Either I’m Terrible or Someone is Trying to Sabotage My Podcast

I saw something this weekend that shocked and upset me.

It’s been 2-3 months since I have checked my ratings and reviews in iTunes for the Get Busy Living podcast. Last time I checked, I had a good amount of five-star ratings and reviews (thank you to those who left one) and less than five one-star ratings.

Though even just one one-star rating hurt, I understood that maybe the podcast wasn’t for everyone. No negative reviews were left, just someone giving me one-star. So I didn’t know why someone didn’t like it. No big deal though. I would just keep focusing on the listeners that do enjoy it.

On Saturday night, I decided to check iTunes after I finished recording a new episode. I was shocked by what I saw.

Forty-one one-star ratings left! Forty-one??

iTunes

I know I’m not a pro at this, but I don’t think I’m that bad to warrant that many one-star ratings.

I checked the most critical reviews, and they were left in August and September.

iTunes2

After doing some digging this is what I found:

  • Each called me amateur, which I found kind of odd that they use the same description. Their reviews were very amateurish though. I highly suspect fake names as well.
  • One account only reviewed my podcast.
  • One account only reviewed two podcasts (mine and the School of Greatness).
  • One account only reviewed four podcasts (I got one-star. The three others got five-stars).
  • One review said my interviews are recycled guests. Clearly this person hadn’t bothered to listen or look because I’ve only done four interviews and they aren’t guests you find on every single podcast. That’s why they were chosen.
  • One mentioned a podcast called the Art of Charm in the review, while another account left a five-star review for it.
  • One mentioned the School of Greatness in the review, while another account only reviewed only my podcast and that one.

First of all, I’m not sure why my podcast is being compared to The Art of Charm or the School of Greatness. The formats are different. Theirs are interview based. Out of twenty-eight episodes, I’ve only done four. I like to focus more on solo shows.

I’m sure they’re fine podcasts, cause they’re highly ranked, but I don’t listen to their podcasts so I don’t know how they are similar nor do I try to emulate them.

Those two podcasts are ranked in the top ten of the self-help category. At the time of this post I’m ranked 163. I’m a small fish. So why the comparisons? I don’t even think I’m in the same level as them. I’m certainly no threat to them.

There are many other solo show type self-help podcasts in top 200. Why not compare me to those? Why no reviews of one of those as well in addition to mine?

I clicked on other podcasts in the self-help category just to see if others had gotten this many one-star ratings. I didn’t click every single one, but in my research only four out of 200 had more than 30 one-star ratings. Most had ten or less one-star ratings. Some had zero. Some have been podcasting for years.

I started in January and already have 41 one-stars ratings.

(Note: When I say ratings, what I mean is that someone just has to click how many stars they want to give. 1-5 stars. That’s it. Completely anonymous. A review and rating must have the person logged into their iTunes account. Whatever is written will be shown along with their account name.)

Brendon Burchard’s podcast, The Charged Life, has 34 one-star ratings. However not a single person who gave it one-star left a review for it. When I filter for the “most critical” reviews, only five-star reviews are shown.

I enjoy his podcast, and his books, so I was surprised to see so many one-stars.

I found three other podcasts that have hundreds of five-star ratings, but also 40+ one-star ratings. For two of them, when I went to read the most critical reviews, again not a single person who wrote a one-star review. Zero. Zlich.

One podcast had three one-star reviews, but they were left in 2009 and 2010.

These podcasts are all in the top thirty of the category. Meaning lots of daily downloads and a huge listening audience.

I’m unsure if they are being negatively targeted, or those are genuine since they have thousands of downloads a day and therefore a much higher listener base and negative ratings are bound to happen.

What I do know is that I’m in this rare category of having 40+ one-star ratings.

What to think of this?

I’ll be honest, I was pretty hurt by seeing so many one-star ratings at first. Forty-one? That’s more than half of the five star ratings I’ve gotten. What was going on?

My first thought was maybe I should quit. Maybe my podcasting skills are terrible. Maybe these are legitimate.

Then I thought that it was so odd that I’ve gotten one-star by forty-one different people, while podcasts ranked above and below me, don’t come close to having that many. Of course except those four I mentioned above, but they are ranked way higher up.

Then I started to get angry because what if this was someone deliberately doing this?

I emailed Pat Flynn at Smartpassiveincome.com to ask what he thought. He strongly believed I was getting hit with a campaign to negatively rate my podcast. He said he has never seen anything like it before. 

