Transcription Showdown

Illustration by Christina Dommer.

Five of the best AI transcription services for today’s journalist

By Liam Hill-Allan

From fake-news bots to automated articles, journalists have good reason to be afraid of artificial intelligence. As technology becomes more ubiquitous, there has been no hiding the disruptive impact that AI is having on the journalism industry. But AI also has the potential to make the lives of journalists a little bit easier, through the power of AI transcription. Examining factors such as design, usability and transcription quality, we provide the pros and cons for five of the most popular AI sites and apps out there.

Otter review

What we like: Otter has become the go-to option for many journalists. The site’s clean aesthetic makes it attractive and easy to use. While the site does provide a paid “premium” option, Otter boasts a generous free option of 600 minutes a month. The site is also packed with features, such as analyzing transcripts for keywords and a highlighter that follows the transcribed text upon playback.

What we don’t like: Otter struggles to determine when more than one person is speaking. And if you’re trying to get the right acronym, well, good luck!

Sonix review

What we like: The website’s Google Chrome extension is a handy tool that some journalists might find useful, placing easy-to-access AI transcription right into the Google toolbar.

What we don’t like: The site offers many of the same standard features found on sites like Otter, but Sonix’s overall look lacks the sleek, modern design offered by many of its competitors. Furthermore, the site only offers half an hour of free upload time.

Watson Speech To Text review

What we like: Watson Speech To Text is a great, free option for those with more casual transcription needs. The IBM-created site doesn’t require an account and is quick to use, displaying everything you need on its home page. The site also transcribes uploaded audio in real-time.

What we don’t like: The simplicity means there is no option for saving documents post-transcription.

Fireflies review

What we like: Fireflies is packed with features. Those with more complex transcription needs might enjoy the site’s modern aesthetic and free-to-use account option.

What we don’t like: While the site is undeniably useful offering options for integration with other platforms and on-the-fly, group-call transcription—the service exceeds the needs of your average journalist.

TapeACall review

What we like: While not a website, the TapeACall app is just too useful not to mention. The app is appropriately named after its primary function: taping calls. The app has another feature though; transcription. This means that interview recording and transcription can now both happen in one place. 

What we don’t like: The app is not free ($6.49 a month) and the recording feature has been known to malfunction from time to time.

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