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Apple Introduces Transcripts for Podcasts

I switch to Apple system apps every summer to test the latest versions of the company’s OSes. I usually return to my favorite third-party apps over time, but Apple Podcasts has been an outlier since last summer for various reasons. The app has come a long way in recent years, and while it still doesn’t quite fit with how I like to listen to shows, it has stuck when many other system apps haven’t.

With other podcast apps struggling in recent months and Apple offering unique features that aren’t found elsewhere, Podcasts has become a compelling choice for a lot of listeners. And judging from the download numbers for AppStories, Unwind, and Magic Rays of Light, I don’t think I’m alone in this assessment.

An AppStories transcript.

An AppStories transcript.

Today, Apple added another reason to use its system app: transcripts. The new feature couldn’t be easier for podcast creators:

Apple automatically generates transcripts after a new episode is published. Your episode will be available for listening right away, and the transcript will be available shortly afterwards. There will be a short delay while we process your transcript. If portions of your episode change with dynamically inserted audio, Apple Podcasts will not display the segments of the audio that have changed since the original transcription. Music lyrics are also not displayed in the transcripts.

Listeners will be able to follow along with its transcript, much like how real-time lyrics work in Apple Music, with the text highlighting in sync with the audio for shows.

Viewing a transcript in Podcasts Connect.

Viewing a transcript in Podcasts Connect.

I’ve experimented with OpenAI’s Whisper for creating transcripts of MacStories’ podcasts, and although the results are good enough for creating a searchable episode database for our internal use, they haven’t been good enough to publish. As a result, I’m very keen to see how well Apple’s solution works. If they prefer, podcasters will be able to upload their own transcripts, too.

A downloaded transcript.

A downloaded transcript.

The transcripts generated by Apple are saved as VTT files, which is a W3C standard for displaying timed text using HTML 5’s track element. I looked at AppStories, and sure enough, there’s a transcript available for the latest episode already. As one of the show’s creators, I can access, download, edit, and re-upload the transcript. Based on my preliminary scan of the latest episode, though, the transcription is very good, including timestamps and identification of each speaker, although not by name, which isn’t surprising.

There was a lot of buzz surrounding the App Store changes coming to the EU next month. Those changes are important and will drive the story of the App Store for years to come, but there’s more to iOS 17.4, and Podcasts transcripts are a prime example of a feature that adds value and makes podcasts more accessible to everyone.

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