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Radio Free Internet, Part III: Integrating the Spoken Word into the Web

by bpick

Part I and Part II were about the spoken word not being easily manipulable within the text-based and social web, and why that’s a problem. Part III is about how an entrepreneur could address the problem profitably.

The spoken word in audio and video will really break into the text-based and social web when a service offers these features:

  • Automatic transcription, just like YouTube has, but for any audio clip.
    • Allow the owner of a clip to edit the words in the transcript, but also add links.

Why this feature? Because the spoken word must be translated into text to be useful to so much of the web. This is an absolute requirement, and it empowers the next two features.

  • The words in the transcript should show up in global search engine results.
    • With this feature enabled, users should probably be allowed to flag transcribed words as inaccurate – especially if the owner abuses the feature by adding in unrelated terms to drive up SEO.

Search engine recognition will really make the spoken word useful as a source of info. When people can find a snippet of spoken discourse as easily as they can find an equally relevant block of text, it will improve search and create a richer media experience for all.

  • A scrolling transcript that viewers can manipulate.
  • Allow the viewer to copy the text to his clipboard.
  • Allow the viewer to scroll ahead in the transcript during playback. Double-clicking (or another simple action) on a particular point of the transcript takes him to that time in the audio/video. Selecting a block of text plays that section of the audio/video. And selecting multiple blocks of text plays selected excerpts back-to-back.
  • As embeddable as YouTube.

If transcribed audio were as available as video is on YouTube, one could incorporate advertising easily. And advertising could be vastly finer-targeted if the particular content of the media were available. Having the actual words within a video or audio source available would be a vast improvement on having just the title and tags to work with.

And this feat doesn’t sound harder than what we already have available. Slightly more difficult might be allowing people to download these clips to a device that could go offline, perhaps even adding transcript metadata to audio files.

But the primary task should be to make the spoken word more fully a part of the web. We’re not far from extending the reach and usefulness of several politically important channels of communication, including the talk radio world dominated by the Right. Both the spoken word and the web stand to benefit from breaking down these last barriers.

If you have any suggestions for how to improve on these ideas, please share them! Leave a comment below or email me at bpick@craftdc.com.