Building first-class support for podcast transcripts

Building first-class support for podcast transcripts

The goal of is to build the best experience for enjoying podcast transcripts. Pulling inspiration from Apple, TED, Descript, and more, I dreamed of being able to search through old episodes to share hidden gems without seeking through hours of content. Let’s take a tour of the different methods Steno supports:

Podcasting 2.0 Transcripts

The adoption of the new <podcast:transcript> tag is what inspired us to start! It allows the host to link to an external transcript file. It officially handles a number of file formats, including json, srt, vtt, html, and txt, but we’ve seen a number of other formats using that tag as well. This is the best choice for most podcasts, provided your host has built support for it. Check out the current list of hosts that support this method.

SYLT in MP3 files

If your host doesn’t support the <podcast:transcript> tag. You may be able to work around that roadblock with the ID3 spec for Synchronized Text. This encodes the data right into the file, which is ideal for shows that use dynamic ad insertion. We’re working on a tool to make creating these easier. Subscribe to our newsletter to be the first to know when it’s released!

Timed Text in M4A files

Alternatively, if you prefer M4A over MP3, the Timed Text spec is the solution for you. We haven't encountered any podcasts that use this format, and we’re not familiar with any tools for podcasters to create them. So if you know of any, pass them along!

Pasting transcripts into the show notes

This is the only solution that will appear in every podcast app, but it will definitely bloat the length of an RSS feed, and depending on how a podcast app handles show notes, these may also be displayed poorly to the listener.