Is The 5 Stars Overrated?

5-star-reviewThe coveted 5 star review, we all want it, we all ask for it but is it becoming overrated? You can’t listen to a podcast without hearing the host or hosts ask for a 5 star review on iTunes, and with that comes a stroke to your ego by getting announced on an episode that you did. Should we as podcasters be asking for a 5 star review just to be reviewed or should we ask for honesty in our reviews? How are we to bring quality to our podcast if we can’t get honest reviews from our listeners?

Is That Review Honest?

When you look at iTunes and you see all those reviews for a podcast that is in the New & Noteworthy category do you find yourself wondering if they are honest reviews? I would say that 95% of those reviews are not honest reviews. No, I don’t have any numbers to back that up, but how many times have you downloaded a podcast because of the 5 star review only to find that you couldn’t stand to listen to five minutes of the episode much less an hour of it. Because of the short life span that a new podcast has in the New & Noteworthy category and all the intense competition coming through that rating and review becomes 100 times more important than it did when podcasting first started almost a decade ago now.

The 5 star review is needed to help increase the placement and the downloads of a podcast. Without these reviews moving up the list and being noticed is hard because their is so many new podcasts coming online each day. Competition for these spots are tough because you need an audience already available that will start rating and reviewing as soon as you come live on iTunes. Communities geared to doing exactly that are springing up all over Social Media in order to do just that. A community of pears who have joined together that give support to each of their members. One of those communities is John Lee Dumas’s, host of EntrepreneurOnFire, Podcaster’s Paradise. Podcaster’s Paradise is a community of podcasters that learn to build and monetize their podcast and support each other to achieve success.

 To Ask or Not To Ask

Knowing the importance of having a 5 star review during those coveted eight weeks of New & Noteworthy, and knowing that not having an honest review can lead to a podcast that does not have a quality base, should podcasters ask for a 5 star review. In my opinion asking for a 5 star review is like a hotel with bad service asking for a high scoring review by giving a discount for the stay. The next person booking a room at that hotel won’t get the truth about the stay and will get the same stinking service as you got. So, if the listener is not honest about what they think about your format or about how the show is, then how will you know what you need to change to make it more appealing to the audience?

If podcasters barter for these 5 star reviews how can they make their podcast a quality podcast that will have longevity in the growing and expanding world of podcasting? One way is sites like this that give quality feedback about the podcast. As you look around our site you will find that I have praised most of the podcasts reviewed, but you will find one that I did not give a good review but I did give some quality feedback. This feedback for Entrepreneur Showdown helped them to understand that some tweaks where needed to improve their podcast. I didn’t stop listening to this podcast and it did get better, because of the changes and the improvements I gave an updated review of the podcast. This shows that a quality review can make for a quality podcast.

While I have written this post bashing the begging of reviews and the manipulation of the system, I will not try to tell you that it should stop. This is the new format for marketing a podcast and without it there is a lot of good podcasts that would not be here today. Eventually those podcasts that have no listeners or dwindling numbers will go away on their own. A lot of good ideas come from podcasting but the lack of quality feedback and listeners eventually they will move on and give up trying to make their podcast a success. This type of cleaning will mean that iTunes will have a self cleaning. So, in my opinion while podcast reviews are not an honest way of achieving they are a must to get your podcast in a position to be noticed.

 

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  • I agree. Asking for 5-stars reviews and rewarding for such is dishonest and ruins the system. Ask for honest reviews, give honest reviews, and don’t mess the system up.

    • Timothy I believe that asking for honest reviews is the best policy but without the begging that goes on for the 5 star reviews we wouldn’t have the popular podcasts we have now. Quality does suffer but eventually the quality catches up to the popularity. Thank you for your comment.

  • Justin Williams

    Great post Eric! Yes you are so correct! As a podcaster it is almost like I am “forced” to ask for these reviews in order to compete for any publicity on i-tunes! I do ask for honest reviews but will often mention that 5 stars are preferred. Ideally you would be asking for completely honest reviews that can help you know where to improve but since you are ranked by i-tunes by your ratings this makes it difficult to just ask people to leave ANY comment bc you want a good rating and review. So yes it is a system which could probably use some work. Honestly I hate asking (or begging lol) for R and R’s but really it is kind of what you have to do at least at first as you are getting your show off the ground! But if they came up with a better system (not sure what lol) I wouldn’t complain 😉

    • Thank you for the comment Justin. In your opinion how could the system be overhauled to work for you as a podcaster?

