The Importance of Adding Subtitles: 5 Reasons Why Subtitles Matter

subtitling and captioning


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In a recent white paper, Cisco forecast that, by 2022, 82% of Internet traffic would consist of video content. As we grow more and more accustomed to watching videos and listening to podcasts, multimedia content is becoming an increasingly essential part of many marketing campaigns. A 2021 study by Wyzowl found that “86% of businesses use video as a marketing tool.”

Leading platforms such as YouTube and Vimeo are more popular every year. According to Statista, “YouTube is expected to have nearly 2.85 billion global users by 2025.”

A recent article in Forbes explained that YouTube “is still how the world listens to music,” noting that “an estimated 80% of all views [on the platform] come from outside the U.S.”

Using videos as part of your company’s communication strategy to reach customers is therefore a no-brainer. But what happens if, after making an original high-impact video, sharing it on social media, and optimizing the title and description, the outcome still falls short of expectations? You may have overlooked an important consideration: subtitles. Adding them to a video can greatly boost its impact. Keep reading to learn five reasons why.

The difference between subtitles and captions

Subtitles and closed captions may seem the same, but they’re actually quite different.

1. Subtitles are used to translate any speech in a video. They’re generally intended for people who do not speak the language the video was filmed in. Therefore, any dialogue is translated into another language. Moreover, only speech is transcribed.

2. Captions, on the other hand, can refer to closed captions or open captions:

a. Closed captions are captions that are on a separate track and can be turned on or off, usually by pressing the “cc” button on the video player.

b. With open captions, the captions are burned into the video, meaning they are always showing and cannot be turned off.

Captions transcribe not only what is said, but also any background sounds, such as music or other noises that may be important to understand what is happening. They are intended for people with hearing impairments or who do not want to listen to the video (for example, because they are on a crowded train and do not want to bother the other passengers). They are thus one of the accessibility features that companies should take into account. Captions are also usually in the language of the video, rather than a translation to another language.

Why are subtitles so important?
1. Accessibility

According to the World Health Organization, more than 5% of the world’s population (432 million adults and 34 million children or 466 million people in all) experience disabling hearing loss. This means that without captions or subtitles, a significant part of the world’s population won’t be able to understand a video. Adding them will thus make it accessible to a greater number of people. Being inclusive and accessible is important in its own right. But there are also laws that need to be followed:

· UNITED STATES: In the U.S., the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA)“updates federal communications law to increase the access of persons with disabilities to modern communications. The CVAA makes sure that accessibility laws enacted in the 1980s and 1990s are brought up to date with 21st century technologies, including new digital, broadband, and mobile innovations.”

· SPAIN: In Spain, websites for any of the following types of organizations must be accessible: government agencies and organizations providing public services; companies receiving public funding; private companies with more than 100 employees or a turnover of more than 6 million euros; public and private universities; international cooperation instruments; and audio-visual communication service providers. Therefore, all video and multimedia web content on such sites must have captions and/or subtitles.


Why subtitles are important
2. Consumer preference

According to a study by Verizon Media, 69% of consumers prefer to watch videos without sound when in public, and 25% prefer to do so even in private. At the same time, 80% of these consumers prefer videos with subtitles.

subtitling and captioning and consumer’s preferences


3. Better understanding of the video

The same Verizon Media study also found that consumers prefer to watch videos with subtitles because they understand them better. Not everyone learns the same way. Some people need to see things, while others need to hear them. If the video has subtitles, you can be sure that everyone will receive the intended message, regardless of their learning preference.

4. Engage your customers in their language

It’s crucial to speak to your customers in their own language. In a 2014 study, Dr. Catherine Caldwell-Harris, of the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at the University of Boston, found differences in emotionality between native and foreign languages. She also cited a European study that, after analyzing various language pairs, concluded that advertising slogans were considered more emotional when delivered in the recipient’s native tongue.

Given that there are some 7000 languages in the world, adding translated subtitles to your video will help you reach many more people. Make sure you know where your customers are based and what languages they speak. If you are able to offer a range of subtitles in multiple languages, all the better.

The world’s most spoken languages are: English 16.5%, Mandarin Chinese 14.6%, Hindi 8.3%, Spanish 7%, French 3.6%, Arabic 3.6%, Bengali 3.4%, Russian 3.4%, Portuguese 3.3%, Indonesian 2.6% (2020 est.).

Source CIA World Factbook.

5. Subtitles improve a video’s SEO
SEO improvement with subtitling and captioning

Obviously, it’s crucial to provide high-quality content that your customers not only like but can also learn something from. Your content should also provide added value. Let’s not forget, though, that your goal is to rank high on search engines, too. The more people you reach who watch your video until the end, the better your ranking on Google will be. Subtitles also help secure a better search engine ranking because Google indexes them. In contrast, it does not index automatically generated closed captions. All of this can make a big difference in the number of people who find your website, watch your video, and engage with your brand.


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Rosa Maria Pradas

I co-founded LocalizationLab in 2013, a Linguistic Services company based in Barcelona. Our goal was to establish a company that offers quality linguistic services to help businesses communicate flawlessly with their clients around the world; one in which business is empathetic, human and kind. We offer a working relationship based on reliability, professionalism and respect. The process we use involves the client first hand. We aim for our company to be flexible, in order to strike a healthy balance between the professional life we are so passionate about and the family life we love. I have a Bachelor’s degree in Translation and Interpreting of Spanish, English, Portuguese, and French by the “Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona”, a Postgraduate Degree in Translation (Business, Literary, Dubbing and Subtitling), by the “Universitat Pompeu Fabra”, and a Continuing Education Degree in Translation & New technologies (Localization/Machine Translation) by the “Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona”. In 2017 I also studied a PLD (Program for Leadership Development), and was awarded the IESE PLD Barcelona Scholarship for Women in Leadership, by IESE Business School.

Montserrat Castelltort

Co-founder of LocalizationLab Senior localization PM. University degree in translation.