Reviews help podcasters, but not in the competitive way most imagine. Success isn't a battle between, “who wins the best of the five-star podcasts award,” and, “this podcast was so bad it hurt me. Now I seek revenge.”
Ranking, like being #87 out of #100 on a chart, doesn't really say much about a podcast's uniqueness or value. Reviews can help podcasters fine-tune their podcast episodes, and show them some appreciation. Across the board, podcast reviews can show trends about what audiences value. If we think too much about how our podcast ranks on a chart, or how many times an episode's downloaded, we lose sight of how the podcast can actually engage and help people. Podcast creators should review podcasts, not just on Apple Podcasts, but also on social media and Podchaser. We need to get numbers (ranking, downloads, stats) out of our heads, stop comparing, and focus on meaning. This helps podcasters to elevate the dialogue in podcasting, network with other podcasters, and get a bit more attention for their own work.
Deeper Dive: How to Get More Podcast Reviews
Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t write podcast reviews because they don’t know how. Here’s a method to write podcast reviews that are brief, honest, and above all, constructive.
Caveat for Podcasters
In case this isn't already obvious, do not self-promote in the text of your review. That's not the purpose. If your review is honest and constructive, it will reflect positively on you. That'll come back to help you in the long run. But, if you write, for example, “I think Podcast X has a catchy theme tune, it's almost as clever and catchy as the theme tune to my podcast, Podcast Y!” your review loses all credibility (though you certainly will be unforgettable).
Start Your Podcast Review Privately
While you're listening to the episode you want to review, or just after listening, scribble some thoughts down on a piece of paper. Why not just type them into an app? Because, the act of typing the notes you scribbled previously will help you to refine your thoughts. This scribbling is your initial reaction. You'll want to write four things about what you heard:
- how you found, or why you went looking for, that particular podcast or episode,
- what's most memorable
- what was confusing, or any questions you have
- some aspect of the podcast that makes you have a strong opinion.
Here are my scribbled notes from while I listened:
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Here's my review, based on the notes I took.
I found this podcast episode while looking for information about seaweed and thyroid health. It was really surprising to learn about seaweed's amino profile. The interview was quick and informative. I thought it couldn't be safe to gather and eat seaweed. But, the episode went on to discuss how to get info about water protection. Hearing about foraging for seaweed in the winter made me feel really cold, but I'll ask my local health food shop to help me get more seaweed in my meals!
My notes are show-specific details, but they wouldn't be helpful. Rewriting my notes helped me to write a podcast review which gives useful information for future listeners and the podcaster.
Why Write Podcast Reviews This Way?
Sticking to a few steps results in a short review. You don't want to ramble or go off-topic. This method of writing podcast reviews is based on Liz Lerman’s Critical Response Process. Her book, Critical Response Process: a method for getting useful feedback on anything you make, from dance to dessert, can help you think about and express your opinion objectively about anything. Never again will you be caught tongue-tied when your crazy aunt asks what you think of her new Christmas sweater.
You don't have to be Pauline Kael or Roger Ebert. Be honest, constructive, and brief.
“Is It True, Kind, or Helpful?”
Admittedly, you will hear some podcasts that may throw you into an absolute rage. Maybe the topic is interesting, but the delivery is sloppy. Maybe the presenter engaged in hate speech, or the gain staging was set to +20 dB. What if you can't say anything nice at all? Don't waste too much time or energy on these. Leave an honest review of what was wrong, without elaboration or exaggeration. Shake it off, and move on to review something that you can talk about constructively.
How Many Stars In A Podcast Review?
Five-star and one-star reviews are used so frequently that they cease to have much meaning. Don't get me wrong, if something I work on gets a five-star review, it always makes me feel happy. However, you shouldn't feel forced into an either/or situation. Here's a way of thinking about what a number of stars from one to five can mean.
- Five stars: I want more of this, and other people probably will too.
- Four stars: This podcast was right for me, and I've subscribed or I would.
- Three stars: The good aspects didn't outweigh the bad and vice versa. I feel completely ambivalent about it.
- Two stars: This podcast wasn't right for me and I wouldn't subscribe.
- One star: I don't want more of this, and I don't recommend it.
One-star reviews only exist as warnings to other listeners. Leaving a one-star review on someone's work is like kicking a wounded animal. Unless the podcast engaged in hate speech, attempted to incite violence, and you want to warn others away from it, do you really need to spend time leaving one-star reviews? No. You've got more important things to do.
Misdirection Doesn't Help
Some reviewers will try to make something called “a compliment sandwich.” On the outside, it seems as though the review is complimentary. But, at its core, it's negative. For example, I once saw a restaurant review that said, “Lettuce and mayonnaise lovers, rejoice! At last, a restaurant with more iceberg since the Titanic! Your tastebuds won't notice a thing!” Admittedly, some people like flavorless food loaded with mayonnaise. That review might be helpful to someone. But, jokes don't help the restaurant find ways to improve.
Copy and Edit Before You Post
Read over your review and ask yourself, is it true? Is it constructive? Is it helpful? Would I want people to know that I wrote it? If the answer to all of these is yes, then you're ready to post and share it.
Where To Share Podcast Reviews?
“Review us on iTunes!” has been a constant refrain in podcast outros. But, Apple Podcasts isn't the only place to share reviews. Don't limit yourself. Podchaser works hard to increase involvement by podcasters and audiences alike. Users can make lists of podcasts or episodes by topic. You can even follow individual podcasters and voice artists. The flexibility of how much audiences can interact with their favorite podcasts makes this better than IMDB.
The best way to control sharing your review, and use it to connect with others, is to post it on your own social media. Copy and paste your review into a tweet or Facebook post, and tag the podcast. It's very likely (though not 100% guaranteed) that the podcast will re-tweet you. They may also screenshot your review and post it on their social media channels.
Why Bother Writing Podcast Reviews?
This isn't a lot of work, but it is some time and effort. Why write podcast reviews at all? It shows people that you genuinely care about podcasts and your podcast’s topic. Writing podcast reviews shows that you listen carefully enough to podcasts to construct and share positive thoughts about them. Your reviews will enhance your reputation as a podcaster, and your podcast's image. It elevates the conversation about podcasts in your topic.
Making a podcast episode isn't difficult. Sustaining and promoting a podcast, long-term, is more of a puzzle. In The Podcast Host Academy, we're always working on new ways for people to make good podcasts and improve them. We have courses, downloadable resources, and weekly live Q&A sessions to answer any questions you may have. Plus, with Alitu, you can streamline the process even more. Won't you join us?