Jack Perry
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Captions are becoming an increasingly vital part of making online videos. From accessibility to engagement, here's why you should include captions in your artistic and marketing videos.

The attraction of captions

Captions are an often overlooked but vital part of modern video production. The content of videos is key and generally takes up the majority of your focus. This is especially true for arts and culture organisations. However, if you bake in some production time for adding captions before your video goes live then you will improve viewers’ experiences and ensure you reach a larger audience. Here’s why:

Accessibility

First, captions make your videos more accessible. The Scottish Council on Deafness (SCoD) estimates that 1,012,000 people in Scotland have some degree of hearing loss, with 57,000 of those believed to have severe to profound deafness. Thus, there is a potentially large number of people who will not be able to enjoy the online videos you produce, nor fully engage with your online marketing if it is in a video format.

Preference

In addition, a large number of people who do not have hearing loss choose to watch videos without sound, or prefer to watch a video with captions even if it does have sound. In fact, according to industry leaders StageText, 80% of captions or subtitles are used for reasons other than hearing loss.

When you dig down into figures for specific platforms, the numbers are even more stark. For example, 85% of Facebook video views happen through muted autoplay. Though it alone doesn’t prove the causation, this fact does suggest that captions are a major factor in deciding whether someone watches a video as they’re scrolling through their Facebook newsfeed. And the same applies for more long-lasting video content: for example, the BBC have revealed that 20% of iPlayer programmes are viewed with captions, which is the equivalent of between one and two million views a day. Captioning your videos is therefore not only a significant aspect of engaging with D/deaf audiences, but an important means of engaging with a potential majority of your audience.

Higher engagement

Captions also improve the likelihood that viewers will engage with your online videos. For example, adding captions to a YouTube video can increase its views by 7.32%, with a viewer more likely to watch the video to completion if captions have been added. On Facebook, adding captions to videos has been shown to increase the number of likes by 10%, the number of shares by 26% and the number of comments by 29%. Captions don’t just make your videos more accessible – they make it more likely that viewers are going to interact with your organisation online as a result.

Captioning your videos in the right way can also do wonders for your Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), as search engines like Google can read closed captions in the same way they can read the text of a webpage, whereas the content of the video itself is still pretty undecipherable. This was proven in a study by the (now defunct) American broadcaster Discovery Digital Networks, which showed that videos with closed captions ranked highly on Google Search while those without didn’t. This means that adding captions makes it much more likely that your videos are going to appear in relevant Google searches.

Want to learn how to caption?

This all amounts to a compelling argument for taking the time to include captions in your videos. Captions ensure your content is as accessible as possible for D/deaf audiences, while also enhancing the experience for everyone. Indeed, the engagement and SEO evidence suggests that captions could be the difference between your organisation’s video going viral online and being completely ignored.

The best part is that (beyond knowing a few extra rules, guidelines and skills) captioning does not require vast amounts of expertise or expensive software.

Join me for our event Read All About It – Video Captioning Workshop where I’ll detail how you can add captions and subtitles to your videos with minimal fuss for you and maximum benefits for your audience.