When small business owners think of the cutting edge of technology, document transcription doesn't usually come to mind. While some lawyers, doctors and other professionals in related fields still have conversations and client notes transcribed by bonded professionals, most either do their own typing or use speech-to-text software.
But automated tools such as Dragon NaturallySpeaking or Windows Voice Recognition can require editing that makes some users (including myself and folks I've talked to) wonder why they bother with them.
Where there is such consumer pain, there is usually a business opportunity, and one Los Angeles entrepreneur sees one in providing accurate transcription services to small businesses. Raj Pulagala's myMonolog service combines the sound recording applications available on most smart mobile phones with an online transcription marketplace.
The service lets customers post digital recordings on a secure Website on which they can be transcribed and later stored.
"The idea is to open up the closed, hard-to-use transcription process to the larger market," says Pulagala. "I believe that once you get used to getting a fast, high-quality copy of your conversation, it is hard to go back to automated transcription tools."
The service, which I've been testing for the past month or so, features a flat-rate fee structure of $1 per minute of recorded time. But that doesn't necessarily mean it's cheap.
What it is:
myMonolog accepts mobile recordings made from any one of a number of digital sound recording apps, including iProRecorder for iPhone, Voice Recorder for Android, or VR+ lite for BlackBerry. Depending upon which app is used, recordings can be made over the phone, in a conference call or in a live setting. The resulting sound file is then uploaded to the myMonolog marketplace and placed in a queue. Within 24 hours, the recording is transcribed and the resulting text file, along with original audio file, is stored on the Website. Everything can then be downloaded, edited and printed. Billing is done once a week.
Why you might like it:
1. It's easy to use. I found myMonolog to be a well-designed and easy to use way of recording interviews for stories. As advertised, the service accepts most any digital sound file and stores it in a way that makes it easy to track. I was impressed by the ability to approve or reject a transcription for quality. And myMonolog guarantees the work. If you find mistakes, the transcript will be fixed.
2. Quality is high. In the four calls and meetings I transcribed, consisting of nearly 50 minutes of talking, the overall quality of the text file was good. I could check any actual quote I used against the original, and the context of a quote was clear for all to see. myMonolog allows a team to review a conversation, listen again for what clients are asking for and edit the text to ensure clarity. By and large, the service worked as advertised.
Why you might not like it:
1. Integrated mobile apps can take some effort. The sheer number of mobile recording devices out there means there is a large number of different ways to record files. So in some cases the audio standard produced was not supported on myMonolog, which meant files had to be changed from on format to another. That's possible, but a pain.
2. Costs can add up. As affordable as $1 per minute may sound, the costs can add up quickly. Even a short 15-minute meeting is a $15 charge on myMonolog. For critical meetings, the tool makes sense. But unless you're able to have your clients help pay for the cost of the service, you can easily run up bills of several hundred dollars a week.
Tightly-defined laws regulate how recordings can be made. And they vary by state. Be sure you know your local ordinances before you record any conversation. It's serious stuff if you make a recording improperly. And keep in mind, from an evidence perspective, myMonolog recordings can make a terrific narrative of potential legal missteps, which could be used against you in event you overstep the law. So know the rules.
What to do:
myMonolog clearly deserves a spot in the small-business toolbox. It's fast, easy to use and brings high-quality transcription services within reach of even the solo entrepreneur. And for important conversations where the nuance of what was said needs to be carefully evaluated -- such as a big sales pitch or an unhappy client call -- the service provides just the kind of documentation required.
Just be aware that costs for the service can add up quickly and, as with all technology, some tinkering is required.