Does someone want to see me fail?

I don’t believe these ratings and reviews are independent of one another. I believe they’re coming from one individual, who’s gotten others to help. Why then is my podcast being targeted when there are hundreds in the self-help category? Did I piss someone off?

Whoever is doing this wants to see my podcast fail. I suppose with more negative reviews iTunes will not rank it as high if someone was searching in the store. I’m not sure how much weight it carries though.

Or they just want people who are thinking about my podcast see the crap load of one-star reviews and move on.

Again, either I’m really the worst podcaster in the category or someone is doing this deliberately.

Who could I have pissed off that would do this? Is it someone who suggested I interview them for my podcast, but I declined?

This was when my podcast was in New & Noteworthy and therefore getting great exposure. I reached the top 3 of the self-help category at one point. That’s when this person contacted to say I should interview him. He has a very popular podcast.

He offered to promote the interview to their audience and in turn getting me more exposure. I was open to the idea, but said I couldn’t promise anything. After some more emails, I declined cause I felt interviewing him wasn’t a good fit for my audience. Also I didn’t like that he kept pressuring me to do it. This was in March.

Later when I wasn’t featured anymore, the podcast ranking naturally slid. I knew that would happen so I wasn’t surprised or disappointed.

Then in June got an email out of the blue with only this sentence, “How’s the show going bud? ;)”

How did I interpret it? Based on past conversations, the fact that I didn’t want to interview him, the randomness of the email, and the winking face, I took it as “Look at your podcast now ranked down in the 150’s while I’m still ranked up high. LOL. You should have interviewed me while I offered.”

Almost two months between emails and he sends that?

I replied back pretending I thought it was a genuine question, when in fact, I felt it was not. I said how I was enjoying podcasting, getting great email from listeners, and been in Taipei so hadn’t been doing it regularly but look forward to when I get home.

I wanted to see how he would reply.

Never heard back from that person. Nothing. Therefore reinforced my feeling that the email wasn’t genuine. That was in June.

Would this person months later plot to leave these ratings and reviews? Seems odd, but maybe.

What to do next?

  • Forget about it and just keep on going.
  • Create a survey to get feedback on how to do better because maybe I am that bad.
  • Ask for real reviews and ratings from listeners that do enjoy the podcast to counter these one-star reviews.

It was hard for me to just forget about it and keep going. I couldn’t just ignore it and move on. So I wanted to blog about it.

I created a survey to get feedback from those of you who do listen to my podcast. I’m always looking to improve. I know your time is valuable, so I want to make sure I’m giving you great content.

I’ve created a quick survey. Completely anonymous unless you want to leave your name. Just some questions about you and the podcast. Click here to fill out the survey.

Finally, if you don’t think I’m the worst podcaster in self-help, and you do enjoy it, please take a moment to leave a five-star rating and review to counter these negative ones.

Write a review from your Mac or PC:

  1. Click here to open the podcast in iTunes.
  2. Click the Ratings and Reviews tab and click Write a Review.
  3. if you’re not signed in, sign in with your Apple ID.
  4. Enter a title, select a star rating, write your review, and click Submit.

If you’re on your iPhone or iPad:

  1. Click here to open the podcast
  2. Tap the Reviews tab and tap Write a Review.

If this were you, what would you think? What would you do in this situation?

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  • Bizarre stuff. I have enjoyed many of your podcasts. They include plenty of great insights in my opinion. I listen to plenty of other “big-name” podcasts as well. Yours certainly compares just fine to them. This is a concentrated effort by some no-life in my opinion. Keep doing what you are doing.

    • Thanks Nathan. I appreciate that. On one hand I hope it’s just some negative person doing it, cause then that means I’m not as terrible as the ratings would show in iTunes. But on the other hand, I wish there wasn’t someone deliberately trying to do this to me. Just pretty low. But then that’d mean I’m really bad at podcasting.

  • Hey Benny, John and Kate were victim of a similar review attack last month and actually ended up submitting a claim to iTunes to resolve. They talk about it a little here: http://www.entrepreneuronfire.com/income12/

    • @nickloper:disqus Thanks! Pat also mentioned that he thought it happened to John and Kate. I checked out the post and left a comment for Kate and hopefully she can share how John did it and who he contacted.

  • Benny your podcast is stellar. Don’t be discouraged by this.

