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Captioning "Make" vs. Buy Decisions

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Financial Considerations

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  Variable Costs:




  Payback Period

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Sometimes it makes more sense to buy services rather than perform the task in-house.

Either way you need to analyze the market, assess the competition, and look for the competitive advantages your enterprise has.

Here are a few thoughts on the nature of the industry and about managing captioners to get you started on your make vs. buy analysis.

The Caption Service Industry

The sources of captioning services fall into three tiers:


Independent Captioners -- They range from the very best captioners to the worst.

Independents typically have very low overhead, and the good ones are the most cost effective and skilled.  Expect a half hour video to cost $400 - $600. 

Here are links to a few seasoned captioners who use AutoCaption:

Industrial Captioners -- These are highly-visible, large institutions catering to networks and syndicators.  Their rates seem closely guarded but appear to range from $600 to $1,200 for a half-hour video:

Low Cost Caption Enterprises -- These fill an important need when cost is a greater consideration than quality, such as captioning on infrequently used in-house and employee communication videos or when the audience size simply doesn't justify top tier or broadcast captioning.  Here's one firm we've seen advertising rates as low as $180 for a half hour:

  • Computer Prompting and Captioning Company at

Additional Considerations

  • Corporate culture -- Good captioners tend to be right-brained, fastidious, and print oriented.  Will a captioner fit into your corporate culture?
  • Appropriateness of skills to the task -- In general it is not a good idea to make captioning a corollary duty for a video editor or real-time captioner.  In both cases you should check to see if their specialized skill set could be used more profitably.
  • Career path -- Because AutoCaption uses your rules to guide the operator, the operator can eventually become an entry-level position.  Because captioning involves easily evaluated attention to detail and decision making, it is an excellent first step for a career path in your organization.
  • Supervision -- Do you have someone able to supervise the captioner?  Remember, someone needs to contact the client about terms of art, proper names, and to define the target caption audience.
  • Captioning environment -- Captioning is sedentary, involves repetitive motions, depends on good hearing and requires considerable concentration.  Captioning in noisy or overly cool areas is not a good idea.  High volume captioning organizations should consider alternating between using voice recognition and the keyboard to minimize the chance of repetitive motion injury.

Important Legal Notice:  Information herein is based on experience, generalizations, estimates, and educated guesses.  Your actual experience may vary, so it is important to perform and rely on your own management analysis.

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