Boosted Ratings for Apple Podcasts App?

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Oooooh! Thanks MacRumors – let’s all get angry about something that doesn’t matter.

Sure rating manipulation doesn’t matter.


I’ve never bought anything from anyone on their app stores based on stars – or even the user comments. And, if it’s free anyway, what difference does it make if ratings are boosted. This is old news.

“I’ve never used it so it must not be important.” Okay Let’s leave the argument at that.


I wouldn’t say it doesn’t matter, but at the same time, I always assume that ratings are artificially boosted by the developer anyway… maybe that’s just me?

I’m not sure that I see what Apple is doing that’s wrong:

App: Prompts for rating like so many others.

User: Rates app positively.

Also User: I like this podcast that I’m listening to at the moment and something is asking me to rate something so I’ll rate the podcast because I didn’t really read the prompt but what do you expect from someone who thinks in run on sentences that have embedded rhetorical questions?

Media: Apple is evil for doing what it encourages other app developers to do.

Apple: Well, I guess everyone likes our Podcasts app and there’s no need to improve it.

Me: What am I missing?

(I don’t use Podcasts anymore. When I did, I found it to be not terrible, but then I tried Overcast and found it to be more not terrible.)

What struck me about the account in the article is that the Apple Podcasts review prompt seems to get a lot of people reviewing the podcast they’re listening to, but for some reason the review prompts for third-party podcast apps do not:

“Looking at the reviews of third-party podcast apps, the majority of the ratings are for the apps themselves, and customers do not seem to be accidentally offering reviews for podcast content as is happening with the Podcasts app.”

I can think of two scenarios that could explain this (perhaps there are more):

  1. Apple’s prompt is somehow different, or comes at a different time, than third-party prompts, and the difference somehow leaves more people thinking they are being asked to review the podcast they are listening to, rather than the app;

  2. Apple Podcast users are somehow different than third-party podcast app users, and so they interpret essentially identically delivered review prompts differently. The main difference on the face of it is that Apple Podcasts users are using the default app; maybe they’re less sophisticated about the software/content distinction than people who’ve taken the trouble to download and use a third-party podcast app.

I don’t use the Apple Podcasts app, so I don’t know if 1 is likely. 2 seems possible, but I’m not sure if the assumption is reasonable, or if it makes sense that the effect would be so big.

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I’ve used the Apple podcasts app on and off for years, mainly because Siri works better with it than a 3rd party app that I prefer.

Apple has finally fixed most of the problems they introduced in the IOS 14.5 update. Perhaps that is responsible for some of the ratings improvement. As for those that rated a show rather than the app, it’s just a reminder that most Apple users are not MPUs.


Something I am trying not to do is assuming malice as the first explanation.


Just because you don’t think something is important doesn’t mean it’s not worth discussing. :wink:


This is essentially it. We know that a large minority of iPhone users never use the App Store. Which means little familiarity with app reviews. Some of these users will find their way into the Podcasts app, but they won’t see it as “a podcast app” since they aren’t used to evaluating app options. And they’re there to try various media, the podcasts. So when they are prompted to review, since they aren’t thinking of themselves as using an app, and they are using something that seems reviewable (podcast shows), what happens next seems natural.

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That was the very first thing that entered my head when I saw the headline.

According to Marco Arment the vast majority of listeners use the Apple app, so we know it’s popular (and it is, after all, the default in nature and in name). We also know that people generally don’t leave positive app reviews, only negative, so it would have skewed negative before this. And finally, people who do not use the Apple app are a fairly self-selecting group who will probably take a moment to read the prompt which they might be expecting because they (likely recently) downloaded a new app.

Unless someone can conclusively prove Apple are doing something different from all the other apps (apart from calling their app simply “Podcasts”) I’m believing this is a a simple cause-and-effect situation and there is nothing any more artificial than the rest of the app store.

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The question remains whether Apple can or should do anything, if it’s just people misreading or misanswering a standard review prompt. I’m not sure what that would be

OK, ‘some developers’ boost ratings, leaving the honest Joes at a loss and that is the real point that @quorm is missing. Same all over America, cheats and scammers win.
Macsparky discussed on the show this week a related problem with second rate apps cashing in by having names nearly identical to good ones and Apple Store doing nothing about it.
Oh and if I had a dollar for every time I heard “I am not affected by advertising” or ‘ratings’. I even said it myself years ago, what a self deluding fool I was.

People are, it must be said, gaming reviews, ratings, Yelp and everything else. Distorting, if anybody cares, the famous and I am coming to think mythical ‘free market’ and ‘rational consumer’. There is one though, in Canada, Quorm! Only jokin’. Honestly.

I wouldn’t go as far as to say I’m not affected by advertising or ratings in general, but specifically for App Store ratings I always assume they’re bogus. Because too many of them are, at least in my experience. I would definitely be affected by App Store ratings if I didn’t already adjust to assume they’re false by default. I think that’s the point quorm was making here, not that it isn’t a problem, but rather than many people (again just my experience) have adjusted to ignoring App Store ratings altogether.

I generally search the web for information on an app. But I will look at the most recent reviews for any indication of a bad update, etc.

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I would also do this but in reality I don’t often see reviews that are recent enough to be reliable. Just me?

If the most recent reviews are mainly negative, regardless of their age, IMO that’s a show stopper.

Exactly, this is the kind of thing that happens. So a good app which gets a genuine good review, like some have from me, will be treated by you as if it was booooogus! Leaving again the Honest Joes at a disadvantage. It is tricky topic really.