Revolutionizing Podcast Transcription: The Inside Scoop on Readable
- Christian Blavier
In this episode, I talk with Christian Blavier, co-founder of Readable.fm, which seeks to turn your audio podcasts into a premium reading experience. Christian talks about their journey in creating Readable. He discusses the importance of transcripts and how transcripts help readers and second-language speakers gain access to podcast content. He also points out how transcripts today are visually hard to read and how Readable will solve this problem.
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Eric Rutherford: [00:00:00] It is time for Build that podcast where we will discuss how you can use a podcast to grow your business and expand your influence. I'm your host Eric Rutherford, and I'm excited today because I have with me Christian Blavier. He is one of the founders of readable.fm, which seeks to turn your audio podcasts into a premium reading experience.and reach new listeners with better visibility on networks and search engines. Christian, welcome to the show.
Christian Blavier: Hello, Eric. I'm glad to be here with you and I'd be more than happy to share my experience.
Eric Rutherford:I'm excited that I had the chance to talk to you. I've read about readable. I think you're providing a great solution for podcasters and audio creators. Before we get into readable, would you share a little bit about your background and what led up to you creating readable.
Christian Blavier: Sure. So, I'm Christian, I'm from France. I'm [00:01:00] sure that your, listeners knew it.
So I'm a longtime coder. I'm a CTO in a, in a French company for something like 10 years.
And something like six months ago, my wife and I decided to, to create a new startup because quite a few times we wanted to learn things from podcast shows, and since we are not commuters, I don't have much time to listen to podcast shows, and I wanted, I remember that in my specific field of knowledge, like coding, I wanted to listen to and learn specific topics from podcast shows, but I had no time to listen to two or three episode 60 minutes long each.
So,[00:02:00] I started looking for episode transcripts, but they were just word of texts sometimes.
They were not present. So that's how we, six months ago, we decided to go into, into building a podcast tool with my wife. So it's quite it's quite recent.
Eric Rutherford:It is. If you've been out there, you've started doing that six months ago, that is definitely very Recent. Now I know one of the things you do is you're very much about building in public. So this is not a venture capital project. This is simply your, this is very much a self-funded project. That business that you're creating and you're doing it in public. What's that experience been like? Because I've read a lot about building in public, but I would love [00:03:00] to hear your experience sort of from, from firsthand knowledge.
Christian Blavier: Sure. So first you talk about being self-funded. So that's what we call also being bootstrapped. So it's really, it's really nice. I've already funded a VC-backed company in the photo sharing space, something like 10 years ago. And I didn't want to go down that road again. Like being bootstrapped, it's being free.
We don't have any investors. We are now experienced and skilled enough to, to, to have a vision on how we want to build our company. And being self funded, give us the freedom to do it the way we want.
And then to go to your question about building in public, it's something that I, I discovered I think six months ago.
So I've been on Twitter and [00:04:00] saw a lot of people sharing what they were coding, small projects, big projects. I know I knew a few.
One the most famous builder in public, I'd say is Pieter Levels who is doing fantastic job is known for his remote jobs board. And now he is building fantastic ai tools to generate photos and avatars, things like that.
BannerBear is a tool to generate videos. And I found that the way they were relating their, their experience as builders and founders was really insightful and motivating. And the, and some of them, most of them I would say are really open.
Like they, they share everything, like their revenues, their costs. They're really doing it [00:05:00] in public and the key thing is not to be only sharing the up, but also the downs. Like sometimes some months.
People have big churns, like a lot of users that just close their account things like that. Or some months people have, I don't know, family personal issues and they just can't walk the way they wanted it to.
And I found it really motivating to read and I wanted to do the same. And what we can achieve doing that is we can build an audience. Like I started building in public from day one. I only had something like 500 followers on Twitter. I have more than 1000, like after three months, I doubled it and I already have some better users.
I found some [00:06:00] customers. I know that a few, a few people are ready to pay from day one as soon as the product is released. So it's really fantastic because I give people facts, stories, jokes, anything about what is to build our product. And I receive a lot and sometimes it's just feedback.
Like two hours earlier today I shared a screenshot of a new screen there the pricing page of our product and someone just told me this word is not English, I just mixed some French with English words, so it's really nice to have live feedbacks as such. So, this is about building in public.
Eric Rutherford: Getting the quick feedback turnaround, that's incredibly important. I work for a, for a SaaS company, and that's a hard thing. If the only thing you're doing is building a product and [00:07:00] you're not getting customer feedback, it's hard because you can create a product that nobody wants or that doesn't solve that problem.
So I think that's a wonderful way to create it. And you're you're getting customers.
