Pop Up shares source code for public media speech-to-text software

Sharing software to make sound searchable



Cultural heritage institutions around the world house millions of hours of audiovisual content — but much of that sonic history is effectively unsearchable. Even when reels, tapes, and discs are digitized, the content they contain is opaque. Each digital file is like a black box, impossible to see within.

This week, we’re thrilled to announce a major open-source software release intended to help combat this problem. Over the course of this year, Pop Up Archive has trained special models, targeted specifically at public media content, for use with the widely-used open-source Kaldi speech-to-text software.

The development of this software is part of our work with WGBH and the American Archive of Public Broadcasting. Our goal is to make the American Archive — which contains over 40,000 hours of the most significant public radio and television programs from the past 60 years — searchable and discoverable.


To train our speech-to-text models, we collected millions of words from pre-existing public media transcripts and other content, then compiled the text into a language model, which is the component of speech-to-text software that deals with the probabilities of sequences of words or phrases.

If you’re curious for more details, take a peek at these slides prepared by Pop Up Archive computational linguist Tali Singer. You’ll also find our source code on Github.

This work was funded by an Institute of Museum and Library Services Research Grant for the “Improving Access to Time Based Media through Crowdsourcing and Machine Learning” project (see the full IMLS grant proposal or visit the American Archive site).

We’re very excited to make this contribution to to digital archiving and audiovisual communities. We’d love to hear from anyone interested in implementing the software at their own institution.

Case study: helping Snap Judgment tell stories with a beat

How Pop Up helps power the popular WNYC show


Snap Judgment is leading the pack of what Ira Glass has termed the “new wave of public radio.” With its one-two punch of stranger-than-fiction tales and cinematic sound design, the WNYC show doesn’t lend to casual listening; Snap’s audio mojo immediately hooks listeners, drawing them into an immersive world of real-life characters and extraordinary experiences.

Joe Rosenberg is one of the many talented producers digging up and dishing out stories for Snap Judgment. “The Writing Is On the Wall,” one of the pieces Joe is most proud of, tells about the murder trial of Alvin Ridley, a reclusive boogeyman to his small hometown of Ringgold, Georgia. Accused of imprisoning his wife for decades before murdering her, Ridley’s case seems open and shut until McCracken Poston, a local lawyer and failed politician, takes an unlikely interest in him and discovers there’s more to the misunderstood man.The retooled player is formatted to provide optimal readability and speed up your editing workflow. Instead of a line-by-line format, the new player displays text in paragraphs, much like you’d expect from any word processing software.


Joe conducted hours and hours of interviews with Poston, jurors, and other Ringgold locals to get the full story in the words of those who lived it. To manage all the tape he logged, Joe turned to Pop Up Archive. “Under deadline, I have to be extremely time efficient. Using Pop Up Archive is a major time management strategy for me,” he says.

Pop Up Archive transcripts not only save time that would otherwise be spent transcribing by ear, but they also give structure to Joe and his colleagues’ production process. “The transcriptions help me listen to the audio differently. I use them to select cuts from the raw tape and think about how I’m going to organize the piece,” Joe says.

We’re proud to help Snap Judgment save time and stay on point to deliver its trademark “storytelling with a beat” week after week.

Hear more of Joe Rosenberg’s work:
Headless Chicken
Speech Writer

Subscribe to Snap Judgment

Major improvements to Pop Up Archive

Better workflow, better prices: big news from Pop Up Archive


It’s time to let the cat out of the bag. We’ve been working behind the scenes for months to make Pop Up Archive even easier and more affordable to use, and we’re excited to chat you up about our new changes.

The spiffed up new look of your transcripts may have given us away. We just launched an updated version of our audio/transcript player that improves playback and text-editing functionality.

The retooled player is formatted to provide optimal readability and speed up your editing workflow. Instead of a line-by-line format, the new player displays text in paragraphs, much like you’d expect from any word processing software.


We also made the transcript more interactive: audio auto-plays for whatever text you’re editing, instead of requiring you to click a play button. Keyboard commands enable you to pause or rewind without having to click at all. Finally, we streamlined the process for adding and assigning speakers.

We could go on about the new player, but you should experience its many splendors for yourself. Give it a spin and see how easy it is to review and edit transcripts.


