Note: Review requests are currently CLOSED until January 1st. Please read guidelines for extenuating circumstances.
(Pronto, esta página será traducida al español.)
Once I joined The Bello Collective and started my newsletter in early 2018, I began receiving requests for reviews, especially from independent podcast producers for whom it would not be easy to find press in general. I am flattered and delighted that podcast creators want my thoughts and feedback on their shows. However, I find it necessary to be clear about the purpose of this site and the standards of practice that I will follow.
- This site exists mainly to serve the podcasting community as a way to legitimize podcasting as a form of media that deserves serious and varied analysis, critique, and support. In turn, it also serves the entertainment journalism community, to legitimize the work of independent and freelance reporters and critics who primarily cover podcasting as its own beat.
- Specifically, this site exists for the indie podcast community and marginalized podcasters. Larger podcasts, those that come from networks or companies with financial backing, get plenty of press from traditional and pop culture media outlets, whereas smaller, independent podcasts usually get audiences via word-of-mouth and are routinely ignored. This goes doubly so for indie podcasts created by people of color, nonbinary and trans individuals, disabled people, non-native English speakers, queer people, and so on. The reviews and interviews here will shine a light on these gems of small podcasts. Any podcast, regardless of their listener count, can submit for a review.
- I will not routinely say negative things about any podcast. A podcast from a large network may be discussed as to why something was problematic, or why I stopped listening. Purely negative reviews will never be written for independent podcasts; this serves no purpose for those podcasts with already small press and small listener counts and is unnecessarily damaging.
- I will also not sugar-coat my reviews and gloss over flaws, as that also will not be helpful for indie podcasters and their growth. I do my best to achieve a balance of positive and negative critique. While all these reviews are subjective to my own experience, enjoyments, tolerances, I try to continually consider what aspects of the audio presented may be more or less enjoyable by listeners other than myself.
This is a list of common ethical reasons I will not review a show, though it is not an exhaustive list:
- Someone I know outside of podcasting is heavily involved in the creation of a podcast (e.g. a personal friend makes a podcast)
- The podcast is harmful, offensive, violent, or unnecessarily unkind to a marginalized community
- A creator of the podcast has a history of abusive, offensive, violent, etc. behavior towards others
- I have consulted or participated on the podcast in the past
- The podcast is a small, independent podcast that I do not enjoy (see point 3 above)
- The podcast discusses topics that are triggering for me
Supporting me financially on ko-fi or elsewhere will not gain you an advantage in my review process. Participating in conversations with me on Discord, Slack, or other forms of social media will also not gain you an advantage.
Please also note that submitting via this method means that you are submitting for review consideration on my personal site. You will not be considered for review anywhere else. If you would like to be considered for review at The Bello Collective, the submission e-mail is email@example.com and the process is different than the one described below.
Review Requests and Press Releases
- Review requests: Review requests are formal requests for me to write a review for your podcast. All review requests will be read and listened to if properly submitted (see the following guidelines below), but do not guarantee a review to be written. Longform review requests should only be submitted for podcasts that have produced seven episodes, including episodes that have not been released but can be provided for an advance listen. First Look review requests should only be submitted for podcasts that have produced no more than two episodes, including episodes that have not yet been released but can be provided for an advance listen.
- Press releases: Press releases are short, explanatory notices of something newsworthy about your podcast or network, usually relating to a new release, a new season, an exciting actor being cast, etc. Press releases will be read, but will often not get a response beyond a thank-you note or an article written; they should be thought of as a way to keep me informed of important updates on your podcast or network. Press releases can be emailed to me directly and do not need to abide by the following guidelines, which are specific to review requests. (Please do not ask for a review based on a press release; it will be deleted).
