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Why It Matters That the Transcription Industry Leader Is Raising Their Rates

Why It Matters That the Transcription Industry Leader Is Raising Their Rates 2500 1407 Atomic Scribe

The transcription industry is a quiet corner of the internet. But in November of 2019, an explosive Twitter thread revealed that Rev (a leader in the industry) was paying their transcriptionists extremely low wages and mistreating workers.

We have actually written about Rev previously, specifically about how their $1/audio minute catch-all service ensured low quality and low payment for workers. The Twitter comments and resulting news coverage only strengthened our argument.

Perhaps as a result of the bad publicity, Rev has recently announced that they will raise their rate to $1.25/audio minute in an effort to heighten accuracy and to pay their workers better. This is, honestly, almost unheard of in recent years, where rates have been getting lower and lower to stay competitive against other companies and AI. So what does this mean for the industry and for consumers?

1. Fairer rates = more happiness.

In their announcement, Rev cited that some customers were angry with the increase. That’s understandable, as no one likes to pay more money. But imagine it’s your family member who is the transcriptionist in this equation. If they’re making $4.50/hour for difficult work, would you be happy? Increasing what transcriptionists make is good for everyone – the worker makes more money, the company makes more money, and the content is more accurate for the client. So, yes, paying more sucks. But paying a fair rate for something you can’t or prefer not to do yourself is right.

2. AI isn’t king yet.

At Atomic Scribe, we’ve introduced a $1/audio minute AI option that uses human editors for basic, simple files. The reason there are restrictions on what type of files we include in this program is because AI is nowhere near 100% accurate yet on all files. AI has problems with accents, multiple speakers, slang, proper nouns, and so many other factors that affect accuracy. So, while the industry is trending towards using AI more and more, there is still a huge part for humans to play in the transcription process.

“Just as the best athletes get the highest wages, the best transcriptionists are going to work for companies that pay them the best rates, and that means higher quality work.”

“Just as the best athletes get the highest wages, the best transcriptionists are going to work for companies that pay them the best rates, and that means higher quality work.”

3. Transcription is boring and hard.

We will be honest here: transcribing sucks. The number of clients who say they started to transcribe a file, realized how hard it was, and found us to finish the file is innumerable. Imagine you’re transcribing a focus group. You have to listen to multiple people talk over each other, be able to identify each person by their voice alone, construct a transcript when slang and bad grammar is used, and sit for long periods of time while doing all this. It’s tough, and it’s tiring, and it’s often easier to pay someone else to do it rather than waste hours of your own time.

So the transcription industry isn’t going away anytime soon. On the contrary, thanks to the internet there is more content than ever that needs transcripts and captions, and the difficulty of the work means human transcriptionists are necessary.

4. Customers care about quality, for the most part.

In this industry, higher rates usually mean higher quality. Just as the best athletes get the highest wages, the best transcriptionists are going to work for companies that pay them the best rates, and that means higher quality work. At Atomic Scribe, our biggest rule is that all of our work must be high quality. If it’s not, we’re going to transcribe it again until it’s as close to perfect as it can be. Because if it’s not, then what’s the point of spending your money on it?

With the advent of low-rate companies like Rev, quality in the industry has been declining in recent years because low rates = low pay = low quality. So Rev increasing their rate is a welcome reprieve, where finally workers are seen as vital to a company’s success. But customers need to do their part, too. Demand high quality, pay fair rates, and call out injustice in the workplace.

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.