How subtitles are revolutionising the way we consume video content

For many households, the television has been the centrepiece of family entertainment over the past few decades. However, many viewers will be completely unaware of how significantly the way we consume video content has changed. One of the biggest transformations will be noticed by those who are reliant on, or are simply users of, subtitles. Not only has subtitling improved accessibility in all forms of video content, but enhanced the viewing experience for its consumers, thus revolutionising the way we consume video content.


Subtitles & closed captions: making content accessible for all

The most known benefit of adding subtitles or captions to video content is making content accessible to the wider public. In today’s world, not only are captions or subtitles benefitting perceived “traditional” users, namely the Deaf or those who do not speak the language, but are also being used by commuters watching videos on mute, webpages, ads and marketing on social media. Not requiring the sound can bring about a wider reach with the knock-on effect of increasing engagement across content channels.


Watching subtitles on your phone on the underground

Are subtitles and closed captions the same?

Subtitling and closed captioning are terms that are often used interchangeably. While these concepts may seem identical to the untrained eye, both are geared towards a different audience and thus need to fulfil different functions.


Closed captioning: filling the gaps

Closed captions, which display extralinguistic content in written form as well as the dialogue, allow people who cannot hear the audio, such as those who are Deaf or hard of hearing, to enjoy the content in the same manner as everyone else. Extralinguistic content could include sounds, such as explosions, or other pertinent information which helps fill the gaps for the viewer, such as ‘[man speaks in jibberish]’ where the listener is not supposed to be able to understand the speaker.


Subtitling: comprehension is king

Subtitles therefore vary from closed captions as their intended user is already able to understand the audio; comprehension of the (foreign) dialogue isn’t a given. You may be convinced that the moo of French cows is different that of their British counterparts, as I am, but we can safely assume that the French viewer would not need to have the moo of a cow explained on the screen. Neither would we need the introduction of jazz music to a scene in a film to be included in the subtitle, as the viewer is able to understand this in the same manner as the native listener. 


This doesn’t mean that extralinguistic content should be entirely disregarded. For example, the non-Hispanophone viewer may need to know if speakers are conversing in Basque or Spanish in a Spanish comedy playing on cultural differences to create humour. Omitting these details to the untrained ear would leave them uninformed of its intended nuances and comedic parts. This would be the case in many multilingual societies and cultures, and even more so when being adapted for an entirely different culture. Such as a Bollywood film containing multiple Indian languages when adapted for a Western audience. Comprehension is king, and ensuring an equal experience for the viewer must be the overarching aim whether closed captions or subtitles are used with video content.


The 'moo' of a French cow

Subtitles: a generational shift in usage?

In today’s world, you will find that some prefer to watch everything with subtitles, even in their own language. “Why?” you may ask… Well, try watching Peaky Blinders and understanding that thick Brummie accent word for word! Or following the dialogue in Game of Thrones while a dragon shrieks and rains fire over every screaming person in shot! These tasks can be difficult for even a native listener, especially when you have that one friend visiting who talks over all the important bits.


This phenomenon seems to be generational, a recent YouGov survey found that 61% of people aged between 18-24 preferred to watch TV with the subtitles on. From the age of 25, a minority percentage is found, with 31% of 25–49-year-olds, 13% of 50–64-year-olds, and 22% of 65+ year-olds electing to activate subtitles.


Improving ROI with subtitles in the silent generation

This shift can be further exemplified through a new generation who are showing a tendence to avoid audio full stop. Reportedly, over 85% of videos on social media are viewed without the sound on. This statistic will seem rather alarming to those hoping to see an ROI on their social media content and realising that their caption-less video content relies on audio. Facebook research further shows that you can increase your view times by 12%, simply by adding subtitles to your content, demonstrating the need for content managers to incorporate captions into their video content to see an ROI. Marketers will also be happy to know, that although search engines cannot effectively crawl through audio content, subtitles are readable. Thus, coupled with a correct SEO strategy, this can help improve a page’s SERP (Search Engine Results Page) ranking and drive further webpage traffic through the video content.  


Want to revolutionise the way your content is viewed?

Get in touch with us at Dialogue. Our project managers are always happy to chat through your particular subtitling needs and requirements. Make sure your content is getting the engagement and view times that it deserves!

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