What I Will Review
In general, I am looking for podcasts with a strong sense of identity and clarity of purpose. I am looking for podcasts created by people who are serious about their work, who want to improve their craft, and who are genuinely excited by what they’re covering. Here is a short list of things that will immediately grab my attention, with some examples for each:
- Creators and casts that are diverse and intentionally inclusive in gender, race, orientation; creators and casts with disabilities, including invisible disabilities (Aftershocks or Gomorrah)
- Audio fiction that wants to innovate, fill a genre gap, or discuss important cultural topics through fiction (Bronzeville or What’s the Frequency)
- Actual play podcasts that are heavily edited, are soundscaped and/or scored, and feature high amounts of improv and storytelling and minimal to no table talk (The End of Time and Other Bothers or Liberty: Vigilance)
- Nonfiction podcasts with a highly niche, specific topic or underused, unique structure (The Thin Layer or The One Who Got Away)
- Intimate storytelling podcasts that are niche or novel in style and subject matter (The Hiss or Dear)
- Audio fiction and nonfiction documentaries in Spanish, particularly ones that discuss relevant current events or ideas (El Gran Apagón or Tertulia)
- True crime that is careful to be unexploitative and considerate, and digs deep into the justice system (Missing & Murdered or Wine & Crime)
What I Won’t Review
For my work here, I will focus on specific types and genres of podcasts, just as book agents focus on specific genres of books. This is not only because I want to utilize my breadth of knowledge and tastes to the best of my ability, but because this is freelance, unpaid work that I do because I love podcasting. The following is a list of podcast types that I often won’t review and further reasons I would turn down a review request.
- The podcast has fewer than seven (7) episodes. Barring submissions for my First Look articles, which have slightly different guidelines, I will not accept anything with fewer than seven (7) episodes for longform reviews. Limited-run podcasts are the only other exception and can submit for review no matter how many episodes they have, or when their completion date was.
- The podcast episodes are usually longer than one and a half (1.5) hours (unless it is a limited-run podcast). Due to work constraints, I simply cannot dedicate the time and attention necessary for podcasts where more than half of the episodes are this length.
The podcast is a political news podcast. My day job involves engaging with politics and the news on a regular basis. I prefer to stay away from these topics that would further exhaust me and I would not enjoy.
The podcast is a business-oriented podcast. I do not have the knowledge background to accurately address the concerns that are particular to the needs of this podcast style and topic.
The podcast is a talk-show, conversation, or interview style podcast without a niche, specific subject and minimal to no editing or sound design (good examples include Spirits, Junk, Love + Radio)
- The podcast is an actual play with minimal to no editing and zero sound design.
- The podcast does not do anything novel or special, and the discussions/plot/characters/structure/etc. could be found in several other shows.
- The podcast takes 7+ hours to find its stride. If there is a specific episode you would like me to start from and not miss anything or very little from those 7+ hours, please indicate which episode it is in your request email.
- The podcast does not do many of the items on Wil Williams’ article 10 Things I Wish Every Podcaster Would Do.
Longform reviews are the most common form of review. These are reviews posted on the site that consider the podcast as a whole, for podcasts that have seven (7) or more episodes available.
First Look Reviews
First Look reviews are only for debuting podcasts with no more than two episodes available for review at the time of submission. There are a more limited number of spaces available for these podcasts every submission cycle, but they have a faster turn-around time than a longform review. They are also generally shorter in length than longform reviews and more speculative. I hope to use First Look reviews to help give debuting indie podcasts that are swallowed by podcast charts a bigger platform. You can see an example of a First Look review over here at The Bello Collective.
Podcasts that submit and are accepted for a First Look review may return for a longform review (following proper submission protocols) no earlier than the conclusion of their first season.
How to Request a Review
All review requests must be submitted directly to firstname.lastname@example.org between the 1st-4th (first through fourth) of every other month, starting in November 2018. If you require assistance with submitting your review request for accessibility purposes, please contact me.
All review requests must be sent with:
- An indication of which review type you are submitting for both in the email subject line and in the body of the email (e.g. First Look Review Request: “Wow, a Podcast” or Longform Review Request: “A Podcast, Probably”).
- Your preferred language, if English/Spanish bilingual
- At least one landscape-oriented header-style (not square) image of at least 800×600 resolution and one square logo image of at least 600×600 resolution
- A description of your podcast
- A link to your website (can be a Libsyn, Soundcloud, Tumblr, etc. if a full site has not been made yet)
- If applicable, advance copies of the episodes you’d like me to review and any related press embargo dates to keep in mind
- Any additional information you think would be relevant before I listen
- Written confirmation that you have read my review policies
Optional to be sent with the request, but preferred:
- A full press kit
- A trailer or short excerpt from your podcast
- Images like official art or cast and crew photos that could be included in the review
- A listening guide with preferred listening order, episodes that shouldn’t be missed, etc.