If you’re on a paid plan, your invoice may have tipped you off as well: new rates went into effect this month. As Pop Up Archive grows and speech-to-text technology becomes more cost-effective, we’re passing our savings on to you. Take advantage of our lower rates and upgrade to transcribe more audio:

1 Hour monthly: $20 => $15
5 Hours monthly: $75 => $65
10 Hours monthly: $150 => $120
20 Hours monthly: $300 => $240
25 Hours monthly: $375 => $300

As always, we welcome your feedback, questions, and suggestions.
Happy transcribing!
The Pop Up Archive team

Pastime: streamlining the podcast app

Helping new listeners discover podcasts with the Audiosear.ch API

Software engineer Andrew Roper first got the idea to build Pastime — a “rigorously simplistic” audiobook and podcasting app — when a relative was diagnosed with macular degeneration.

With its large buttons and straightforward navigation, Pastime was made to suit the needs of visually impaired people. That challenge prompted Andrew to consider broader issues of accessibility.

“A non-technical, simplistic experience is crucial to drawing in new users. My aim is to declutter podcasting technology to make it as easy as possible for newcomers to consume and discover audio content,” Andrew says.

Building a sleek, minimalist interface and deep-linking content within the app, Andrew hopes to make streaming podcasts in Pastime as intuitive as turning on a radio.

“Overcast, Castro, and Apple’s native app all cater to podcast enthusiasts who already know their way around. I’m trying to reach people who aren’t quite sure what they’re doing,” he says.

But Pastime isn’t just your grandma’s app. Andrew is problem-solving basic user experience issues that prevent the majority of mobile users from giving on-demand audio a go.

In a recent Nieman Lab article, Panoply’s Jacob Weisberg bemoaned the medium’s consumer gap, saying, “It’s still much too hard to get podcasts. People who know how to do it do it quite easily. People who don’t know how to do it find it a little bit intimidating. There’s so much infrastructure that needs to be built and upgraded.”

Even for the podcast in-crowd, discovering and sharing new content is extremely problematic. After designing Pastime’s basic functionality, Andrew began tackling what he calls podcasting’s Netflix dilemma — how do consumers find anything amidst the overwhelming number of choices?

Andrew turned to the Audiosear.ch API, which he uses as the backend database for Pastime. Not only does Audiosear.ch allow users to search for content by show, network, category, people, or topic, it also lists top-rated shows and tastemaker audio picks.

Andrew hopes to further integrate Audiosear.ch into Pastime’s own curation feature — Shortlist — which lets users create and share streamable playlists of episodes.

“There is just so much good content out there, but it’s hard to know where to start,” Andrew says. “Pastime provides an entry point.”

Try Pastime

Case Study: How transcripts help branded podcasts

Telling great stories on a budget










Punk rocker-turned-entrepreneur Brian Adoff has, of late, been trying his hand at podcasting. While considering marketing strategies for his software company, Swift Data Technology, Brian did what more and more companies are undertaking: he turned to on-demand audio to get the word out.

“From a business perspective, podcasts are an ideal format for content marketing because you can get right in someone’s ear. Instead of selling them something, you’re telling a story,” Brian says.

Owing to his DIY punk roots, Brian decided to produce the podcast himself. “I taught myself by listening to lots of podcasts about making podcasts,” he jokes. The end result was Campus Aux, a series of interviews with Swift Data users and industry experts.

Having discovered the PR benefits of his company’s podcast, which he shared with potential clients and partners, Brian founded Riveting FM, which pitches and produces series for other business-to-business companies. He sold his first client, door lock manufacturer Assa Abloy, on Unlocked, a six-episode podcast that gives first-person accounts of security-crisis situations like the recent UCLA shootings.

I used to start out by explaining to the sales team what exactly a podcast is. But now I think we’re hitting a tipping point as podcasting becomes an increasingly mainstream medium,” Brian says.

Panoply produces GE’s podcast The Message, which was #1 on the iTunes charts from November 21-25, 2015.

Unlocked is part of a rising trend of corporate podcasts, as Fortune recently reported (“Corporate America’s Love Affair With Podcasting”). GE, eBay, State Farm and the like are hiring powerhouse podcast networks like Gimlet and Panoply to oh-so-subtly use narrative content to promote their brands.

“I’m not Gimlet or Panoply. I’m not even a radio veteran,” says Brian, “but I taught myself how to produce a good story on a tight budget. That’s something business people can appreciate.”

