From a young age, Jeff Kofman knew he wanted to be in the world of news reporting.
As a former CBS and ABC foreign correspondent, Kofman earned an Emmy among other awards for his work covering breaking news events including the Chilean Mine Rescue, Hurricane Katrina and the Arab Spring.
So how does a journalist with over twenty years of experience in the field end up being the CEO of a startup?
In an interview with MediaFile, Kofman said the idea came about in 2013 after he connected with a team of skilled web media designers at MozFest, a global conference sponsored by Mozilla celebrating the open Internet. These individuals, who were to become the future of Trint, had figured out a way to align audio with text, but they were still using traditional manual transcription.
Kofman saw the innovation in this, but knew it could be taken a step further.
“I said, ‘Well, wait a minute. Isn’t automated speech good enough that you could do it that way?’ Because if you could, you could solve the biggest pain in the ass of every journalist’s life and if you solve it for journalists, you solve it for the world,” according to Kofman.
And that’s how Trint, a hybrid of “transcribe” and “interview,” was born.
Fast-forward to 2017 and Trint is in the stages of preparing for the launch of their second version of the product this upcoming summer.
Trint is all about “saving time, saving money and making it easier to get your content to mobile platform because Trint is not just a transcription platform,” according to Kofman. “In 2017, it will become an end-to-end publishing platform with instant integration and social media, instant captioning for social media and embeddable searchable transcripts glued to the audio for any piece of audio or video that you want to post on your own web site for consumers.”
Here’s how the platform works currently.
An uploaded video or audio file can be transcribed in minutes, which produces a transcript “untouched by human hands,” as Kofman explains in the site’s demo video.
Since the text and audio are synced together, it makes it easy to for a user to “search, verify, and if necessary, correct.”
Not only does the platform allow you to highlight, copy, and paste, but it also provides both the timestamp and length of the sound bite. The text below, taken from MediaFile’s interview with Kofman, is an example of how the text pastes into other documents.
[00:00:43] you can say that this was the day that you stopped having to transcribe your interviews. [4.9]
The product isn’t perfect though. Since poor file quality, background noise and other nuances to audio create challenges for transcribing, there can be errors in the transcript.
Ironically, I discovered through my own use of the product for this interview that Trint has trouble recognizing the word “Trint” and is often transcribed it as “trent,” “trick” or “trend.”
But the company has recognized the risk and ensured that you can resolve this on your own.
“The challenge is that you can get a very good quality transcription from speech to text, but you as a journalist understand that one simple error that you don’t catch is the end of your career,” said Kofman. “What Trint does, by marrying a text editor to an audio video player, is that it allows you to search it. And if there are errors you can hear it.”
Trint’s business model emphasizes accessibility and affordability.
The payment plans are divided into two types – individual or team. While individual plans range from $15 an hour to $120 a month for ten hours, team plans start at $40 a month for ten hours and go up $250 a month for twenty five hours of audio with a surcharge for each hour beyond that.
Currently, the product offers transcriptions for three different English accents and twelve other languages and already is being used by major news organizations like ESPN, Vice News and Thomson Reuters.
The next steps for the platform’s 2.0 version will be focused around creating more ways to seamlessly integrate Trint into more stages of the reporting process.
As Kofman explained in a demo, Trint currently allows users to share files through the DropBox like folders, but the 2.0 version will allow news organizations to focus more on SEO, or search engine optimization.
For example, users will be able to post transcripts to their sites directly from Trint with highlighted quotes that can be shared on social media by both the news organization itself and news consumers, driving more traffic back to the website.
“It gives video an afterlife and it gives people access to content that now is just too difficult to post,” explained Kofman.
There are two reasons why a product like Trint wasn’t created until only recently, according to Kofman. The first reason is because the type of technology they rely on has only matured over the past few years.
The second reason is because “it’s not a problem that’s apparent to those who don’t live it.”
Kofman explained that transcription is only a problem for those who rely on it every day for their jobs, like journalists, so it’s a “hidden workflow issue.” People are much quicker to find ways to modernize issues within industries that people use every day, like transportation. An app like Uber addresses problems that people face all the time, so it was only logical that someone would tackle it sooner.
While Kofman found the biggest challenge of running his own business to be the learning curve, he believes his experience as a foreign correspondent has prepared him just as much for the journey.
“When you’re a foreign correspondent in difficult places, you’re always making decisions often that you don’t know what the outcome will be, but you’ve got to make air. You can never miss your slot…And so that gives you the confidence of making decisions.”
As Trint continues to prepare for the launch of their second version of the product this summer, Kofman is prepared to continue to push the boundaries as a journalist navigating through the startup world.