Captions and Subtitles: What’s the Difference and Why Do We Need Them?

Heading into 2020, employing subtitles and captions in your videos couldn’t be more important. With video traffic projected to reach 82 percent of all internet traffic by 2022, the increasing trend of the use of captions and subtitles shows no signs of slowing, and with good reason. Their use increases accessibility significantly, making it easier for people all over the world to view and enjoy content, helping those hard of hearing, and in the age of watching content on the go, it also means that those without headphones can still follow content. Finally, subtitles and captions make content more SEO-friendly and discoverable amongst the plethora of content available online.

Many use the terms “captions” and “subtitles” interchangeably. While they are similar, there are some key differences between the two to take note of when deciding where and how to use them in your videos.

What are Subtitles? 

Subtitles are the textual equivalent of the dialogue happening in a video — all of the spoken words said by the people or characters on-screen.

They are most often used for translation purposes when a viewer might not understand the language spoken in the video. Unlike captions, and particularly when used to translate the spoken language of a video, subtitles provide a contextual description of what is being said as opposed to a transcript of all dialogue.

What are Captions?

Captions, or closed captions, assume that the audience cannot hear the audio, or cannot fully hear it, and therefore requires a textual description so that they can follow the content. Like subtitles but with an extra level of detail, captions include textual indicators of sounds on and off-screen including dialogue, actions and gestures of people and characters in the video, as well as anything else taking place within the video that might inform the viewer. 

Having said that, captions are not necessarily more useful for viewers, as at times the extra information can be overwhelming or frustrating for those who are able to view the action. As such, it’s best to make both subtitles and captions available if possible, allowing the viewer to elect the most suitable option for their viewing purposes. 

Improve Accessibility of Your Videos

In an increasingly fast-paced world where content is often viewed on-the-go and on mobile devices, viewing trends are changing drastically. We have entered the era of “marketing on mute”. Consider:

  • Eighty-five percent of videos on Facebook are watched without sound.
  • Search engines like Google have updated its settings,  only allowing autoplay for video advertisements if the video is muted by default, doesn’t contain audio at all, or if the user has opted to receive sound by clicking on the content. 

In order to reach this audience, videos that include captions and subtitles are paramount.

Further, including captions in your videos is just one of many things that can be done to improve the accessibility of your videos for those who may be hard of hearing. With over 5% of the world’s population – or 466 million people – having disabling hearing loss (432 million adults and 34 million children), this number is expected to increase to over 900 million people by 2050. Captions are essential for those who are deaf or hearing impaired, and also serve to help non-native English speakers understand.

Boost SEO and Discoverability

Subtitles and captions are an excellent accompaniment to your videos when looking to improve your SEO and discoverability. Search engines are unable to crawl audio and video content, but subtitles and captions can provide them with more information about a video, beyond that of a video’s title, tags and description.

While YouTube has its own speech recognition program that generates video captions automatically, it provides just 60-70% accuracy, which means that 1 in every 3 words might be incorrect. Inaccurate captions may, as a result, hurt SEO if they are not representative of the content and even worse, lead to a video being labelled as spam if the captions are considered “gibberish” by search engines.

Accurate captions are thus crucial, and whereas Youtube’s speech recognition program may fall short from an accessibility and SEO standpoint, TranscribeMe has extensive expertise in making high-quality subtitles and closed captioning. 

TranscribeMe Can Help with Both

At TranscribeMe, we’re experts in producing fast, accurate subtitles and SRT closed captions.

Our subtitling services support all major languages worldwide. Our process, which uniquely converts audio and video into searchable and shareable text, is the most reliable way to transform and transcribe meticulous subtitles. 

For SRT closed captions, we use a dedicated, highly-skilled segment of our community. By using our services, content producers, corporations and other organizations can improve search rankings, index video content, reach wider audiences, and boost visibility online. We produce SRT closed captions that are production-ready and can be immediately uploaded to YouTube, Vimeo or any other hosting site.

Contact our sales team today to request a demo and see exactly what our unparalleled transcription and closed caption services can do for you, or upload your video directly to the TranscribeMe portal today to receive your fast and accurate transcript.

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