Christian Blavier: You don't want to build into the void,
Eric Rutherford:: no
Christian Blavier: no for six months. And then just don't find what we startup founders called the customer market fit.
And so yeah, we have to, and people in the building in public scene are lot like you should validate your product as soon as possible. Validate, validate it like they are repeating it. And after, after being told the same message again and again, it sticks.
Eric Rutherford:: Indeed. Now let's talk a little bit about Readable itself. So what is Readable and what [00:08:00] problem are you trying to solve with it?
Christian Blavier: So, like I, I told you earlier in the episode, I noticed, I learned about myself, that I am actually more a reader than I am a listener.
So I, I don't enjoy that much listening to 60 minute shows. Sometimes I do, but it's quite rare. I know that
other people, a lot of people are avid listeners and they, they can, they can listen to hours and hours of podcast shows.
So I basically ask this question on Twitter: are you more a reader or a listener? And I was amazed to, to see that a lot of people actually just think like me and don't because they are not commuting either. [00:09:00] That was the main reason. They, they don't want to listen. And that is the main point of readable. Like we think that podcast hosts are missing a key part of their potential audience. By targeting only listeners and they're like sitting on a gold mine with some of them have hundreds of episodes, not transcripted.
So if they use the proper tool to turn it into what we call a premium reading experience, they could target a new audience of readers. So that's the point.
And regarding the audience, so there are people like me, more reader, but they're of course hearing disabled people. Who I can, I can read to a lot of them like complaining.
Where is transcript? A [00:10:00] lot of podcasts don't provide not even a poorly transcripted notes and when they do provide one, it's usually poorly formatted, not really enjoyable to read.
And people like me, also non-native listeners, so I read, I listen to mostly to English podcast.
Sometimes it's because of the, of the accent or sometimes people are talking too fast for me. So it's, it can be difficult to
get what it is about. Especially if as an active listener, if I, I try to do something else while listening it. It can be difficult. So, so that's the reason and then how we want to tackle this challenge. It just making, helping podcast hosts [00:11:00] to get an accurate transcript from their forms and podcast.
And the main point because a lot of existing tools are already turning audio files into transcripts. But what they don't do is make them pleasant to read, well formatted and so on.
I dunno if you experienced that yourself.
I've used a couple of different programs. I've used Otter in the past. I'm using Descript right now. Both do a good job of taking the audio and putting it into text, but to really make it a readable experience, I need to go in and do a lot of editing and moving around.
Christian Blavier: Otter it's small tool for organizing meetings or like to summarize minute from, meetings. You can use the a different [00:12:00] tool not really meant for, for podcasts. because they have a good transcription abilities.
Eric Rutherford:But even then, like you say, it's the layout. It's, it's really even when I export the document or export the transcript. even if I update it well or try to, it is still hard to read. It's almost like just reading a text document, not, not even in Word or anything like that.
It's almost like reading a CSV of sorts.
Christian Blavier: It's what we call a wall word of text. It's just nobody want to read content like this, but bots do so, providing a transcript like this, it's already has some value is for seo, search engine optimization. So you make your content visible for search engines. So it's, it's already a good point, but for for humans.[00:13:00] You can't expect from people to enjoy your content like this.
So what we, we aim at, with Readable is to, to target an experience like medium.com or something which is pleasant to read as an article. On this platform, like when they, I don't know how old is this platform, but when they first came out they made a huge difference by the way, they had a I don't know, the way they layout the content, the choice of the, of the typography, for the formatting, the headlines, everything was really, really well thought. And we want to do the same for podcast content with the specificity that it is.
It [00:14:00] has been produced as audio content, as a conversation, like the one we are having right now. So we want to provide a text where you can easily tell apart who he's speaking with speaker avatars. And you can also read and get the text highlighted as it is spoken by the podcast hosts.
So, You'll be able to, you just click play button, you get the audio, you can change the speed. I do it a lot on YouTube, like sometime I speed up a bit because we don't have much time. And then you, get the word highlighted in the text as it is spoken. So it's, it's really nice to experience.
And we didn't yet, found any other two doing it. So that's the way we want to, to stand out.
Eric Rutherford:It sounds amazing [00:15:00] because like you say, it's the wall of text is very real. I know that one firsthand. And then, How do you make the transcript easier? I know you're going to do some formatting, you're gonna be able to put that in there using the avatars. It seems like, I don't know, it just seems like a hard thing to do from a technical perspective or is it that nobody has really thought to do that before?
I don't know if that question makes sense.
Christian Blavier: Yes. It, yes, it makes sense. So there are different challenges involved in this topic, like the technical challenge.
