Rev, one of biggest names in transcription—and one of the cheapest services of its kind—opted to alter its pay structure with little warning for thousands of contractors on its platform, some of whom are furious at what they expect will be smaller paychecks from here on out.
Launched in 2010, Rev made a name for itself by charging customers who wanted transcriptions of interviews, videos, podcasts, or whatever else the bargain-basement price of $1 per minute of audio. That’s attracted some notable clients, including heavyweight podcast This American Life, according to the company. (Some teams at Gizmodo and its sister websites have also used Rev for transcriptions.) According to one whistleblower, a little less than half of that buck went to the contractor, while about 50 to 55 U.S. cents ($0.80) on the dollar lined Rev’s pockets.
But in an effort to “more fairly compensate Revvers for the effort spent on files,” Rev announced on an internal message board on Wednesday that its job pricing model would change—with a new minimum of 30 U.S. cents ($0.44) per minute (cpm) going into effect last Friday.
“There was an internal forum post made two days prior, but not everybody checks the forums,” one Revver who wished to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation, told Gizmodo. “A lot of people found out when they logged on on Friday. People are still showing up in the forums asking what’s going on!”
We’ve reached out to Rev for comment and will update when we hear back.
In an update reviewed by Gizmodo, marked as being appended last Wednesday, Rev sought to downplay the impact of the pay algorithm change. “30 cpm will be a starting price for a very small number of jobs. On the other hand, some jobs will now start at 80 cpm,” the company wrote, according to screenshots of the Rev’s internal message board. “The goal is NOT to take pay away from Revvers but to pay more fairly for the level of effort/skill required.”
According to the Rev worker who spoke to Gizmodo, “People have seen cpm start higher on a few jobs, but for the most part, it feels like the floor has shifted downward, and rates have dropped with it.”
Regardless of what goal Rev had in mind, the effect among some transcribers is to see this as a way to short-change workers. They’re right to be sceptical: After all, the gig economy has been the genesis of some clever accounting—whether its platforms shifting their pay algorithms or subsidising wages with workers’ own tips—that rarely favours contractors.