Pop Up Archive helps Brian “run-and-gun” his one-person operation to stay on time and under cost. The timestamped transcripts, he explains, help him work as time-efficiently as possible and keep focused on producing new content.

Venturing ever deeper into the podcast realm, Brian is using the proceeds fromUnlocked and other contract jobs to produce Riveting FM’s first original series, “Drink Drank Drunk.” Sounding every bit as niche as his industry podcasts, though a good deal wackier, Brian describes the show as a heated discussion on grammar, featuring a heavy dose of alcohol and feminism.“Overall, I’m just trying to make shows that might not otherwise get made,” he says.

Learn more about Riveting FM

Take the Audiosear.ch clipmaker for a spin

Share your favorite audio clips on Twitter

Have you ever tried to describe a favorite podcast episode to a friend only to realize it’s more of a “guess you had to be there” situation? Ever wanted to share a zinger of a clip, but feel silly sending a podcast link and timecode? We’re right there with you.

Social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook are optimized for text, images, and video — but not audio. How do we make audio content flourish on our feeds just as much as photos, gifs, and videos? Let the words speak for themselves, we say. The Audiosear.ch clipmaker makes it easy for anyone to select a favorite podcast moment and share it on social media as a short auto-playing video. 

We’re pretty psyched and can’t wait to share it with the world. But first, we want your input. Sign up to be one of the first to test the Audiosear.ch clipmaker today! All you need is a Twitter account.


The Audiosear.ch clipmaker is the result of years of experience and observations in shareable audio. Segmenting audio files into snappy, quotable moments can help change the way people experience podcasts, taking them beyond the solitary work commute or dish-washing routine into more people’s daily lives and interactions.

Lots of people have lamented and examined the un-shareability of audio on the web, from Stan Alcorn’s 2014 piece “Why Audio Never Goes Viral” to various NPR experiments with social audio. Shareable audio was a popular topic at This American Life’s Audio Hackathon in the fall of 2015 and ultimately led to a Knight Foundation-funded prototype for shareable audio. Most recently, WNYC announced the open-sourcing of their producer-facing Audiogram Generator.

Our goal is for the clipmaker to be useable by anyone and embeddable anywhere on the web. The clipmaker will function for any of the 10,000s of podcasts indexed (and ultimately transcribed) by Audiosear.ch.

Click on any of the tweets in this email to see the clipmaker in action. Clipmaker tweets include words as they are spoken in the audio and links to subscribe in iTunes — or potentially other platforms.

Sign up to beta test the Audiosear.ch clipmaker!

National Federation of Community Broadcasters partners with Pop Up Archive 

Bringing audio search tools to local public media

Since 1978, the National Federation of Community Broadcasters has advocated for radio stations serving America’s heterogeneous neighborhoods and covering local stories. The over 200 public media member stations of the NFCB generate large quantities of audio and video that document diverse voices from across the United States — but these recordings are nearly impossible to search.

Today, we are excited to announce that the National Federation of Community Broadcasters is partnering with Pop Up Archive to offer discounted services to the NFCB network. NFCB member stations will be able to make it easier than ever before to find stories of interest and pinpoint exact search terms and phrases within public media audio and video files. Read more in the press release.

“Communities everywhere face the challenge of preserving their history,” said NFCB Membership Program Director Ernesto Aguilar. “Who tells it and how is where NFCB and Pop Up Archive come together for something far greater than just audio — we’re making sure community radio documents our cities and towns for youth, people of color and everyone wanting to be heard.”

Through new service offerings available exclusively to the NFCB’s 200+ member stations, Pop Up Archive will automatically transcribe, timestamp, and generate keywords for the stations’ audio collections — whether current news or decades of historic audio and video recordings.

“NFCB has long been committed to diversity, and this opportunity with Pop Up Archive gives so many voices, communities and constituencies a chance to finally be heard in a richer, more engaging way,” said NFCB Chief Executive Officer Sally Kane. “Community radio is best positioned to tell the stories, and we are enthusiastic about this opportunity for community radio to contribute to so many conversations.”

A search engine for election podcasts

As the U.S. presidential election ratchets up, political podcasts have seen a handsome spike in the iTunes charts. The Hillary Clinton campaign recently debuted its own show, With her, co-hosted by Clinton herself and Max Linsky of the Longform podcast.

It’s exciting to see the podcast medium take on a more expansive role in mainstream political discourse, where candidates’ words are replayed, parsed, and meticulously scrutinized, especially in the home stretch of the election.

