As online video consumption continues to expand – with the average person projected to watch 90+ minutes of video content online daily in 2020 – there’s one element of video distribution that cannot be ignored: captioning.
Captions have become a helpful tool for all video viewers, regardless of their hearing abilities. Due to a combination of legal, educational, accessibility, SEO, and even branding purposes, the prioritization of captioning for video producers has increased dramatically in recent years. Captioning is now a proactive element in video production and promotion, rather than a reactive response for high-trafficked videos.
In this article, we’ll dive into reasons why consumers of online video are relying on captions – and why creators of online video are paying attention.
1. An Emphasis on Accessibility
Let’s start off with the biggest reason why captioning has become more of a priority for videos – accessibility.
While the majority of those who watch captions are not hard of hearing (we’ll circle back to this one), those who are unable to hear require captions to fully understand a video.
For context, approximately one in five Americans are deaf or hard of hearing. This means that nearly 50 million Americans will be unable to fully understand, enjoy, or appreciate an online video unless there are captions.
Not only does failing to caption videos isolate a huge chunk of potential viewers, but it could also result in a lawsuit for those who fail to provide captions. Between January and March of 2020, more than 500 federal ADA Title III website accessibility lawsuits were filed – an increase from just shy of 400 in the fourth quarter of 2019.
While these lawsuits encompass more issues than captioning, the recent spike in filings speaks to the seriousness of failing to make your online experience accessible to those with disabilities. An accessibility lawsuit can tarnish your brand, set back your business, and cost your company unnecessary legal fees.
To make video content more accessible for more people, captioning has become and continues to be a top priority for any person or company making video in 2020.
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2. A New Educational Landscape
Students and schools have embraced captioning. 87% of educational institutions have added captions to some or all of their videos, and 55% of students using captions at least sometimes when watching video lessons. Students who do use captions claim they see benefits in the form of added focus (42%) and increased retention of information (37%).
Captioning – alongside educational video content in general – saw a surge in demand during the spring of 2020 when schools shut down due to COVID-19, with thousands of institutions going fully or partially remote for the 2020-2021 school year as well. This shift has resulted in an educational overhaul and an increase in virtual classes and video lessons for students.
Because video is playing a larger role in the education system than it ever has, the necessity for – and benefits of – captioning are more apparent to educators. Students with hearing loss rely on them, while those who don’t require captions are still gaining something from them, in the form of a heightened focus on and stronger retention of a lesson’s contents.
3. Captioning Needs Are Universal
Online video is not slowing down. To paint a picture, 300 hours of video content gets uploaded to YouTube every minute – and that number doesn’t include the amount of video uploaded on social media accounts, premium streaming platforms, or company websites.
This increase in consumption has exposed more people to video captions, which has resulted in the discovery of its many benefits. In fact, 4 out of 5 caption users do not even have hearing loss – instead, they rely on captions for the following reasons:
- Increased Focus: The physical display of spoken words on the screen results in viewers watching the video more intently so they can better understand and retain its contents.
- Clarity in a Noisy Environment: Video isn’t always consumed in the comfort of home anymore–coffee shops, offices, and subways are also popular places to stream, and these places are seldom silent. Captions are a saving grace for those who want to watch your video but are momentarily unable to listen.
- Clarifying Mumbled Speech or Thick Accents: Instead of spending time re-recording footing or dubbing ADR, providing captions is a time-saving solution to help viewers understand your speakers’ words.
All of these examples speak to a better video experience simply by adding captions.
4. Captioning Increases Engagement
As companies and video producers have seen the results of their captioning efforts, it’s clear that captions yield positive engagement metrics for their videos – especially on social media.
Think about it – when you’re scrolling through your feed, doesn’t a silent, auto-playing video with captions catch your eye more than one without captions? If so, you’re not alone. Consider some of these facts about Facebook video:
- 85% of Facebook videos are watched without sound. Therefore, if you want the majority of Facebook video viewers to know what your video is saying, captions are not optional.
- Adding captions to Facebook videos increases time spent viewing the video by 12%. This means that by adding captions to your videos, you increase the precious number of seconds someone spends watching your video and significantly delay a video’s dropoff rate.
Captions are also effective at getting people introduced to and engaged with your brand. This conclusion is supported by the findings of a study from the Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, concluding subtitles “can improve brand recall, verbal memory, and behavioral intent.” Keep these facts in mind the next time you’re making a Facebook video ad.
Lastly, due to the .vvt text file of captions associated with a video, captioned videos see 7% more views on average than those without captions. This is because caption files are indexed by search engines, driving more organic views to captioned videos as its contents are searchable.
A New Era of Video Captioning
The surge of video content and production in the world has unveiled many revelations for those who create video – and the importance of captioning is just one of them.
As knowledge of the benefits of captioning becomes more widespread, we can expect accurate captions for video to become even more of a priority for video producers in the coming years. We will also see more companies investing resources into captioning for accessibility, legal, and educational purposes, and to reap the rewards of captioning for branding and SEO purposes.
Luckily, there are captioning services to easily get captions for your videos.