Doing accurate transcription requires tools in the AI field and things are moving so fast this past month. So things are possible today and were impossible like two years ago. So things are moving fast and [00:16:00] what we can do today and a, with with podcast files. I, I'm not sure that we would've been able to do it yet two years ago, and it's already more accurate than YouTube automatic transcription.
So there is a part of technical challenge like to, to get an accurate transcription. We won't be able to, to do it perfectly. So we want to be as close as possible from perfect. But we can help podcast hosts. We can help the host to help the, the like giving some, some context, giving some vocabulary.
Of course HAI may have difficulties to get to get proper names. I'm curious to see our tool will figure out my last name, after you, you tell it. So we'll [00:17:00] see. So think like that. And then there is another side of the problem with it about user experience ergonomics. We want to make.
So there is ergonomics for the readers. I already told a lot about it. Seeing who is speaking when having text highlighted as it is spoken. But there are also ergonomics for the podcast Because host.
Because I'm sure you know it, but producing a podcast takes a lot of time to prepare it, to record it, to edit it, and then we are asking hosts us to podcasters to take a bit more time to produce a readable experie. experience.
So we want this extra step to be, to be shorter [00:18:00] possible, and we do it with with great well-thought ergonomics. That's where my wife who I'm founding the company with. She's tremendously helpful because she was working as a product lead in a, in a startup. So she really has, I'm, I'm the technical side of the, of the things, but she really have a good a good vision and the user perspective, the design, the ergonomics, and we want to make a tool that, that podcasters will feel easy to use and then to get like a transcription in a few minutes. And of course, like I said earlier, it won't be 100% accurate for the first time.
So, We want to help podcasters to, to make them something like 90% [00:19:00] accurate transcript to 100 with a well thought, well-crafted tool where you'll be able to quickly like the, we have typographies -- typo. We have a mislabeled text. Like the engine thinks that Speaker A told something, but it was speaker B. And we, we are going to, to do really, so right now it's not in our product. It'll be one of the first week feature we will work on after the release, but it's in the, it's, it'll be the heart of the product.
Eric Rutherford: That makes perfect sense and I really appreciate both the focus on the reader experience and as well as the podcast host experience. They each have different needs and challenges, but if you can save, and just [00:20:00] speaking as a podcast host, if the format is helpful and the accuracy's fairly high. I mean, both of those things to me are incredibly helpful and save a lot of time. And I know with transcription it's not perfect and it doesn't have to be, you know, from my perspective I can go back through.
But just making it, very understandable in the form and format. I mean, that's a huge success for me.
Christian Blavier: I am glad to hear you telling this so that that means that we might be onto something. And unlike the tool that you, you mentioned before, like Descript. It provides you with a text transcript transcription after you uploaded your audio because the core of the product is there. Now it's more like a video editing tool to edit your content based on the text.
They recognize and they do a great job with it. [00:21:00] But for a podcast host in the end, end, you just have a text transcription and what do you do with it after?
That's, that's where Readable of fers more value value from a podcaster perspective, like we provide a website.
I know that there are already tons of podcast hosting platforms. Some of them, most of them provide you the ability to host a simple website.
We, we don't want to do just a simple website with transcript tab and read your transcript wall of texts.
But we provide podcast host with either a site that can go as a replacement for the current podcast website or as a widget. They can [00:22:00] embed into their existing website. So you already have, I don't know WordPress blog or anything like that, you can embed the Readable transcript experience into your website. That's what we learned from building in public
Eric Rutherford: That's exciting to me. If I can I can add the the widget to my site and, and your formatted transcript -- I can put it right on my my website.
That's wonderful. That's a huge success as opposed to me copy and pasting that wall of text and then moving it a little bit around and it's still ugly and hard to read on my website. That widget that makes a huge difference.
Christian Blavier: So the, the challenge will be to find the correct trade-off between [00:23:00] making the tool customizable enough, like we will, we will let podcasters tweak a bit things like colors to, to fit with their, with their brand. But we also want to, to make the tool stay really simple. Keep really simple.
So it won't be fully customizable. We will have to, to figure it out as we build the tool, but that's the, the cool thing about building in public, like. like. We, as we started the product building the product six months ago, we were really 100% on providing a new website as a website replacement for podcasters. But as we discussed with different podcast hosts, we learned that most of them, Would rather prefer keep their current website. the, They, there are a [00:24:00] lot a lot of them are using WordPress and have an additional new tab or a new page with the, the readable experience embedded into it.