But much of what is said in podcast interviews and discussions is completely invisible to web searches, making it difficult to find and share.

At Audiosear.ch, Pop Up Archive’s sister project, we’re helping to overcome that obstacle by generating full-text transcripts and descriptive tags that help identify and reference key moments of interest in podcasts. Here’s a sampling of quotes from Audiosear.ch transcripts that highlight recent developments as heard in 2016 presidential election podcasts.

With her: “Hi, Hillary”
Since the DNC convention, Hillary’s campaign (and podcast, by extension) has worked to portray her in a more personal light, with the hope that the beer-drinking, exercise-averse Hillary may resonate more with the average voter.

“I try to get exercise. Now I’m not going to pretend that I like it, because I don’t.” —Hillary Clinton

With her peaked at #1 on the iTunes charts on August 14, 2016. See more charts

The Savage Nation: 8-18
On the heels of his Milwaukee address to African American voters, Donald Trump discussed his “outreach efforts” on the right-wing Savage Nation.

Savage: “How would you help poor black people in this nation?”
Trump: “We need spirit. We don’t have spirit. We don’t have any spirit whatsoever. We need law and order. We have to have it. And that was my speech last night.”

The Run-Up: “Why She’s Distrusted”
Some commentators claim that Clinton’s growing margins in the polls are more of a referendum on Trump than a vote for Hillary.The Run-Up discusses persisting credibility issues that surround the Clinton campaign.

“Why wasn’t [Hillary] willing to have a government email account like every other employee of the State Department? That goes to the broader issue around the Clintons: that they simply don’t view themselves as being subject to the same regulations that the rest of the world has to comply with.” —Mark Landler, White House correspondent for the New York Times ​

The Run-Up peaked at #2 on the iTunes charts on August 16, 2016. See more charts

No One Knows Anything: “Trump’s Foreign Policy Is Foreign To The Republican Party”
Some top-ranking Republicans who have broken with party line to support Hillary say they find Clinton more reliable, especially on issues of national security.

“I wouldn’t trust Donald Trump to run the kitchen in a Wendy’s, much less our nuclear arsenal which is the largest and most capable nuclear force in the world.” —Republican National Security adviser John Noonan

FiveThirtyEight Elections: “Clinton Republicans”
Some say Republican support for Hillary isn’t that far of a stretch across the aisle, given her moderate-to-conservative foreign policy stance.

“The easiest Republicans who are able to reconcile with Clinton are the foreign policy establishment because she is pretty centrist…even a little bit hawkish, whereas on economic policy fairly liberal and social policy very liberal, which is kind of the way the institutional Democratic Party is going.” —political statistician Nate Silver

Rachel Maddow Show: 8/16
Restructuring in light of slipping poll numbers, Trump has hired Roger Ailes, the recently deposed head of Fox News, and Steve Bannon, CEO of Breitbart News — controversial picks that have added to the media circus surrounding his campaign.

“It’s a little odd that [Roger Ailes] the man at the center of the highest profile sexual harassment scandal since Bill Cosby would be brought on board by a presidential campaign while that sexual harassment scandal was still erupting… Of course, what’s expected about it is that if there’s anybody that doesn’t care about that kind of scandal, it’s Donald Trump.”

Glenn Beck: “Brad Thor: No Longer#Never Trump”

Glenn Beck, known for his incendiary right-wing politicking, calls Steve Bannon’s journalistic integrity into question now that he’s taken up with Trump.

“Steve Bannon, who is one of the worst people, now he’s become the CEO of the Trump campaign… Andrew Breitbart would be spinning in his grave.”

Search podcasts at Audiosear.ch

Archiving the pioneering voices of punk


Punk broke in the summer of 1976 and spread like a heatwave as the Ramones made their eponymous debut and invaded England with their tough, no-frills rock. Long incubating in the post-hippie era, punk was named for the sonic deviance of bands like the Sex Pistols — who debuted Anarchy in the U.K. that same year — the Buzzcocks, Patti Smith, Television, the Clash, and countless others armed with noise-bearing instruments.

More an attitude than a sound, punk began as a youthful distillation of anti-establishment politics, street grit, and even a dose of French surrealism (Richard Hell famously claims to have stolen his enfant terrible act from Arthur Rimbaud). It spawned various sub-genres, many still heard today, and contributed DIY (do it yourself) to the cultural lexicon, championing hyper-localism when it was still as alien as mohawks and fashionably ripped clothes. Today we celebrate 40 years of punk with audio artifacts of the shock heard around the world.

