A transcript from a Podnews Weekly Review podcast, as seen in the iPad version of Apple Podcasts

How do Apple Podcasts Transcriptions work?

· First published · By James Cridland · 7 minutes to read

On Mar 5 2024, Apple Podcasts launched one of the biggest innovations in podcasting for some time - full transcripts for almost every podcast out there. Here’s a comprehensive article to answer any questions you might have.

Does Apple Podcasts have a fancy page showing this off?

Yes. Here it is.

Do you have a fancy video showing this off?

It’s not that fancy. But, sure - here it is.

An embedded video
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Which podcasts get transcripts?

All new episodes in English, Spanish, French and German. Back catalog episodes are being added, but expect that to be quite a slow process (given that there are more than 90 million episodes out there).

How quickly are transcripts added?

They appear a while after the publication of a new episode. The website says: “For new episodes, make sure it’s been at least 24 hours since your episode was published.”

In our experience, automated transcripts appear at the same time as a new show appears. If you’re supplying an accompanying transcript via your RSS feed, that can take a little longer to be ingested.

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Where do these transcripts appear?

You’ll see them in iOS 17.4 (and greater) on iPhone, and iPadOS 17.4 (and greater) on iPad.

Here’s how to update to the latest version of iOS or iPadOS.

There are two views of transcripts within Apple Podcasts on mobile: a simple one in the episode view, and when hitting the transcript button in the player, which highlights word-by-word and lets you touch the paragraph you’d like to hear.

As of April 2024, you can also see them in the Apple Podcasts app in Mac OS. Transcripts look like this in the desktop app: to get to them, hit the “…” menu button next to any episode, or the player, and choose “View Transcript”. Unlike the iOS app they don’t display in real time, and nor can you use them to navigate the show; but they are searchable.

Are they highlighting word-by-word?

Yes, on mobile. Apple matches up the transcript to the audio, and highlighting word-by-word.

(We’d presume that this additional step will allow them to spot any podcaster who throws lots of spam in their transcription).

It also shows the existence of musical interludes as you listen, with the use of a little three-dot pause symbol. As you might expect, it’s a very similar experience to Apple Music’s lyrics, and Apple Books.

Can I use the transcripts to find parts of podcasts I’m interested in?

Absolutely you can. There’s a search button in both views, allowing you to search the full transcript.

In the player view on mobile, you can touch a part of the transcript to get the player to go to that part of the podcast.

Can I copy/paste the transcripts?

You can highlight a short paragraph to send to someone else, yes. While the app will let you highlight the entire script, it won’t let you copy more than a few paragraphs, though.

Do I have to download the podcast to read the transcript?


How does this work with dynamically-inserted ads?

We listened to an episode of The Daily from the New York Times. Our version had an ad for the Queensland Government at the start, telling us to wear sunscreen. This portion of the podcast did not have a transcript at all: but we also didn’t see a transcript of what listeners in the US got either.

Apple says: “If portions of your episode change with dynamically inserted audio, Apple Podcasts will not display the segments of the audio that have changed since the original transcription.”

As a creator, do I have to use Apple’s auto-transcripts?

No. You can opt-in to a feature that lets you use your own transcripts. They use the standard podcast:transcripts tag from the Podcasting 2.0 project.

First, opt-in to using your own transcripts in Apple Podcasts Connect; then, ensure you’re linking to either VTT (or an SRT fallback) in your RSS feed.

A detailed file format is described here.

Can I turn transcripts off altogether for my podcast?

You can. It’s a super-hidden setting, but you’d go in Apple Podcasts to your podcast, go to the episode, choose “Free RSS” under Audio & Transcripts, hit the “EDIT” button at the bottom of the dialog box, choose “use a custom setting”, and in the drop-down box, choose “Do not display transcripts for this episode”.

It’s bad to do this because you’re communicating that you don’t care about accessibility; it might be illegal in your country; and listeners can just turn auto-captions on using their mobile phone anyway. We’d suggest you didn’t do that.

Which podcast hosting companies support transcripts?

Apple has a list, though there are more.

Does it show speaker names?

Not for Apple’s auto-transcripts (because they don’t know who’s speaking).

But, if you supply your own transcripts, and mark them up correctly, then it does show speaker names - both for SRT and VTT transcripts.

Can I edit Apple’s auto-transcripts?

No. But you can download the auto-transcript, and use that to edit a corrected version if your podcast host supports the transcript feature; or edit it directly on your podcast host.

What’s the typeface they’re using?

What a geeky question. It’s one of the fonts designed for Apple Books: we think it’s New York. Well done you.

More seriously, we understand that the podcasts team spent considerable time with the accessibility specialists at Apple, ensuring that everything from the font choice to the colour contrast works properly.

Can I download Apple’s auto-transcripts?

As a content creator? Yes, as a VTT file. You can do this from Apple Podcasts Connect - go to an episode, look at “Audio and Transcripts”, and click the Free RSS box. That will then give you a dialog box to let you view the auto-generated transcript and allow you to download it.

As a listener? Not as a VTT file, but you can highlight the transcript in the Apple Podcasts app, and copy/paste portions over (but not the whole thing).

Automatically? The URL has one opaque v4 RFC4122-type GUID, and one v5 GUID that is related to the episode, as well as Apple’s proprietary episode ID, and uses an account token, so no, you’re not automatically downloading this file as far as we can tell.

Where is the Apple’s specification for the VTT file or the tag?

They really don’t say much, but it’s here.

An Apple-generated VTT file for one of our daily podcasts is here for you to download. There are a few different voices in here.

Why VTT?

VTT has detail of different speakers, which SRT doesn’t. VTT also works with HTML’s AUDIO tag.

Is there a VTT validator?

Sure - here’s one. Apple’s downloadable file validates correctly.

The WebVTT specification is here on the W3C website.

How can I make a VTT file?

If your podcast host wants a VTT file, then you can make one using an audio editor like Hindenburg Pro (right-click in manuscript view, and export as VTT).

There are also VTT file editors available online. You can even open a VTT file in a text editor to make simple edits (like correcting spelling of names).

I upload my podcast to YouTube. Can I get a VTT file from YouTube?

Absolutely, you can. Here’s how:

  • Go to https://studio.youtube.com
  • Click “subtitles” in the left-hand menu
  • Click the episode you want the subtitles for
  • You’ll see an entry for “English (automated captions)”. Hold your mouse over the “Published” text and you’ll see three icons - an edit icon, a trashbin icon, and a three-dot menu.
  • Click the three-dot menu and choose “Download”
  • …and finally, choose .vtt

Does Apple make auto-transcripts for private podcasts?

No, they don’t. But Jason Snell says that if you produce transcripts in the RSS feed, those will show.

Can we show transcripts using WebVTT in a web player?

Sure you can, in compatible browsers. BUT, both the audio and the VTT file need to be on the same domain as the website - so for most people, it’s unlikely to work for you. (View the source to see how we did it).

That works in every modern web browser, though CORS might make it more fun.

Where is more information about the podcast:transcript feature and its support?

We’d recommend a look at this page on the Podcasting 2.0 website.

James CridlandJames Cridland is the Editor of Podnews, a keynote speaker and consultant. He wrote his first podcast RSS feed in January 2005; and also launched the first live radio streaming app for mobile phones in the same year. He's worked in the audio industry since 1989.

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