      • Justin Williams

        I wish I had an answer for that. I do want to actually make something clear. I do think most of the R and R’s are “honest” however I do also think that not nearly as many people would R and R if we didn’t ask them to and unlike maybe a personal e-mail to me giving exact feedback these R and R’s (just like amazon or anywhere else) do reflect our rankings and the way we are perceived so of course we are going to want them to be as high and look as good as possible…

        Regarding any changes, I just wouldn’t know where to begin. It’s kind of like what came first the chicken or the egg. I would like to say base it more on downloads but then it would be tough for new podcasts like mine to get much exposure if they don’t have many downloads, but I guess that is what the new and noteworthy is for…great conversation Eric!

  • Hi Eric! Great post, and an interesting topic. I’ve been in situations where I’ve been asked to leave reviews for podcasts that I don’t feel I can fairly evaluate (usually because I don’t listen to them.) In these situations, I don’t leave reviews.

    In the beginning of your post you say you think 95% of reviews in iTunes aren’t honest, which I have to disagree with. There might be a fair amount of reviews out there that people leave who don’t even listen to the podcast, and therefore are “dishonest”, but don’t you think there are certain situations where someone has left an honest review for podcast that is 5 starts, then you listen to the same podcast and can’t stand it, and it’s simply a difference of opinion?

    I think that once a podcast has established itself with at least 5 episodes, that asking their audience for ratings & reviews is a great thing: you give your audience an opportunity to thank you for the free content you’re providing, which they are 99% of the time more than happy to do.

    • Kate I agree my number is skewed and I will need to do some more research to be fair and not just base an opinion on the number.

      To answer your question I agree there can be a difference in opinion, but wouldn’t you agree if the first thing you hear on a podcast is leave me a 5 star review and I will mention your name hurting the integrity of those reviews. Don’t get me wrong I know John did this when he started out and I would have to say his it the exception because his podcast was exceptional to begin with, but you have some that don’t follow that quality guideline (that is another post all together).

      Thank you for your comment.

  • Entreprenative

    I like this post and is actually something I’ve thought about in terms of should I ask for the 5 star review. I do think that the 5 star review could be flipped on it’s head in terms of what does 5 stars mean. I think that my audience would give a 5 star rating just based on the content. I’m the only Native American podcasting and for someone to lead the way, they’re pretty excited about it and are always supportive of things like that. I do think that I’m NOT a 5 star host. Especially for the first few episodes. I was nervous and didn’t really know how to lead discussions.
    I’m getting better at it and feeling more comfortable but that only comes with scrubbing it up early on. Ha.
    Very interesting article for sure and for now on, I’m going to make it a point to ask for an honest review. Regardless if it’s 1 or 5 star I appreciate their effort and time to leave a review.

    • Thank you for your comment. I would have to say unless your a professional everyone is nervous at first, but to get a quality review and be able to make those changes are what the rate and review should be about.

      I commend you also for asking for honest reviews and ratings but do you feel that will hurt you in the long run or help you?

  • Stephen White

    The biggest factor that goes into my rating lately is sound quality. Nothing makes me crazier than terrible sound that eventually drowns out good content.

    • But with time your quality will rise and you can get better equipment to help with that. If you are still getting good honest reviews minus the quality then it shows you have a quality format that engages with your listener.

      What other factors influence your listeners in giving you a better review? Thank you for your comment.

  • Celest Horton

    I do ask for my listeners to leave me a rating and review, but my plans are for them to be honest so that I can learn what I need to do better to service my community. Of course 5 stars are greatly appreciated. I am always looking to learn and grow and without feedback that wouldn’t be possible.

    • As long as they are honest reviews and not done by bribing the listener with a mention then asking for your listeners to leave you a review is a good deal. In order to improve and to move up the list you have to ask for those reviews.

      If you weren’t getting feedback how could you improve your podcast?

