Interview Transcription – What They Don’t Teach You in Journalism School

interview transcriptionDo you conduct and record interviews? What recording gadgets and app do you utilize to get a good recording? Do you get your interviews transcribed and why?

A few years ago when I started promoting my professional transcription services from this blog, I had no idea this blog can be such an effective marketing asset. No idea. Today, it’s my favorite way to promote my professional transcription service.

Of course, the dream was to slowly keep writing articles that help people who outsource transcription or audio typing tasks, and also help transcribers who might want to freelance or build an online transcription service.

However, today, I now have a team of dedicated, experienced transcribers and editors working with me. Not only that, we have become some sort of the experts in interview transcription!

How TranscriptionPro becomes an Expert in Interview Transcription

Looking back over the past few months the majority of our work involves 90% interview transcription.

It includes one-on-one interviews of experts, a blogger interviewing another blogger, a podcast hosting a successful online entrepreneur, a student interviewing a source for his PhD or MA dissertations thesis. Or, simple video talking heads where the interviewer/host stays behind camera while the expert or subject talks on camera.

The type of interviews we transcribe are almost 50% videos and 50% audios. Mostly videos interviews are for professional firms or corporates who shoot interview videos for their internal and external use. Some of them are educational in nature while most are promotional videos, testimonial type of videos.

Audio interviews include students interviewing their sources for research, a podcast interview or journalists interviewing sources.

We enjoy doing interview transcription a lot. We have put together an interview template (a MS Word document template) for use when clients don’t have any particular style in mind. If they do have one, we use their template with their standard formatting.

Interview transcriptions may also be verbatim (word for word) or clean read where ‘ums’ and ‘uhs’ are removed, grammatical corrections are made so that it’s easy to read.

We also notice that some interviews are better than others for transcription. So, I think it is appropriate to include some tips on recording or conducting interviews especially ones that may require transcription later.

First, let me define what a good interview recording is like from a transcription perspective.

A good interview recording is one which has good quality sound (and visual, if video) where the participants (especially interviewers) know what they are talking about and are prepared beforehand for the interview. Participants also give each other time and space to let the other talk while the other listens.

Tips on how to record interviews for transcription

Whether you are a blogger, a podcaster, a company or a journalist, a writer or even a student doing research we all at one point of time are required to interview an individual or an expert in our fields. Our intent may differ. We may interview a person seeking for some specific information that person knows about. You may interview an expert to learn more about your market or niche and to get yourself some “visibility”. You also interview individuals to be interesting and be viewed as an expert in your industry.

However, without good guidance on recording an interview, the interview itself may be rendered useless if the recording cannot be used in any way. Below is our tips on recording and conducting interviews.

  1. Be prepared for the interview: Come prepared for the interview. Check sound and recording quality before actually interviewing and recording. Do a thorough research on the background of your subject, be that an individual or a topic. Speak naturally and pace yourself. Remember, as an interviewer you set the tone and pace for the interview.
  2. Invest in some good recorder:  Buy a decent audio recorder. These days most smart phones have some sort of recorder in them. Perhaps by installing an app you can make recording interviews an easy task.
  3. Invest in a noise-cancelling mic:Buy a good quality noise-cancelling mic. Do not talk too close or too far to the mic.
  4. Avoid noisy places: The best place to record an interview may be a professional recording studio. However, most people don’t have recording studios in their basement. The second best place is a quiet room. Avoid rooms where other people might walk in any second or public places. Turn off fans, air conditioners, TV or radio and even a computer.
  5. Do not crosstalk! Wait till your respondent finishes answering your questions. Do not interrupt him while he is explaining or elaborating or making a point. You may even get excellent quotes if you give him the space to express freely!
  6. Avoid multitasking:Avoid doing anything else while recording an interview. Concentrate on the person you’re talking to. Do not type on your phone or laptop. Do switch off your phone and stop checking your emails.
  7. Edit the audio or video, if you can. Once the interview is over, try and edit your interview audios using softwares like Audacity. If you cannot do it yourself, consult someone with experience in recording studios or with podcasting. They can be a wealth of information on recording.

Why is it important to go to that extent to get a good recording out of my interviews?

Now, you may be asking the above question. The simple answer is good recordings are a pleasure to listen to. From transcription perspective though there are some bonus reasons.

When you record good quality interviews for transcriptions:

  • It is easy to transcribe – no brainer.
  • It take less time to transcribe and therefore you get your interview transcripts quicker.
  • It cost you less money.

Transcription companies usually charge more if:

  • there is background/ambient noise in your recordings
  • you have more than one respondents
  • you require time code every certain interval of time
  • you require identifying each speaker
  • you require verbatim transcription as opposed to clean read
  • you require quicker turnaround time than normal

Hence, the need to record quality interviews for transcription – to save time, money and effort. Also, to get better bang for your buck.

As transcribers we’ve come across lots of people (students, researchers, investigators, surveyors, solicitors, etc) who sometimes have to record outdoors, in noisy restaurants and parks.  These are NOT the best places to conduct your interviews. However, if you must then try reducing the ambient noise level when recording your interview.

Below are resources to learn about reducing ambient noise level when recording or after.

The Ideal Place to Conduct and Record Interviews

The ideal place to conduct and record interviews is inside a professional recording studio. However for the purpose of an interview recording being transcribed a quiet room is more than enough.

Types of Interviews we transcribe

We transcribe different types of interviews by different groups of people in different industries. The types of interviews we transcribe are:

  • Podcast interviews – where a podcaster interviews another person on his podcast
  • Research interviews – where a student interviews a source as part of his research for PhD thesis or a journalist of writer researching a story
  • Expert interviews – where an expert in any industry or on a subject is interviewed
  • Talks – a radio or TV talk show where a celeb is being interviewed by the show host

Why transcribe interviews?

You need to get your interviews transcribed so you can publish the interview online or offline. Getting your interviews transcribed also allows for you to easily quote your source or expert resource. Another thing is that your interviews can be part of a book and be sold. Transcripts of interviews are a great SEO for your blog or website. They can become a source of income and inspiration. You just need a good strategy on how you plan to utilize your interview recordings.

Best apps for the Mobile Interviews

Some of the best audio recording iPhone apps are as below:

  • SpeakEasy by Zarboo Software
  • Audio Recorder by Peerium
  • Note2Self by Web Information Solutions
  • Recorder by Retronyms
  • iTalk Recorder by Griffin Technology

Some of the best interview recording android apps are as below:

Please note that android’s default voice recorder is good enough for most people.

  • Tape-a-talk Voice Recorder
  • netMemo Voice Recorder
  • Voice Recorder from Identity, Inc

Well, that’s all we got time for today.

Your Turn:

Why do you record interviews? What are your favorite recording apps and gadgets? Do you get your interviews transcribed and why?

About the author: Carey Suante is a writer and entrepreneur. He loves social media and started TranscriptionPro Services after years of blogging and internet marketing. He can help you in typing and transcribing your interviews today. Contact him now! Get a no-obligation Transcription Quotation today for all your typing and transcription requirements.