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Amazon Music launches its first true podcasts feature: synced transcripts

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Navigate a podcast through text

Amazon Music

Amazon Music first put podcasts on its platform last year, and now it’s launching its first feature built around them. The service plans to roll out automatically generated, synchronized transcripts on both iOS and Android in the US starting today, meaning the transcripts will match the audio you’re hearing, and you can toggle around them to jump to specific parts of the audio. The transcripts are interactive and can be viewed full-screen or on top of the album art within the app.

For now, the transcripts are only coming to certain Amazon Music and Wondery shows, along with partner programs that have worked with Amazon on the feature, like This American Life and Crime Junkie. (The third-party launch partners include American Public Media, Audiochuck, Cadence13, The New York Times, Stitcher, and TED.) More partners’ shows will receive transcripts in the future, says Kintan Brahmbhatt, director of podcasts at Amazon Music. The reason the team is being so hands-on with partners is that Amazon wants to be “one of the most creator-friendly, most podcaster-friendly, services out there,” he says.

Ads won’t be transcribed — the transcription will just say “audio not transcribed” over those breaks. Broadly, Brahmbhatt says the key thing he and the team wanted to accomplish with this launch was being able to navigate a podcast based on the written version, similar to how someone can scrub through a video.

“You’re listening to an interview and say, ‘Oh yeah, they made a really good point. I could have bookmarked it, but I just want to go back to that section again,’ — or revisiting a show or revisiting some aspect of the show; it really helps customers to go back and forth and use that as a navigation tool more so than just read along,” he says.

Amazon Music is now both a music and podcast app, and it remains separate from Audible, which operates with a different payment model but also offers podcasts. Amazon Music has been pursuing various exclusive shows deals, including, most prominently, a deal with SmartLess for reportedly between $60 and $80 million, which gave the service a weeklong exclusivity window. Amazon also acquired hosting and monetization service Art19 and podcast network Wondery, which operates its own subscription podcast app called Wondery Plus.

As for Amazon’s competitors, Spotify has yet to widely roll out transcripts and is keeping them focused on select originals and exclusives. The Bill Simmons Podcast, for example, offers automatically generated transcripts, while The Joe Rogan Experience does not. Spotify’s transcripts can be navigated in chunks, so you can’t tap on a word or phrase like you can in Amazon Music’s solution. Apple Podcasts doesn’t natively offer full transcripts, but show creators can transcribe shows themselves and include the written version in their show notes.