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Video Captioning on the Rise for Both Social Access and Compliance

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Captioning in video, while still not the norm, is on the rise. While just 34 percent of respondents to a 2017 survey on the topic said they caption all of their videos, that grew to 36 percent in 2018 — even as the share of organizations that are publishing more than 500 hours of video content annually is growing (up from 17 percent last year to 29 percent this year). For videos published on YouTube, captioning grew from 63 percent to 70 percent over the same period; for Facebook, a fifth of survey participants reported captioning videos in 2018, up from just 8 percent in 2017.

These responses surfaced during a survey on the "State of Captioning," produced by 3PlayMedia, a company that provides captioning, transcription and subtitling services. The survey, distributed via e-mail and through social media, was taken by 1,542 people. People in higher education made up 52 percent of survey respondents. Three percent identified themselves as being in K-12. The remainder came from industry, government, and religious and nonprofit organizations.

The survey found a difference between captioning for videos posted to social sites vs. those published on other platforms. While the main driver for captioning on social sites was to make them accessible, for the others it was compliance. As the researchers pointed out, "On social media, the main goal is views and engagement. It can be inferred that the term 'accessible' in the social media space includes other benefits of captioning. Accessible social videos may be videos that are accessible to all users, improve SEO and increase interaction and engagement." For example, the report suggested, people without earbuds can still view a video on a social site in public with sound turned off as long as it has captions.

Among people publishing to social sites, 17 percent are using automatic captions provided by the sites; for those compelled by legal compliance, 15 percent use automatic captioning. Among those trying to comply with the law regarding captioning, four in 10 (43 percent) reported that they prioritize video captioning by request, what they can afford and/or what's popular. While most respondents (68 percent) understood what accessibility laws applied to their environments, a much smaller proportion (11 percent) were primary decision-makers regarding what to caption, and another 23 percent considered themselves to have "a lot of influence" in those decisions.

Organizations are showing more maturity in their captioning processes. While just 38 percent of people in 2017 said they followed a "centralized process" for implementing captions, that grew to 43 percent in 2018, with another 20 percent saying they were developing such a process. Almost a third (31 percent) also maintained a "clear policy for captioning compliance" this year, and another 20 percent were establishing one. Oddly, a smaller segment of respondents reported that they review all their captioning for quality assurance than those who do so sometimes or never (47 percent vs. 53 percent).

Across the board, cost and budget for captioning was the main obstacle to doing more. In fact, just a third of survey participants (32 percent) have an annual budget for captioning of more than $10,000.

"Video and the need for accessibility are not going anywhere," the report concluded. "Video content will continue to flourish and organizations see their captioning needs continuing to increase." 3Play Media's advice: Pursue an increased budget, continue improving "education and awareness surrounding the need and legal requirements for captioning and centralization," and keep seeking out that "sweet spot" for captioning that "provides high quality and accurate captions at a lower cost."

A partial set of results from the survey is available with registration on the 3Play Media website. An accessible version with text only is available through the same link.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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