transcription 2500 1667 Atomic Scribe

With today’s economy and the ease of finding companies outside of the U.S. thanks to the Internet, it seems like outsourcing transcription is more popular than ever. The rates are usually much, much lower than industry standard, mostly due to the companies paying their workers — you guessed it — much, more lower than industry standard. But with the growth of the industry, cautionary tales are growing as well.

Take, for instance, news in late 2012 that involved $140 million dollars, a hospital, and outsourcing. A jury awarded that amount to the family of a woman who died due to what her lawyers say was inaccurate transcription work that her hospital relied on to treat her. The transcription services were outsourced to a company in India, and errors in the transcript led to the victim receiving a lethal dose of insulin that she eventually died from.

$140 Million Verdict in Baldwin County, WKRG News

Ellen Cushing wrote an article last year on Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, an outsourcing system that allows you to post a job to the site and then have workers complete the task. Sounds great, right? The problem is the workers get paid extremely little (even before Amazon takes their cut) and none have had to pass any test to do the work. You could be receiving work from someone who knows very little English, someone with no knowledge of your business, interests or what you do, or a magnitude of other problems.

From Cushing on Mechanical Turk’s wages:

Ipeirotis has estimated the average hourly wage to be roughly $2, while Joel Ross of UC Irvine’s Department of Informatics places it closer to $1.25—and whatever it is, it’s certainly lower than the federal minimum wage of $7.25.

Why is this important? Why isn’t the cheapest option the best option? It’s the hospital settlement all over again. If workers aren’t making a fair wage, they have no incentive to submit a correct transcript. And without an accurate transcript, what’s the point of even having audio or video transcribed?

Amazon Mechanical Turk: The Digital Sweatshop, Utne Reader

Have you had good or bad experiences with transcription outsourcing? Let us know in the comments!

The Future of Online Video

The Future of Online Video 2500 1667 Atomic Scribe

Do you remember what the Internet was like 20 years ago? It was already becoming a constant, and yet it was so different from today’s standards. There was no Netflix, no YouTube, no Hulu. Those three sites are some of the most synonymous with online today, and they all have one thing in common – they’re video content sites.

Cisco released a report earlier this year that predicts video will account for an unprecedented 84% of all Internet traffic by 2018. There will be almost 4 billion users by then as well, which is over half of the world’s population.

Language Barriers

While the Internet can feel like it’s making the world smaller and easier to communicate with, there are still barriers, and this will only magnify as online use grows. The first issue is the language barrier. Overwhelmingly most of the Internet is written or spoken in English, but English is not the world’s most popular native language. With population growth exploding in Asia and Africa, languages such as Hindi, French and Arabic are expected to rise, and Mandarin Chinese will still be a growing force.

Another barrier is that most video content does not have proper captions for Deaf or hard-of-hearing people, or just for those who like to use captions while they watch video (which is a large number of watchers). In the U.S. it’s estimated that almost 40 million people are Deaf or hard-of-hearing, but that really doesn’t even come close to the number of people who prefer captions and transcripts to just watching a video by itself.

What Can We Do?

The way to help combat both of these issues is to provide captions or transcripts for your video content, in English and in other languages. You just have to pay for the translation once, and then you can use it for captions, on a web site for Google indexing and SEO reach, for marketing purposes, to publish, or whatever else you want. And your video content won’t be found via a search without text, so captions and transcripts can bring more viewers to your content.

There are over 7 billion people on Earth, and a majority of those use the Internet for video content. Don’t miss out on reaching as many people as you can with such a simple process as translation and transcription.