SubPLY: Making YouTube Captioning a Reality

A few days ago YouTube announced the addition of Closed Captioning support to its videos. One small problem though… YouTube included neither the tools nor the services to help video owners create the actual captioning source files– SubViewer (*.SUB) and SubRip (*.SRT)—needed to activate this feature. This is where SubPLY, the new video captioning service by PLYmedia might be helpful. With the launch of the service the company is providing an exclusive offer for TechCrunch readers: Free professionally produced English and Spanish closed captioning for YouTube videos!

SubPLY will provide English & Spanish captioning to 5000 YouTube videos submitted by TechCrunch readers. The video source language must be English and video duration cannot exceed 5 minutes. The captioning will be available within 24-hours of video submission. Offer details and how-to, here.

Is captioning videos really worth the hassle? YouTube clearly believes as much and PLYmedia’s internal research supports this claim as well. SubPLY was piloted with a video publisher that tested ten different videos for a period of six weeks, in three different languages (English, Spanish and French). Here are the results for videos watched with captioning:

  1. Foreign language usage and viewership increased over 700% in a 5 week period.
  2. 19% more viewers watched videos to completion than those without subtitles.
  3. The share function (sending the video to others) was used by viewers watching subtitles 171% more often (the viral effect was boosted).
  4. A 37% increase in both users who watched the video in full screen mode and users who replayed video.

A short backgrounder on PLYmedia: The Israeli company, which recently raised $6 million, provides video publishers the ability to add layers—”PLYs” as the company calls them—on top of their video players. These layers allow a variety of interactive applications to be offered along with the video with fairly minimal hassle for the publishers. The applications can range from BubblePLY (that lets users add text, images and graphics to videos) to information enrichment via infoPLY to ad overlays via adPLY.

SubPLY, the newest addition to PLYmedia’s range of “PLYd” applications is a dead-simple service that adds captioning to videos. All one has to do is provide a URL of a previously uploaded video and in return receive a new embed code from SubPLY that loads the original player along with the additional code necessary to overlay the captions. See the bottom of the post for an example.

SubPLY is being launched with captioning translation for 42 languages. The company will provide commercial customers a turnaround as quick as two hours from submitting the video to having the captioning active on it. Important to note is that the SubPLY embed code can be embedded immediately and the captioning functionality will appear once it’s available. Adding additional languages down the road will not require a code change, they will simply appear as soon as they are ready to go. Another aspect worthy of note is that the subtitles are encapsulated in an XML file that is made available with the SubPLY code. This means that videos are not only enriched with captioning, they are also enriched with additional SEO juice (XML files are parsed by search engines).

Pricing depends on the type of content, turnaround time, and scope of work per customer. There is also pricing “seasonality”. Current pricing is available here.

SubPly will open-up its translation tools in the coming months, allowing any user to create closed captions and subtitles. The tools were specifically created for online video, optimized for Flash and require no upload or transcoding.