Dealing With Haters and Bad Reviews on your Podcast

iTunes reviews

It happens to the best of us. We’re reading through all the reviews of our podcast filling up on a healthy dose of pride, then we see the one (or more) reviews that stop our heart for a second because of how awful it is.

Example review that isn’t too far from truth:
“This might be the worst show I’ve ever heard. The audio sounds like it’s coming from a tin can and I’ve heard this very same interview on 12 other shows. The host interrupts constantly and just sounds like he’s reading a script. If I hear ‘Wow, that’s powerful’ one more time, I’m going to vomit. I highly recommend you avoid this show and listen to one of the thousand other shows that really do podcasting right.”


That hurts. But before you put your head down and walk away in shame, take this moment to reflect on reflect on real feedback that could make your show better.

When I had my show evaluated by a professional radio show evaluator, he sent me an audio of him picking it apart from beginning to bitter end. Some of the things he said hurt, made me angry, made me cringe, and made me believe that I was doing everything wrong. I remember my girlfriend heard it with me and she started yelling at my computer saying how wrong he was.

For the next few days I sat with his words bouncing around in my head. All those hours I spent recording the show, editing it, producing it and putting it out into the world wasted.

At least, that’s what I was thinking at the time. It didn’t matter that I got 2000 downloads that day because that one person criticized almost every aspect of it.

After I got over myself I decided to break down his criticisms into facts. I’ll share with you what he said in the way of facts:

  1. The intro is illegal and you are violating trademark. You cannot use licensed music in your intros, even if you parody them.
  2. The intro is too long.
  3. You jump into the next segment and I have no idea what’s next. It’s random and disorganized.
  4. The show is too long.
  5. The show ended without warning and left me hanging. I had no idea it was over.
  6. Overall the show has potential, but it needs to mature.

Still hot under the collar even after breaking down his criticisms into statements of fact (no emotional words), I decided to ask myself:

What would the show be like if I changed everything he suggested? 

I thought about it and came to the conclusion that I was so stuck on how the show was that I wasn’t looking at how I could improve it. Here I was being more offended than open to improving that I almost didn’t do anything.

But I’m glad I did. In fact that evaluation, as much as it was hard to hear, was the very kick in the pants I needed to “mature” my show and get it into the ears of the masses. So that’s what I did. I made a commitment that at episode 100 I would change the format of the show and just try it out. After all, I could always change it back right?

At first, there was much disappointment in the disappearance of the music intros. I had listeners writing from all around telling me how much they missed the intros but… they were still listening. 

In fact, after all the changes people still tuned in. Not only that, the show doubled in audience size and is still growing in listenership month after month.

The show has now matured and the results speak for themselves, all because I chose to listen to the one person who made me the most upset.

Think of it as fire under your butt to get you out of your own head and into the person you are trying to speak to. Sure, if you’re getting a 1000 good reviews and one terrible one, you probably don’t need to change anything. But if the good reviews are lacking, and you start to see the bad ones maybe it’s time to mature your show too.

Let’s break down that example review at the beginning of this article into statements of fact:

  1. The audio quality is lacking.
  2. The interview is similar to other interviews on similar podcasts.
  3. The host interrupts the guest.
  4. The host sounds like he is reading a script.
  5. The host repeats, “That’s powerful” quite a bit.

When we break it down to things we can control, we can choose to change what we believe needs changing.

If this was your show, could you look at each one of these and come up with a solution to each one? I bet you could evaluate your own show and compare it to this list and come up with some sort of way to improve it.

The reviewer may have been a jerk about how he shared the information with you, but at least he shared it. Imagine how many people don’t share at all! They just tune out never to listen again, but this reviewer took a lot of time to say these things. It may not feel good, but it’s very valuable feedback that will absolutely change your course if you’re willing to be open to the criticisms.

Sure the reviewer could be completely wrong and out to get you, but every bad review is a chance to re-evaluate what you’re doing. Is your show growing and you’re still getting bad reviews? Or is it not growing? There are factors you can look at to determine if what the reviewer said is actually true or just upset with you for other reasons.

Reading these reviews can hurt but there is a way to squash the energy of that hurt, and that is to read the review on your show. Seriously, read the entire review on your show. And, don’t be upset when you read it. Just say, “I had a listener write this review and I’d like to read it to you now.”

Then after you read it, thank the person for taking the time to give any opinion at all. This is valuable feedback and should be treasured.

After that episode, you may actually get emails from listeners both agreeing and disagreeing. This is another perfect opportunity to weigh the results in favor of a certain direction for your show to go. In fact, you can almost come to the conclusion that there is nothing better than getting a critical review simply because it will actually help your show more than it hurts it.

If you listen and utilize the information.

Listen so you can think about how your show can evolve, and utilize the suggestions by acting on them and seeing what happens. Who knows, you may go in a direction you never thought you would. I remember the day I went completely note and script free – it was scary and liberating at the same time. But it was exactly what I needed to do in order to make the show what it is today.

So the next time you get that bad review make sure to thank that listener on the air and bring it to the attention of the world. If anything, it will show your listeners that you are receptive to their comments and they have a safe place to share what they really think of your show. After all, it’s hard to improve when you think nothing’s wrong.