1. Interview with Penelope Spheeris (Bullseye)

Jesse Thorn interviews director Penelope Spheeris about Decline of Western Civilization, her 1979 documentary on the LA punk scene featuring candid interviews with teen punkers and live performances by the Germs, X, Black Flag, and others. The documentary captures the youthful exuberance of the scene as well as the nihilism and addiction problems that befell many.

2. Just Girls: The Hidden World of Patti Smith and Judy Linn (Kitchen Sisters)

The Kitchen Sisters share audio snapshots of punk icon Patti Smith, intimate and quotidian, as recorded by her friend Judy Linn in the ’70s. The vignettes capture the interior life and voice of the quirky and dreamy youth Patti writes about in her seminal biography Just Kids.



“To me, punk rock is the freedom to create, freedom to be successful, freedom to not be successful, freedom to be who you are. It’s freedom.” —Patti Smith

3. Maximum Rocknroll: Punk magazine, radio show, record label, and vinyl archive since 1977 (KALW)

KALW gives a tour of the Maximum Rocknroll house, ground zero of West Coast punk, headquarters of the fanzine, and home to the world’s largest archive of punk records. As punk arose in reaction to the excesses of ’70s rock and hippie idealism, fanzines were used to get the word out about underground shows and albums. In 1982, Jello Biafra of the Dead Kennedys and Maximum Rocknroll founder Tim Yohannan released a compilation of Northern California and Nevada punk rock; the album’s liner notes would be published as the first issue of MRR, which has stayed true to its austere form — black-and-white newsprint — well into the digital age.

4. The Stranger (Snap Judgement)

Musician Damien Jurado tells about his adolescent retreat into the cabalistic world of punk zines and records, and the shabby janitor who got him hooked (no spoilers, but Damien’s punk pusher would go on to revolutionize the genre).

5. Rocket To Russia (Sound Opinions)

Jim DeRogatis and Greg Kot talk to drummer Tommy Ramone, who lays down the origin story of punk and details from recording the Ramones’ first three records, including Rocket to Russia. Jim and Greg dissect the 1977 classic record and its punchy, two-minute anthems including “Sheena is a Punk Rocker” — the epitome of the genre, according to the rock doctors.

6. Carrie Brownstein on Punk Rock and ‘Portlandia’ (Forum)

Sleater Kinney guitarist Carrie Brownstein discusses her coming up through the Olympia punk and riot grrrl scenes, feminism, and her new memoir Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl.

How to use Pop Up Archive’s plugin for Adobe Audition

 Working with raw tape often means toggling from window to window in order to align transcripts with audio editing software. With Pop Up Archive’s extension for Adobe Audition, you can simplify this process by bringing audio and transcript editing into one workspace.

We’ll walk you through the steps of setting up and using the extension in Adobe Audition.

 Download the Pop Up Archive add-on and open it in your editor

Once you’ve downloaded the Pop Up Archive add-on from the add-on store, you can open up the Pop Up Archive panel from the “Windows” drop-down menu under “Extensions.

You can snap the Pop Up Archive window into place by clicking the upper left corner and dragging the “Editor” panel in the dock.

Sync a Pop Up Archive audio item with a file in Audition

Open an audio file in Audition and transcribe by dragging and dropping it into the Pop Up Archive panel.

Once the file has finished transcribing, you can sync the transcript with your audio but selecting the Audition file and then pressing play in Pop Up Archive. Jump to any moment of interest by clicking the Pop Up Archive waveform or transcript — the waveforms sync up!

Note: Audition will sync with whatever file is open in Pop Up Archive, so make sure you have the same file open in both windows.

Search your transcript and mark key moments

Waveform syncing enables you to search for moments of interest in your Pop Up Archive transcript and mark that same moment in Premiere.

Find key moments of interest using the search toolbar. Type in a keyword and press the play button to the left of the line of text. Now toggle over to your Audition editing panel. Create markers by pressing hotkey M to indicate the beginning and end points of your clip. Copy to new and then rename this segment.

Upload more audio

Got more audio? Drag and drop audio into the extension window. Remember to select the new file in the Audition panel and press play in Pop Up Archive to sync the files.