PodSchool Podcast | How to choose the right rating for your podcast


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How to choose the right rating for your podcast

Do you rate your podcast explicit, clean or no rating?

If you’ve started podcasting you might have noticed a section in the back end of your podcast host that asks you to select a rating for your show.

Maybe you’ve sworn a bit or spoken about stuff that isn’t safe for kids.

So is that explicit or just a little rude?  And how do you know the right rating to choose?

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Do you have to rate your podcast?

The short answer is no.

The rating system we have at the moment is a hangover from iTunes music and wasn’t designed specifically for podcasting. So, it’s not a perfect fit.

It’s also not something that is featured in every app, so there’s a question about whether it’s very useful at all.

With television, there are clear guidelines around how things need to be rated but with podcasts, it’s still a bit of a wild west when it comes to regulations.

The main thing is to keep your audience in mind and ensure the content you’re dishing out is the content they expect.

If they know your show is rough and rude and definitely not safe for kids then that’s fine.  But if they aren’t expecting that and all of a sudden find themselves in a forest of f-bombs with little Johnny in the back seat of the car, it’s going to be a problem.

If there are adult concepts or words that might offend in your show and it’s out of the ordinary, it’s always a good idea to issue a warning at the start.

You don’t need to label that episode ‘explicit’ (especially since it might not show up in all apps) but you do need to let your audience know what they’re in for.

If you’re talking about topics that might be triggering for some people it’s important to let them know before you get into the content so they can decide whether to listen or not.  And make sure you share support line details so they know where to get help if they need it e.g. Lifeline or 1800-RESPECT.

You want to avoid any situation where someone has assumed your show will be safe to listen to in front of kids and it isn’t.  Or where they’ve ended up hearing something that’s triggering because you haven’t let them know it’s on the way.

This can be really distressing for people so you want to make sure you’ve got the well-being of your audience top of mind.

Should you swear on your podcast?


So what should you label your podcast?

As a default, I usually leave my podcasts unrated.

I also generally have an “s-words are fine, f-words get beeped” policy for all my shows even though I’m not in the habit of swearing in them anyway.

The only label I think you have to really worry about is ‘clean.’

If you label your show clean you’re saying to someone “If you’ve got kids in the car there’ll be absolutely no problem playing this content.”

Because people have VERY different ideas of what ‘clean’ is I’d avoid using this label unless it’s children’s content or something so safe it’s impossible someone could be offended by it.

I’m sure as the industry gets more attention and the money keeps flowing in, regulations and ratings will become a more important part of podcasting but for now, I’d err on the side of caution or reign in the potty mouth.

Or let people know it’s coming so little Johnny is spared the unexpected life lesson.

Got a burning podcasting question you’d like answered? Send me an email.

Want to start your own podcast but need a little help?  Download my “How To Start A Podcast” guide or sign up for my online podcasting course, PodSchool.

Got some time on your hands? Read the full episode transcript

Hello and welcome to the show. Today I'm going to be talking about rating your podcast. I get quite a few emails from people who ask me about whether they need to put an explicit tag on their show. If they are dropping the off 'f-bomb.' You might have noticed, if you've already started your podcast that when you go into your podcast host to upload your episode there is an option there to put a rating. You can either rate it 'clean,' 'explicit' or 'no rating.' These are really Apple ratings and they're a bit of a hangover from music. They weren't designed specifically for podcasting. In fact, there aren't really any general regulations around podcasting because it is still in its infancy as an industry and as the money is flowing in so soon will the regulations, I'm positive of it. But for right now it's really a self-regulated industry. Within Apple if anybody is offended by your content, they can press the 'report problem' button but these tags were really designed for music. You might have noticed on some music content if it's really explicit they'll have an 'explicit' sign there and you can do the same with your show.

I tend to put 'no rating' on any of my podcasts because even if I've sworn in some of the episodes, which I have done from time to time in some of my past shows I always bleep it out. So, there's no actual swear words in the show. I think in my old show Paul and Rach we might have done one episode where we talked about some blue stuff so I put an explicit tag on there. But the thing about explicit is it really signals to an audience that your content is going to be full on. If you are talking about some heinous stuff and you're dropping an f-bomb and whatever else bomb left right and centre then maybe you can label your show explicit because you really want to make sure that when people press play there are no rude shocks. One of the other ways to do that is to offer up a warning at the beginning of the show to let listeners know you deal with adult concepts or that you're swearing a lot. A warning is particularly important if you're talking about content that could be triggering for people. If you swear a lot it's a good idea to signal that if you haven't bleeped them out because any ratings or warnings are really about you being kind to your audience. You want to avoid any situation where mom has your show on in the car and then you say "dick" and she's got to explain to her 6-year-old what a dick is. That is not where you want to be because those complaint emails will flood in thick and fast. So you just want to make sure you're giving your audience the heads up so there are no nasty surprises. Again, with the clean rating, it's important you have a squeaky-clean show because 'clean' says 'this podcast is absolutely fine for kids’ ears.'

As with everything, keep your listeners in mind. When you're rating your content think about all the different types of listeners who might come across it. Not just your mates who are totally fine with swear words but also brand new listeners who might find swearing offensive. I have another episode in this series all about whether or not you should swear in your podcast. Don't worry it's not me preaching telling you that you're disgusting for saying swear words but I do give some guidance on how you can think about swearing when you're doing a podcast and whether it really adds anything to your show. I'll pop a link to that episode in the description of this show or you can head to PodSchoolPodcast.com and type 'swear' into the search bar.

I hope that's helped to solve some of the mystery around the rating your podcast. It is not an exact science so you just need to keep your audience in mind and if you need a little bit more help with your podcast you can always head to PodSchool.com.au which is my online podcasting course and register to enrol there. I would love to help you go from having a tiny little idea to making something that gets into people's ears. I'll see you next week and until then, happy podcasting.

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Discover all the tools and tech you need to get your podcast started. Plus get access to my weekly podcasting tips delivered straight to your inbox!