Video viewing is bigger than ever. In 2022, people watched 19 hours of online video content per week. That’s almost double the 10 hours per week they were watching per week in 2018.
As video viewing continues to rise for entertainment, education, and business, the necessity for adding closed captioning and subtitling to all video content is more critical than ever.
Streaming technology allows the content creator to add closed captioning and subtitling to any streamed content easily. Technically these assets are included as part of the “package” delivered to the streaming platform as a sidecar, extra file.
Let’s start by answering:
What is the difference between Closed Captioning and Subtitles?
Closed captioning was created for the hearing-impaired. It displays in words not only the on-screen spoken portion of the content but also narration, music, and background noises (such as a knock at the door or a dog barking). By regulation, it is time-synchronized, so it is in sync with what’s happening on the screen.
There are a few different forms of Closed Captioning. Closed, open, live, and post-produced.
Open vs. Closed
- In brief, closed and open, describe whether the captioning is “burned in” or stuck on the screen without the end user being able to remove it.
- Open – the user can’t remove them from the content
- Closed – the user can choose to view or remove the captions from the content. Streaming technology uses Closed Captions.
Pop On vs Roll On
- The difference between pop-on and roll-on captions is how they appear on the screen.
- Roll-up captions are generally used for live programming. They scroll up the screen one line at a time and can show two or three lines simultaneously.
- Pop-on captions are the format most used on post-produced content. They “pop-on” to the screen, one to three lines at a time, then disappear, and the next line or lines of content replace them.
Live vs. Post Produced
- Live closed captioning is used in news, live award shows, sports, etc. In this case, many words are misspelled, grammar and punctuation can be incorrect, and the captioning lags from what is being spoken on the screen. This is because there is usually a human or AI technology that is typing or processing the audio as it comes in and then placing it on the screen. The FCC, in the US, has provided standards for Live closed captioning to ensure that it is not too far out of sync with the programming and is understandable to the audience. On the other hand, post-produced closed captioning is precise and in sync with the programming as it is created after the Live program has concluded or for non-live programming during the post-production process.
For this article, we will be focusing on post-produced closed captions.
Subtitling, unlike closed captioning, was created not for those who could not hear but for those that did not speak the language or did not understand completely the language spoken on the audio track. In times past, subtitling would be burned in, stuck on the screen without the ability to take them away, on foreign language films. Today technology allows for the flexibility of adding or taking away this feature. Unlike closed captioning, subtitling translates only words spoken on the screen and does not describe noises, like the knock on the door or the dog barking.
Closed captioning and subtitling have benefits for the user and the content creator.
The advent of streaming technology and the go-anywhere, watch-anytime technology we possess on our mobile devices has created tremendous opportunities and benefits for both the content creator/distributor and the user. Current statistics show that 76.9% of the world population have smartphones today. That’s approximately 6.8 billion smartphone users in 2023.
Captions and subtitling can be used on any video content, television shows, movies, training videos, online webinars, sermons, educational courses, social media content, product videos, and more.
User Benefits of Captioning
Here are some of the major benefits to the user for providing captions on videos:
- Accessibility. Captioning makes your content inclusive to the deaf and hard of hearing, and on-screen text can also benefit those with learning disabilities or attention deficits. 6.1% of the global population (466 million people) have disabling hearing loss. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that the number could rise to 630 million by 2030. For this community, an audio-only video is inaccessible. An easy way to make videos accessible is to provide closed captioning.
- Clarity. Captions clarify complicated language, thick accents, and poor audio quality for increased understanding.
- Increased retention. Studies find captions improve retention and engagement with video. This can help with brand recall and overall understanding, creating a more immersive user experience.
User Benefits of Subtitling
Subtitling has exploded in the streaming age. For the content creator, the flexibility of adding subtitles in multiple languages to a piece of content has expanded the reach of the content globally. It has become a critical strategy for expanding the reach of the content to a larger audience. Localizing content, providing the content to the user in their language, not only expands the audience of newly produced content but unlocks the monetization and value of older content to a global audience.
- Increase the Value of your Content – Grow your audience globally. Localization can be used for any type of content, entertainment, business, webinars, product launches, and educational content. But no matter what content is being viewed, the addition of subtitling increases the possible viewership base of the programming. By overcoming language barriers, the content you create is more easily understood and comprehended by a larger audience, increasing its value. Tip: When translating into one language, look for vendors that will offer discounts for multiple language translations simultaneously to future-proof your content. Even if you aren’t going to use it all now, having the translations available can increase the value of your content for later uses.
- Improved SEO. In both cases closed captioning and subtitling have the added monetization benefit of increasing searchability in SEO. You can thank YouTube for that benefit. In 2006 when Google, the leader in search engine technology, purchased YouTube, it needed ways to make the content more searchable. The content metadata, title, description, etc., was the easiest place to start. However, using the closed captioning and subtitling files uploaded alongside the content, Google increased the keywords that search engine bots use that drove their algorithms to serve better recommendations to their viewers.
- Expanded audience. Closed captioning allows the user to watch programming anytime, anywhere, whereas subtitling unlocks an expanded audience to increase the monetization and value of current and older content. The entertainment industry got a glimpse of this with the global success of the Korean program Squid Games. In November of 2021, it ranked as the most-watched show or film ever watched on Netflix, with a staggering 1.6 Billion hours viewed. Squid Games was subtitled into 31 languages allowing it to be watched across the globe.
- Clarity, understanding, and accessibility. Increase the understanding and accessibility of all programming by adding closed captioning and subtitling.
Whether you are an entertainment content creator, a business, an educator, a house of worship, or a podcaster, the addition of closed captioning and subtitling can increase your reach, the value of your content, and its accessibility to everyone.
I hope this blog helped outline why captioning and subtitling are important to all your content! For more information on increasing viewer engagement on your videos, check out our other blogs and our products at Digital Joy.