HOW. Capitol Hound Project. UNC s Reese News Lab. uses SpeakerText to power its

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1 HOW UNC s Reese News Lab uses SpeakerText to power its Capitol Hound Project

2 Brilliant Ideas, Humble Beginnings In 2013, John Clark, Executive Director of the Reese News Lab at UNC School of Media and Journalism, presented his students with a challenge: Figure out a way to increase transparency in local and state government. Without hiring an army of journalists, how could society do a better job listening in on the multitude of legislative discourse happening throughout the year? To answer that question, students turned their attention to a service that already exists: the legislature s policy of streaming General Assembly proceedings live over the Internet. Clark and his students began to see a number of possibilities. We said to ourselves, What can we do with that audio? Can we make that audio more accessible? Can we make it searchable? Can we make it actionable? Can we make it such that anytime a legislator mentions a specific word, an alert is sent out? John Clark Executive Director of the Reese News Lab UNC School of Journalism 2

3 The Perfect Mix of Accuracy, Speed, and Cost To convert the audio recordings into text form, Clark and his students needed a reliable transcription service. When they began their search for a transcription partner, they had three major criteria that needed to be met. Accuracy First on their list was accuracy. It couldn t be, Oh, we ll get fifty percent of it right, Clark says. No, no, we needed a pretty high accuracy percentage. And by high, I mean 85% or higher accuracy in word for word speech to text. The transcripts aren t meant for straight publication. They need to be very accurate to make our keyword searching feature work in order to get our users to the right moment of audio so they can listen for themselves. Turnaround Time Another major concern was turnaround time. In order to make this really effective, we couldn t have the transcript come back two or three days after the fact, Clark says. If the legislature is talking about education today, we want to make sure we alert you as soon as we possibly can. We want it to be within hours. Cost-Effective The third criteria was finding a cost-effective solution. As with anything, Clark says, cost is always a factor especially with something like this. Transcription Service Must- Haves John Clark and his team were on a mission to find a transcription service with these three criteria. ACCURACY We needed 85% or higher accuracy percentage. SPEED We wanted to be able to turnaround audio in hours. COST We wanted something cost-effective. 3

4 Finding a Transcription Service that Scales Initially, Clark and his team chose a transcription service that leveraged a crowdsourcing platform to handle transcriptions. While working directly with so many individuals in the crowd was cumbersome, Clark felt the marketplace worked relatively well for the pilot stage of the project. As word of Capitol Hound started to spread, Clark and his team began fielding inquiries from other states and municipalities. With that interest came concerns if they acquired more clients, would their infrastructure scale? Clark and his team found they were already running into problems on the days when they processed more audio. In several instances, when the legislature ran until midnight or multiple sessions ran concurrently, the service couldn t turnaround the transcriptions fast enough while still keeping the quality high. There were a lot of levers you could pull with this service, but if we wanted things turned around fast and we wanted to keep the quality high, we weren t always able to do it, Clark says. We didn t want to sacrifice accuracy. We started to lose confidence that we d be able to scale with our current service provider. Besides battling with transcription turnaround time issues, Clark and his team also struggled to see how they could manage a team of crowdsourced transcriptionists as they grew. It s the notion of, you re dealing with twelve, five-minute chunks of audio and potentially dealing with twelve different people and you can t do anything until all the chunks are there. It s a very cumbersome type of process. From Crowdsourcing to Control The Problem Growing media organization Capitol Hound relied on a crowdsourced internet market to transcribe audio recordings of state legislative sessions. As interest in the business grew, the team worried about the crowdsourcing model s ability to scale and turnaround high-quality transcriptions in hours. The Solution Enter SpeakerText, a transcription service that uses a dedicated, trained cloud workforce to turnaround accurate transcriptions quickly. Once Capitol Hound adopted SpeakerText, the team was able to confidently manage a heavier volume of audio while maintaining their hour turnaround time window. 4

5 A Better Solution With the promise of growth on the horizon, Clark and his team set out to find another solution. That solution was SpeakerText, a transcription service that blends advanced technology and human intelligence to provide fast, accurate, and cost-effective transcriptions. Using a smart algorithm, SpeakerText's paper-shredder-like technology slices audio and video into ten-second clips. Once they've been sliced and diced, the clips are assigned to a hand-picked team of dedicated cloud workers, all of whom are trained and managed by CloudFactory, SpeakerText's parent company. 5

6 A Better Solution While Clark's team used to spend a lot of time managing crowdsourced workers, students are now freed up to spend more time on activities that tie directly to generating revenue. One of the biggest benefits of SpeakerText would be ease of management, Clark says. It's so much easier to manage the operation and get the transcripts into our system. So right out of the gate, we're getting that time savings. Students have long been eager to find a solution that gives them more free time. In a 1 blog post about the transition to SpeakerText, Capitol Hound team member Ana Jones noted that it not only simplifies our job, but also gives us the opportunity to put more efforts into marketing and sales. The students will tell you SpeakerText is a lot easier than what we were doing before, Jones says. The notion of, here s an audio file, I upload it, I press a button, and tomorrow I get an saying, Here s your transcript. It is an incredibly simple process! Ana Jones Another huge benefit to Clark and his team is the ability to scale. Since we ve started using SpeakerText, our confidence in our ability to scale is growing. Based on what we ve seen in terms of how fast the service turns around audio and how high the quality is, we feel confident that if we needed to ramp up the audio and scale, we could. Yet another perk is the ability to further automate management through SpeakerText s APIs. We haven t gotten there yet, Clark says, but we see a clear path to do that. As Capitol Hound grows, Clark says SpeakerText is vital to the media company s continued mission. We d love to expand into other states, and we re working on another idea using SpeakerText to offer an additional product related to campaigns election year cycles. We ve gotten some very interested people in that idea. The two things we originally needed to solve ease of management and the ability to scale seem like they re working pretty well now, Clark says. With SpeakerText, our confidence in our ability to scale has gone way, way up. Benefits of SpeakerText After making the decision to ditch a transcription service that leveraged a crowdsourcing platform, the Capitol Hound team got up and running with SpeakerText in under 6 weeks. Here s what Executive Director John Clark and his team like the most about the new system. 1. It s Easier to Manage It s easier to manage. The SpeakerText dashboard offers a single point of contact that manages a team of dedicated, trained transcriptionists. Right out of the gate, there s a time savings, says Clark. 2. It s Scalable With the crowdsourced model, Clark and his team were worried they d have to sacrifice transcription accuracy when a high volume of audio needed to be processed. SpeakerText gives us the confidence we need to scale, Clark says. R E F E R E N C E 1 : 6

7 M A I N O F F I C E 201 W Main St, Durham, NC F O L L O W U S 2015 SpeakerText & CloudFactory. All Rights Reserved.

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