  • Sally Yan

    The bright side is that you’re lucky you didn’t allow such a nasty person to be on your podcast. The integrity of your podcast is intact.

  • Ryan

    Hey man, don’t worry about it – people who aren’t doing jack with their lives can only get fulfilment from trying to bring others down. I haven’t listened to your podcasts, but I follow your blog regularly. If the podcast is even 50% as good as the blog, which I’m sure it is, then you’re doing a good job. Here in India, companies hire people just to go online and post bad reviews about competitors – sad, but true. Keep calm and carry on!

  • motenelerato2

    Thank God you are a thread to them… this means you are doing great.. otherwise you would’v jst been ordinary like them

  • Mike Browne

    Benny,

    Please don’t quit! You don’t know me, but you and I have walked hundreds of miles together (well, your voice and I). I have lost about 80 pounds since March, and listening to your encouraging/inspiring words while I am walking or doing other exercises has been a big help. I particularly like to listen to the episode about the “microwave” mentality when I am wondering whether or not the exercise is working (although after 80 pounds lost, you would think that I would have figured out that it is- I guess it’s just human nature to always have some doubts).

    Please keep up the good work and ignore the haters. Your show is awesome.

    Mike

  • Benny,
    Let me ask you this; why do you really care about this? You are doing good work, making a very nice living doing something you enjoy and are obviously helping a lot of people. Also, you are one of the most genuine people I know online and seem to be highly ethical and moral. Screw the idiots who may be trying to bring you down.

    There will always be trolls and recently it seems that someone is out to hack my site. I am getting multiple emails per day telling me someone has been locked out of my WP account for failed log in attempts. I got upset at first, but now I just realize I can’t control the actions of bad people.

    Keep doing what you’re doing, my friend.

  • Hi Benny,

    Interesting post and situation. I’d consider contacting apple to try and get the reviews checked out. I know they are constantly working on ways to make sure that reviews are truly representative of the quality of your work.

    I learned a lesson from British chef Gordon Ramsay when he was schooling a failing restaurant owner who said to him “people tell me my food is great” and he responded “I don’t need a review to tell me my food is great, my f*cking reservations book is full for the next 3 months”.

    My point is, are people downloading and listening to your podcast? Are the subscriber numbers growing? Do you regularly get positive feedback?

    If the answer to to any or all of these questions is yes, I suspect the best option is to plough on. There is a series of podcasts that I listen to that I couldnt care less about the reviews. There is also other podcasts that I have listened to in the past that have a 5 star rating but I unsubscribed from immediately.

    Look after your loyal fan base and they will continue to spread the good work about your podcast.

    All the best.

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  • Thanks for Posting article like this. I really found this helpful. Please keep it up

  • Oh my goodness Benny, thank you so much for writing this! I’m in the same situation and am so thankful to know I’m not the only one. I just launched my podcast in January and while it’s far from perfect, I went from 20 five-star reviews and only 1 one-star to 12 one-stars in just the last week! I would love to learn what I am doing wrong and what my audience would like me to improve upon but I’ve gotten 0 reviews with negative feedback. Oy vey! I will continue because is perseverance and not being afraid to fail is what my whole show is about, but man it does hurt. Anyhow, again thanks for writing this, and for the record you have a great show 🙂

  • James Osborne

    A little late on this thread. I had something similar happen to an old podcast of mine which new accounts were created just to give mine a bad review. I was doing a quiz show then and the reviews were giving one other quiz show which was similar to mine bad reviews. I contacted Apple and (months later) the reviews deleted and not too long afterwards the other podcast was no longer available on Itunes. I listened to your podcast and it’s quite good. I think the only time you give a podcast a one-star review is when it uses the N word or something.

  • Jake – Turned Up

    Just found your blog because I was looking for an answer to a problem that arose for my podcast today. We’ve been sitting anywhere between number 1 and number 5 in the music category for a few weeks now. This morning, checked the ratings/reviews and saw several 5 star reviews but all from seemingly fake accounts. They all reviewed the exact 4 or 5 podcasts. All of them. And then the 1 star ratings. 83 of them JUST today to be exact. Definitely feeling the pain of rejection and confusion. Wondering why someone would want to do this. We’re new and have had nothing but rave reviews and positive feedback. Maybe another music podcast who is upset that we’re taking up space in the top 10? I don’t know, but it doesn’t feel good anyway you spin it. Thank you for the article and to some of the other commenters to let me know that we’re not the only ones.