The Emotional Response to Negative Reviews

Thursday, October 05, 2023


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I was feeling proud of myself a few Fridays ago. It was the start of the weekend, and I’d just uploaded a new episode of my podcast, “Missing in the Carolinas,” which I had decided to put out weekly with the help of an intern and a freelance writer. My production schedule had never been consistent before I went back and forth between weekly to bi-monthly episodes. I scrolled through the podcast app on my phone, looking at the reviews. I noticed the number of starred reviews was approaching 100, then stopped short when I saw a listener had posted a new review: 

"I think this is a great podcast, well put together and cases I hadn’t heard of! Although I would like it a little more if she didn’t talk about herself so much. We are here for the story of the victims . . . not the story of the author/narrator’s life. Great narration and still listening for a reason."

This person left a three-star review. A three-star review? I thought to myself. They said it was a great podcast and featured case they hadn’t heard of. The narration is good. Still listening. So why the three-star review? Because the podcast host occasionally talks about herself? 

I’d be lying if I said the review didn’t give me whiplash. It felt like a backhanded compliment. Why did they even bother? I felt like one of those pro athletes who are told to “shut up and just play sports” when they courageously decide to take a stand on something. Then I began racking my brain on when I’ve talked about myself on the podcast. I do it in my sponsor messages, but almost every podcaster I know does it and you can easily skip past those. If I’ve lived in a place where there is a missing person or a crime, I will mention my connection or tie to it. I feel as a podcaster that gives me credibility when discussing certain places. Why should Renee Roberson be the one to talk about a crime in Western North Carolina? Maybe because she grew up there, went to high school and college there, and knows about the area and media coverage of the case.

I spent the morning in a dark fog, all the joy I had felt hours earlier dissipated over one review. For three years I’ve produced the podcast all on my own, with no corporate sponsors or podcasting networks, from my guest room in our house with limited recording equipment, yet I’m being told “not to talk about myself too much.” 

I took to social media, venting about my experience. And there, fortunately, my friends, many of whom are writers, provided voices of reason. 

"Unfortunately people love to show their dominance on social media by bringing other's down. Consider the source and move on. "

"I’m not sure if this will make you feel better, but reviews don’t matter at all for most podcasts. They’re great for social proof and it’s nice to share wonderful ones but 99% of people don’t find podcasts through ratings & reviews. If it’s constructive, take it to heart and improve - if it’s not, keep moving on!"

"We all tend to focus on the one single bad comment and not all the good ones. Keep “well put together” and “new cases” and pitch the rest. (Advice I try to give myself and often can’t hear.)" 

I took another look at my reviews. Out of twelve, two mentioned me talking about myself too much and gave me three stars. The other ten were overwhelmingly positive. Why do we always take the negative criticism to heart, even when we know it doesn’t have much merit? I guess it’s the way our brains our wired. These days I still scowl when I see that review on my app, but I tell myself they can always unsubscribe from my free podcast whenever they want to.

Renee Roberson is an award-winning writer and host/creator of the true crime podcast, "Missing in the Podcast," which is approaching 150,000 downloads. Learn more at


Ann Kathryn Kelly said...

It's a confusing review for sure, Renee. If this person keeps tuning in for more episodes, it's clear that she likes your content. (I'm assuming it's she.) That's the biggest takeaway: i.e., you're pulling in listeners, and then keeping them coming back for more! Focus on that great achievement! As for the shade, too many people -- especially when they're hiding behind a keyboard playing Monday morning quarterback -- think they're experts. Umm, then try standing up a podcast program yourself, sista! Then come talk to me. LOL. Next!

Angela Mackintosh said...

You know, Brad Listi of Otherppl gets the same feedback about talking about himself! He addresses it on his podcast periodically because it’s a common piece of feedback, even though the people leaving those comments love his show. I don’t get it! When the host shares something personal about themselves, it’s what KEEPS me listening! Because without it, what’s the point? You can read an article to get the facts. And I know it hurts even more when you put your heart and soul into a project that you’re giving away for free and someone cuts it down. I agree with Ann. People love to give opinions while hiding behind a screen. This is why many authors despise Goodreads because readers are brutal over there for no reason. Every time I read a harsh book review, I wonder if it was necessary and why the person is writing it. Probably because they can’t do it themselves! I only review things I love because taste is subjective. I also understand that someone put a lot of time and effort into a book, podcast, or art form and respect that. Celebrate your numbers and focus on the positive comments, Renee! You are doing an amazing job and your fans, including me, love it. :)

Jodi M Webb said...

I agree Angela, if you want the straight story go to an article or newscast. Podcast are supposed to add something new, something unique. And that's usually the podcaster relationship to the story. Put that behind you, Renee.

Nicole Pyles said...

I'm with the ladies above! I love personalized touches to blogs and podcasts, whether it's a book blog, crime podcast like yours, or something else of the sort. That personalization helps me come back to people's sites, honestly.

Not sure if it helps but for me I'm beginning to weigh the negative or so-so reviews on stuff far less. Like for books or podcasts that I am just curious about, I don't let a bad review or eh review stop me from considering it myself.

Plus your podcast is awesome and this person has no idea what they're talking about! So there :)

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