Captioning Expands Audiences

Jan 25, 2009  •  Post A Comment

Popular Internet celebrity iJustine is preparing to introduce closed captioning to accompany her quirky online videos within the next few weeks, underscoring the growing trend of using subtitles in online video to reach wider audiences.
iJustine, whose name is Justine Ezarik, is one of a handful of independent creators and television networks that are starting to add closed captions to their videos as a way to reach hearing-impaired viewers and to offer an additional option for international viewers who may be more fluent in reading English than listening to it.
There are business benefits to closed captioning as well, because it makes videos easier to find via search. Video search is still in its infancy, but traditional search engines are well versed in tracking down text-based information. With closed captioning embedded into videos, those clips are more likely to return in a higher position in Google search results.
Other online programmers including gaming-centric Web show “The Guild,” as well as PBS Kids and CNET, are leaning on closed captioning.
“We want to make sure kids who have disabilities or trouble accessing our content can do so in any form,” said Sara DeWitt, senior director of PBS Kids and Parents Interactive.
To translate the video into text, PBS uses the broadcast tapes of its programs because the closed captions are embedded in those tapes, explained Silvia Lovato, director of PBS Kids Go! interactive. PBS uses thePlatform, which automatically displays the closed captions for the Web video, for its online video player.
In the TV world, closed captioning provides a chance for a short commercial message, such as “Closed captioning is brought to you by….” In the online world, closed captioning could offer a similar ad opportunity.
Closed captioning is a standard option in thePlatform’s toolkit, said Ian Blaine, CEO of the company. Most online-video technology firms, such as Permission TV and Kaltura, also offer closed-captioning tools in their players.
Web producer Felicia Day said she relies on a volunteer to create closed captions in five languages for “The Guild” on YouTube. Through the show’s Xbox marketing and distribution partnership, “The Guild” has been released with subtitles in eight languages on the gaming console. “I’ve even had reports from a woman in Spain teaching English to kids using our videos to help them learn the language,” Ms. Day said.
Then there’s CNET, which offers closed captioning on many of its videos. The captions can be turned on by clicking on a “cc” button on the player. CNET worked with Automatic Sync Technologies and Adobe Systems to create the captioning system.
Alex Lindsay, the chief architect at digital production house Pixel Corps, said he’ll be adding closed captioning to a number of branded videos soon. “It’s more than just for people who are disabled. Part of it is searchability. The process you use to create closed captioning is about 90% of what will make your videos more searchable,” he said.


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