- The podcast’s Twitter and/or Instagram handle
Review requests received outside of the indicated time frame will be deleted, unless it has all of the following:
- A full press kit
- An upcoming important release date (e.g. a season finale, a season premier) and/or an upcoming Kickstarter, IndieGoGo, etc. that the review could potentially help your podcast find supporters–please make sure to include all important dates in the body of the email
- A subject line formatted as such: “Longform Review Request: [Show Title] [Explanation of Urgency]” (for instance, Longform Review Request: “It’s a Podcast,” Upcoming Kickstarter)
- The rest of the requirements for the review you are submitting for
First Look Reviews Special Requirements:
- If applicable, advance copies of episodes you’d like me to review with their release dates.
- A description of what you are hoping to accomplish with this podcast (e.g. “We have created this podcast in order to address and explore the systematic issues this community faces in a comfortable setting.” or “I started this podcast in order to help fill the gap of young adult fiction in audio.”)
- If possible, a list of some of the methods and ideas you and your team put in play in order to create this podcast. Think of this as a bit of background so that I can approach your podcast from a position of understanding and knowledge. (e.g. “1. We interviewed several residents of our city about topics that we wanted to cover, and paid them for their time. This gave us some material to use as tape in our episodes, but also gave us a better understanding of the reality of the topics we wanted to address.”)
Reapplication for Review
Podcasts that applied and did not have a review written for reasons of capacity (i.e. your podcast was not accepted because I did not have time in my schedule) are welcome to reapply at the next open window.
Podcasts that applied and did not have a review written for any other reason, that does not have to do with core content, are welcome to reapply no sooner than four months (two cycles) after their request. A past rejection does not increase the likelihood of it happening again in the future, as long as the rejection did not have to do with content.
All reapplications for review must include, in addition to the standards listed above:
- A brief description of how you addressed any feedback I gave you in a previous email, if I did.
- Any major changes that have taken place in your sound design, structure, and production.
What To Expect
Within about 72 hours, you will receive a brief email confirming that I have received your request — this email is not a guarantee of a review acceptance. If you don’t receive this email, please feel free to send a follow-up email after the 72 hours have elapsed. Emails that lack content addressed in the submission guidelines will be responded to on a case-by-case basis; if it’s possible that it was simply an error, you will receive a stock email advising you to send the content missing before the end of the submission window. Emails that clearly have not read the review policies will simply be deleted and not receive any kind of response.
Rejected Submissions Process
If I do not plan to review your podcast, you will receive a stock email informing you so anywhere from one to two weeks after the fourth (4th). Stock emails may include major reasons why I chose to not review it, if I feel it appropriate and helpful, and a list of other press locations you can submit your podcast or places to receive consulting. I will not consult further than any listed reasons I put in these stock emails and emails requesting further feedback will be deleted.
Accepted Submissions Process
If I have let you know I am going to review your show, I will send you a follow-up email with further information and any questions I may have. Please note that while I try to be mindful of upcoming important dates for your podcast, longform reviews may take up to a full month and a half to be posted, dependent on my posting schedule. First Look reviews will take no longer than two and a half weeks to be posted, dependent on my posting schedule.
I will never provide a numbered rating for reviews (e.g. out of 5 stars, out of 10 points, etc). This is not because I think it is a faulty metric; this is my own personal style and preference for how to handle critique. All reviews will be only detailed analyses of content, production, and presentation.
If your podcast is Spanish-language podcast, your review will be written in Spanish (and can be translated into English at your request). If your podcast is bilingual in English and Spanish, your review will be written and posted in both languages (please expect slightly longer wait times for this).
Thank you for all the work that you do. The creative process, especially in podcasting, is often undervalued and the community would not be what it is without such wonderful creators like you. Even if your work isn’t to my taste or focus, I want you to know that the fact that you make it is something to be proud of, and it’s because of you that podcasting is growing in variety and voice.
(Thanks to Wil Williams for the inspiration, actual wording, and insight for these guidelines.)