How to Use Mean Reviews To Improve Your Podcast & Gain More Listeners

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Negative podcast reviews can be hard to read but they can also be useful for promotional purposes and community building.

We're obsessed with podcast reviews. Especially good ones. This is unfortunate because mean reviews can be useful. In this article, we'll look at two types of mean reviews and suggest some ways that you can use them to improve your podcast.

We'll use the Mean Review Utilization Workflow (MRUW) to put these reviews to work:

  1. decide if the review is constructive criticism OR a personal preference
  2. take action with the mean review
  3. go back to creating good content quickly

The Mean Podcast Review Utilization Workflow (MPRUW)

The good news is that you got a review. Yes, it's not a positive one, and that can hurt. But you got engagement from a listener, which is positive, even if the words and meaning in that feedback don't feel positive yet.

I like how Daniela of the Moldovan Abroad podcast looks at mean reviews. She puts them into 2 categories: constructive criticism & personal preference. This distinction will be used in this article because it helps decide what to do with each type of mean review.

To make this process as painless as possible, we're going to use the Mean Podcast Review Utilization Workflow (MPRUW). It will help you get some emotional distance from this sting and help you gain more listeners at the same time. By the time you've completed MPUW, you'll understand how valuable mean reviews can truly be. And you may even start wondering how you can get more reviews.

Step 1: Decide if the Review Is Constructive Criticism or a Personal Preference Mean Review

This is a tricky step because all non-positive feedback can feel the same: awful. So, I'll use some examples to demonstrate which is which.

What's a Personal Preference Mean Podcast Review?

Mean podcast reviews based on personal preference are easier to pick out like this one for the Strong Sense of Place podcast. Who, by the way, now have 325 reviews on Apple Podcast alone, with an overall rating of 4.9.

1 star review for Strong Sense of Place podcast. "Stick to the blog. The blog has book recommendations and you don't have to suffer through the constant giggling. No, seriously. Go back and count how many times laughter ensues at the close of sentences that are not remotely funny."
Mean review for Strong Sense of Place podcast

This 1-star review is personal preference because they're complaining about laughter. How much laughter and what they find funny is a preference. Here are some other common indicators of a personal preference mean podcast review.

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In the mean review, did the reviewer do any of the following:

  • say something negative about your voice
  • attack you as a person. (racist, sexist or any rude comments)
  • write something that makes no sense
  • include info based on opinions, rather than facts

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you've got a personal preference mean podcast review. Proceed to step 2.

What's a Constructive Criticism Mean Podcast Review?

It's probably time for me to confess that this type of review isn't always mean. It can feel mean because it's not a compliment. But, it's usually written from a good place. Any listener that takes the time to leave this kind of detailed review is doing it because they want to see (or hear) you succeed.

For example, Hector of Marketing Your Podcast shared some constructive criticism reviews that he got in this tweet:

Tweet from Hector of Marketing Your Podcast. "We got some negative reviews about the amount of ads we had at the beginning of the show. So we revamped our intro sequence and it's been a game changer for our listening experience."

They originally got many 1 and 2 star reviews because they had 3-4 ads in the pre-roll spot. After these reviews, they decided to play the ads in different parts of the episode. Since then, they've stopped receiving low-star reviews.

In the mean review, did the reviewer do any of the following:

  • highlight an aspect about your podcast that you were thinking about changing?
  • mention how many episodes that they've listened to, or how long they've been a listener?
  • give you a high star rating, but write some negative feedback in the text part?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you've probably got a constructive criticism review.

If you're fortunate, you may get a super fan to leave a very detailed and helpful review, like Daniel J. Lewis did. He created an entire episode sharing a lengthy constructive criticism mean review from a dedicated fan of Audacity to Podcast.

Step 2: Take Action on The Mean Podcast Review

By taking action on your mean podcast review, I need to stress that I don't mean revenge. This Stoic quote sums up perfectly why you shouldn't try to bite back on a mean review.

“How much better to heal than seek revenge from injury. Vengeance wastes a lot of time and exposes you to many more injuries than the first that sparked it.”—SENECA, ON ANGER, 3.27.2.

So what should you do instead?

Personal Preference Mean Podcast Reviews

One of the best things you can do with a personal preference mean review is to share it as a creatively vulnerable moment with your listeners and/or podcasting communities. Use it for its' comedic value. If you're comfortable with self-deprecating humor, do that. If not, mention that you got this review and share your emotions about it. It stung, it feels bad, etc.

Your community/communities will most likely console you and remind you about the good things you're doing with the podcast. Who knows, this vulnerable sharing moment might even inspire a listener who's been meaning to give you a good review to write one asap.

Constructive Criticism Mean Review

Let's revisit Daniela of Moldovan Abroad. When she started her interview podcast, she added the guest information to the show notes but didn't have an episode introduction. A listener left her a review saying that they didn't know who she was talking to and requested that she add an intro. She thought about it and decided that this was constructive criticism. She's been creating intros to her podcast ever since.

It's always nice to mention the reviewer in the episode where the change is made since it was their idea. But, as always, check with them first to make sure they don't want to stay anonymous.

TIP: If you've never actively checked for your podcast reviews, you may want to include it in your monthly podcast workflow.

Step 3: Go Back to Creating Good Content Quickly

One of the best things you can do when you get a mean review is to handle it quickly. You'll want to focus on creating good content far above anything else. Don't fixate on the negative part of any mean review. Either take action or forget about it.

podcast judge 5 star review

How Does The Mean Podcast Review Utilization Workflow Help You Gain Listeners?

Using listener reviews to fix your podcast flaws is one of the quickest ways to improve your podcast. Since word of mouth is a very effective way to spread the news about a podcast, when you let your listeners help you improve the podcast, they're more likely to tell their friends about the podcast.

And since you can see how helpful it is to get mean reviews, you can even write some for the podcasts you listen to. Doing this can help grow both their podcast audience and yours at the same time.

Start Your Podcast

If you're reading this article because you're thinking of starting a podcast but are scared of the exposure: how will people review your podcast? Being prepared is the best way to get rid of those fears! We can help. Check out our guide to How to Start A Podcast for the basics. For a deeper dive into podcasting equipment, planning, editing, and promotion, check out The Podcast Host Academy. We'd love to help you on your journey.