You hear it asked all the time in podcasts: “subscribe, rate and review.” If you hear it often enough, it starts to lose all meaning. When you rate a podcast, not only do you provide helpful feedback to the podcast producer, but also you strengthen your criteria, your ability to know what you enjoy in a podcast, and whether or not a particular one measures up. Let's take a look at how to rate a podcast, and where. I'll also show you a way to get more ratings and reviews for your podcast, with RateThisPodcast. Then, we'll discuss what good it does for the podcast ecosystem on the whole.
What are Podcast Ratings?
This is a measure of quality, as opposed to a content description (like how games are rated E for Everyone, T for Teen, and so on). A one-to-five-star grading system shows up on different kinds of reviews, anything from movies to restaurants. It's shorthand, and over time it's become misused. People tend to fall into the trap of leaving a five-star rating for anything good, or a one-star rating for anything bad. When you understand how to rate a podcast, though, you'll be able to show the podcast's impact more clearly.
If you want to go beyond merely grading a podcast, and write a detailed review, we have a guide to How to Write Podcast Reviews to Grow Your Show.
How to Rate a Podcast
Did you ever notice that these star rating systems have an odd number of stars? That's to keep a stable mid-point. With an odd number of stars, ratings fall into an either/or dichotomy. Dividing podcasts into “good” versus “bad” doesn't tell us anything.
A Basis For Criteria
Most people, when they react to a product or service, let their gut lead. That's not bad, necessarily. But, consider a few elements before you start clicking on stars. What did you think about:
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- Audio quality. Could you hear and understand everyone on the podcast clearly? Did the editing distract you or take away from the experience? How about the music or sound effects?
- Presentation. Was the presenter's technique noticeable? How so? Is this a voice you'd want next to you on a trans-continental flight?
- Topic and organization: Some podcasts use structured format. Some don't. Others try and don't quite make it. If you started listening to this podcast to learn about exotic fish, but they talked about Downton Abbey for ten minutes, is that an asset or detriment?
When you think about how to rate a podcast, consider that anything in it that makes you feel good or bad does that for a reason.
Some of that might be your reason (i.e., how you feel about Downton Abbey). But, most of it is theirs. If they wanted to chat about Downton Abbey in their exotic fish podcast for 10% of the episode because they want their audience to know that there's more to them than just marine biology, that's a choice. If they do it because they got distracted and just left it in there, that's a consequence.
Think about what the podcast is trying to do, what they use to do it, and whether or not they succeed.
Three out of Five Stars
A three-star podcast is the hardest to review because its value is difficult to pin down. This means that the podcast's positive attributes and negative attributes balanced each other out. It's one of those podcasts you could either take or leave. Take that ambivalent feeling and assign it a star right now. Then, work your way out to the easy stars.
Two out of Five Stars
Now that you know your “I could take it or leave it” rating, let's look at an easier rating. If the positive attributes outweigh the negatives, use two out of five stars.
One out of Five Stars
The lowest rating in any system sends a clear signal to other users to avoid it. Don't use this rating unless there isn't a single positive element to the podcast. It's a “bridge out, turn around” sign. Before you deliver a one-star rating, ask yourself why you're doing this. What good will it do?
Four out of Five Stars
Getting back to the positive side of things, four out of five stars is the rating where the positives outweigh the negatives. Maybe the audio quality and presentation were practiced and polished, but the information presented was inaccurate. Or, the information was accurate and helpful, but you could barely understand the hosts. If it gives you the feeling of “I'd listen again, but I don't know if I would recommend it to others,” that's a four out of five.
Five out of Five Stars
Like its cousin, one out of five, this rating sends a clear signal to other users. Fortunately, it's a recommendation. It's the easiest positive rating to give because we feel good about ourselves for it.
But, people use five-star ratings so frequently that they don't mean much for people who read reviews. Yes, you will make that podcaster feel good. Again, think about what the podcast is trying to do, what they use to do it, and whether or not they succeed.
On top of that, did the podcast:
- help you in some way?
- leave you feeling better than you did when you started listening?
- provide a spontaneous emotional reaction, inspiration, or surprise you?
- make you want to share it with others?
If this podcast provides an experience that's bigger than a combination of words, sounds, and ideas, then give it five stars.
Where to Rate a Podcast
Rate a Podcast on Apple Podcasts
Apple Podcasts, the granddaddy of all podcast directories, has used a star and text rating and review system since its beginning. They make it simple to click on a number of stars in the Apple Podcasts app, and the option to write a review is secondary. They aren't the only podcast directory to do so, though.
Rate a Podcast on Podchaser
Podchaser loves user feedback so much, their main page is a feed of ratings and reviews, along with new releases. When you log into their site, you're a peer in a process rather than a target in an advertising market. Their #Reviews4Good campaign raises money for Meals On Wheels, to incentivize participation.
Rate a Podcast on Spotify
Most recent to the podcast ratings party, are Spotify. You can now easily rate your favorite shows inside the Spotify app on iOS or Android. You need to have listened to at least 30 seconds of a podcast before you can give it a rating. The podcast's overall score will be visible once 10 people have rated it.
Podcast Addict, Stitcher, and Castbox all accept user reviews. On Castbox, it's called, “Leave a comment.” Castbox and Overcast favor a system by which you can click a (single) heart or star to indicate that you liked it or would recommend it.
How Can I Get More Ratings for My Podcast?
Here's a new tool that could be helpful: Rate This Podcast.
If you want your audience to post reviews of your show, you have to make it as simple as possible. Rate This Podcast bridges the gap between listening and reviewing, with a minimum amount of effort, not only for the audience but also for podcasters.
Rate This Podcast provides a shortlink to a web page that shows how to post reviews on different listening apps, and which ones are available for that device.
So, you don't have to ask your audience to rate and review. You can ask them with the link “ratethispodcast.com/[title of your podcast here].” Then, Rate This Podcast guides the user through the process.
Rate This Podcast starts at $9 a month, which comes with a shortlinked page, analytics and review tracking, for one podcast. Their Growth level starts at $29 a month, and offers the same, for up to ten podcasts.
If you have multiple podcasts, this is an efficient way to read and track all of your reviews. It combines the best aspects of a third-party analytics service with a short link service and an explanation of how to leave reviews. Plus, it's customized to the user's device. But, $29 a month could be as much as two months of media hosting.
Why Rate a Podcast?
if you're not a podcaster, but listen to (and care about) podcasts, why wouldn't you? You're the audience. Your reaction is important to whoever made that podcast.
Podcasters tend to work in isolation, and rarely (if ever) get applause. When you notice particular details, have strong feelings about a show, or simply want to say, “your work matters to me,” reaching out to a podcaster is important.
If you are a podcaster, yes, it's still worth your time to rate and review podcasts. Knowing how to rate a podcast helps you keep good standards, maintain your integrity, and stay connected to the rest of the podcast-verse.
Be honest, and remember to ask yourself, “Is it true? is it kind? is it helpful?” If your review doesn't have at least two out of three of these qualities, maybe you should take some time to breathe and move away from the rating system for a bit.
In general, a good reason to know how to rate a podcast and create thoughtful reviews is that it elevates the greater conversation. It raises the bar for quality among podcasts. We could all use a lift, right?