  • I definitely disagree that 95% of those reviews are dishonest. In fact, I would venture to say that the real number is 5% or less. There are over 250,000 podcasts in iTunes today. Of those, the most popular stay popular not because of reviews, but because the hosts know how to engage their audience, and keep them coming back for more. Sure, you’ll have someone’s mom and a few friends give slightly exaggerated reviews, but to say that 95% do that? I believe you are WAY off, and perhaps intimating that 95% of highly reviewed podcasts don’t deserve the high ratings they’ve earned.

    Moreover, dishonest reviews may get a podcaster into the mainstream, but that also exposes them to the masses. The masses have a much louder voice. And shows that don’t meet their criteria will soon be a distant memory anyway.

    • I totally agree with what your saying and I will admit that my opinion of 95% is over exaggerated. You see everyday shows on iTunes that fizzled after a few episodes even though they got some good review numbers. Podcasting is an evolving platform and I am sure changes are still to come.

      How do you think you can build your audience and keep honest reviews? Thank you for your comment.

      • Network with those in your niche. If your niche is motorcycle enthusiasts, then go to motorcycle meetups, attend motorcycle events, hang out in motorcycle forums. Get immersed in your niche, so when you talk about it, people will know you’ve lived it. Plus, what better way to get to know the questions and pain points of your audience?

        Five stars is a nice ego boost. But concentrating on answering the questions your listeners have is the ultimate way to grow your audience, and earn honest reviews.

  • top5percentincome

    I would think podcasters are asking for a 5 star review because they believe they are providing a rating worthy of it. Also, even with getting a shoutout, I would only want to leave a 5 star review and only associate my name with a podcast I believed deserved it and think most people feel that way too.

    I believe most people that take the time to leave a review, are doing so because they are genuinely doing so.

    • Thank you for your comment. You don’t think that sometimes the shout out does not feed into someone’s ego and the desire to hear their name called out on a podcast?

  • It’s part of the system. I don’t see anything wrong with asking for reviews but agree with the other commenters and I hope people give honest feedback. That’s what most important.

    • Thank you for your comment. Honest feedback is always important no matter if its reviews for podcasts or for a movie or TV show.

  • While I am a member of a community that asks for reviews, I will only review positively podcasts that I have listened to more than one episode and decide deserve the rating that I give it. If I do not “like” the podcast for any reason then I do not give a review. While we need ratings and reviews, integrity is important too.

    • Thank you for your comment. Would you not agree those podcasts need your review even if they are not of good enough quality to get a five star rating?

  • Anthony Wells

    Skewed podcast reviews will not affect a podcast’s longevity. If it sucks, no one will listen or they will give it one or two tries, then give up. I also think the podcast listener pool is revolving, what I mean by that is usually a podcast will also get several rounds to be good. New listeners are always on Itunes. I have dug deep into the podcast pool and found some extinct one’s with good value. The five star rating may be a bit watered down, but still has plenty of validity. It has been my experience that most podcast with 5 star rating were worthy of 5 stars depending on the criteria of each listener. I will often judge based on the person even if I have not listened(yet). Some people I just know will do a good job and have value, even if the podcast is a bit sub-par to the rest of their brand. For example, I would co-sign for podcasters paradise without even purchasing it yet, why?, because I know the Entrepreneur On Fire brand puts out valuable information, but if Joe Smo who I did not have a working knowledge of their brand, I would not. Podcast are the same thing. If you know the person is gonna put out valuable stuff before you even listen, that is your opinion, and if it sucks to someone else, well that’s their opinion. The only way I-Tunes will ever get reviews that are more honest is to stop doing reviews and base it on number of complete listens.

    • Thank you for the comment. You make some good points and it is becoming clear that quality is important to listeners. If iTunes considered the popularity of the podcast by downloads how would the host know how to improve the show?

  • Thank you for your insight. I believe listeners subscribe because you produce great content and they enjoy the show. But the key to getting honest reviews on your podcast, you need to find a potential podcast listener and ask them (nicely) to leave a comments and reviews that if they could offer honest reviews of your podcasting efforts, to give you any real insight into why or why not should listen to your podcast. In that way, your audience is going to find enough value in your content that they take the time to evaluate and leave you a review. So, if they wil like it, they’ll be listening to your series soon and posting a review.

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