Eric Rutherford: I think that sounds that sounds wonderful. It really does. As you've, as you have gone through this process and you're working on this journey, anything unexpected come up that, as you've been developing this with you and your wife, either together or just your experience any stories you would like to. to tell?
Christian Blavier: Things that I, I learned obviously a lot of things throughout the journey, even if it's, quite short, six months for a company, it's short.
I was a bit -- how, how do I say Like 10 years ago. I would, would never have even thought about working with my wife as a full-time [00:25:00] job.
It sounds, it sounded like a bad idea. Like what if things don't go anywhere at work?
then yeah, you, you, you get it. But actually her some, working with her we really have complimentary skills.
Like I do the coding. She, she's at the product. I know if I had to build it build it just on my own alone, the product would be much different today.
And I think it would be much worse actually. So, so it's so it's one of the things that those unexpected things.
I also told a lot about building in public. So it's, it's awesome. I recommend to do it for, and not only for technological products or companies. I'm also, so it's also coding, but I'm also building in public open source, an open source [00:26:00] project.
But I know that I, I, I, like to do some wood crafting. And so I have not much time these days to do it. But I think that the next project, I, I try to do it in public as well. I, it's it's so motivating to have feedbacks from people and, so that the key points I, I learned since we started the project.
Eric Rutherford: I appreciate that and I have not worked as a company together with my wife. We do have, have worked on different projects together and I appreciate that we have definitely some complimentary skills that help. So I could appreciate the working together. It's enjoyable when that happens.
And so just before we finish up here, any last takeaways you would like to leave our audience with? So if, if anybody, you know, people are listening to this and they either have a [00:27:00] podcast or maybe they're, they're a business or a content creator, thinking about starting a podcast, any takeaways that you would like to give them?
Christian Blavier: I think that the main takeaway is you are sitting on a gold mine with your podcast content, and you might be missing a huge part a huge part of your audience who is made of readers.
And so just try not thinking only about listeners, but readers as well. I think that's that would be for me, the main takeaway and what we learned discussing with different podcasters.
Eric Rutherford: I appreciate that. This has been a great conversation because as I am also a reader, so I do listen to some podcasts, but at the same time I read much faster than I listen. And [00:28:00] so I like being able to just go to text and read it. And then that second language, being able to, to read and understand if, if the podcast is not in your, in your first language, like those two things had not really occurred to me.
So I appreciate you bringing those up because that resonates. So it's like, okay, this is another reason to make sure I have a good transcript.
Christian Blavier: And you know, sometimes when you listen to, to podcasts, you just want to, to have a good time and listen. You enjoy the, the first and you want to, to listen to, to them, and you don't really care.
And sometimes, especially when it's related to your job, you are looking for a really specific piece of information.
Not being able to, to skim through the content and seek the really specific bit you are after.
It's an awful experience. And if you were reading a blog post, [00:29:00] You, the first thing you would do is like Control F like you are searching your, in your webpage.
You search for the keyword, you skip like half the introduction and you just read the part that you, that you want to read.
Some, and I think that the, the tool we're building really, really helps with that. And I just noticed that, I forgot to tell that we, we don't only provide transcription, but also things like a summary.
So yeah. You, you can get your whole episode summarized in a few lines. And also we are working on auto chapterization. It can figure out that from the minute the, the, from the beginning of your show until the, the fifth minute. It was the introduction then and things like that.
So it really helps to, to get a now [00:30:00] some reading advance.
Eric Rutherford: Those sound fantastic. They really do. The chaptering all of that sounds like yeah. I'm looking forward to seeing this as it rolls out and just the, the way you're gonna be taking care of so many people.
If listeners want to know more about you, about Readable, where would you like them to go?
Christian Blavier: I suggest them to go to readable.fm. They can register to be notified as soon as the product is released. The product will be released in better version this February. So it's, it's quite, it's imminent.
And then of course I have been talking a lot about building in public, so I suggest they follow me on Twitter. I share every day on what it is, is on what I'm building. So some, some of my posts are really technical, some of the, not at all sharing a lot of things.
So [00:31:00] for now, that's it. The main site, my Twitter, and then as the product is released a few weeks from now, we will have our on blog platform, blogging platform on, to, on a newsletter as well. But it's not it's not out.
Eric Rutherford: So everybody listening, I'll make sure that information is in the show notes. Make sure to follow Christian on Twitter. This is an exciting product an exciting service and I'm looking forward to seeing where it goes from here. So, Christian, thank you for joining me today and sharing about readable and I look forward to its growth and your success in the the. future.
Christian Blavier: Yes. Thank you for having me, Eric. It was really nice chatting with you today.