If you subscribe to my Biznology blog, you probably know that I sometimes include stories about good examples of Internet marketing, such as this recent one on personalized e-mail by the Scotts lawn care folks. To do so, I am finding myself doing more and more interviews by phone, and I am struggling to find ways to efficiently use this material in my blog. If you are trying to use interviews to “feed the beast” of your blog, maybe my experience will be helpful.
At first, I thought I’d be really clever and do e-mail interviews. That way, I’d get the interviewee to type everything up and send it to me and then I could piece the story together and pick the quotes I want and be done. But I ran into several problems:
- Most people speak better than they write. These folks that were so quotable when I talked to them wrote round and round in circles in an e-mail. I found many of the quotes were not that great.
- Most e-mail interviews required follow-up. I ended up having to send back clarifying questions and found that some of the stories weren’t easy to understand, so it took me a lot of time to get the point I needed to be able to write the blog entry.
- Most people prefer the phone. I found that I was passing up good interview subjects because they’d rather talk by phone. So, now I have started giving everyone a choice of e-mail or phone. (And I’ve found that the minority who choose e-mail usually can write well.)
So, now I was faced with the problem of having to transcribe what people tell me on the phone. At first, I applied brute force by taking copious notes as people talked and then trying to type them into my computer while they were still fresh in my mind. That worked well enough, but I was concerned that I might be misquoting someone.
At that point, I decided that I needed to record my interviews. I read up a bit on it so that I was at least smart enough to ask people permission before I recorded them (which is legally required), but I just grabbed a cheap old cassette recorder to do the job. I found that I was too clumsy to change tapes during the interview and that I didn’t notice when the tape ran out. I only had one tape, too, so I had to transcribe it before I taped over it.
Getting more tapes just seemed like a big mess, so I went out and bought an Olympus WS-100, a nice personal audio recorder that holds 27 hours and uploads the audio to my PC through a USB slot.
The recorder works just fine and now I can load all the interviews onto my PC and listen to them whenever I want. But it doesn’t make the job of transcribing the interviews into text any easier. So, I decided to investigate voice-to-speech software and bought a copy of Dragon NaturallySpeaking 9 Preferred Speech Recognition, after seeing several articles on the Web about how it can transcribe interviews from audio recorders. I was wary, because I had seen such software in the past that required training, but this product said that no training was required.
Well, as soon as I installed it, it asked me to read for 15 minutes to train it. Now I was concerned. I tried using the product on an interview after the training and it did a wonderful job—but only recognizing my questions, not the interviewee’s answers.
I was honestly amazed at what a great job it did recognizing my own speech. If you want software to handle dictation, this would be a great choice. That’s not what I am looking for, though, so I am returning it. (The manufacturer offers 30-day money-back guarantee, which is what caused me to try it in the first place.)
So, now I am back to scribbling notes and then listening to the recordings to make sure I got the quotes right. It’s still time-consuming, and I am sure I am still quoting some folks slightly incorrectly, but I haven’t gotten any complaints yet. If anyone has a better way of transcribing interviews, please let me know and I can post it for everyone.
The first company that can translate my interview tapes into text on the screen will get my money. I don’t think I’d make it as a reporter, but blogs seem to turn many of us into reporters, so I have to learn.