Rating Process and Criteria: Podcasts

NewsGuard employs a team of journalists and experienced editors to review and rate news and information podcasts by listening to a representative sample of individual podcast episodes and reading a representative sample of episode transcripts.

The ratings are based on the podcast’s adherence to five journalistic criteria. The criteria assess the journalistic standards of each show. Based on a podcast’s performance on the five criteria, it is assigned a Red, Yellow, or Green rating — a risk level; and a safety score from 0-10, indicating its reliability.

These scores can be used by podcast streaming platforms as they make content moderation decisions and by advertisers and ad agencies as they make decisions about where they will purchase ads as they plan advertising campaigns for brands and products. Advertisers can use our score bands in conjunction with their own threshold of risk to determine which podcasts to target for advertising.

Rating Categories

Our Podcast Reliability Ratings assess how much risk each podcast poses in terms of misinformation or unreliable news.

Based on NewsGuard’s judgment with regard to whether the podcast generally adheres to each of the criteria, a podcast receives a score from 0-10. That score determines in which risk category the podcast falls. Here are NewsGuard’s four score bands:

NewsGuard Podcast Rating

Lowest risk (10 pts) / Low risk (8-9 pts)

Podcast Rating

Some risk (6-7 pts)

NewsGuard Podcast Rating

High risk (0-5 pts)

Note: NewsGuard reviews each podcast and its rating periodically to ensure it is up to date.

Rating Criteria

The journalists at NewsGuard assess news and information podcasts based on five journalistic criteria. Each criterion is worth a certain number of points, as indicated below, based on its importance. Criteria are evaluated on a pass/fail basis, meaning that a podcast either receives all of the points associated with a criterion or none of them.

The criteria and their definitions are listed below:

  • Does not regularly convey false, unchallenged information: The podcast host does not repeatedly convey clearly false facts of significant importance and does not allow guests to repeatedly convey clearly false facts in a way that is not challenged by the host or other guests. This could include clearly false facts that are included in commentary to support an argument. (4 Points)
  • Conveys news on important topics responsibly: This podcast rarely if ever conveys unchallenged false facts, presents unsubstantiated claims as fact, or distorts or misrepresents information regarding important issues. If drawing heavily on the work of others who have reported on news events, present or past, efforts are made to credit such prior reporting and to vet it for reliability, including not relying on unreliable sources or sources whose reliability cannot be ascertained. (3 Points)
  • Is not dominated by one-sided opinion: The podcast does not overwhelmingly air one-sided commentary. (1 Points)
  • Discloses, or does not have, a political agenda: The podcast does not advance a political agenda, or if the podcast is dominated by one-sided opinion, the podcast clearly discloses its point of view, political leaning, or political affiliations in a manner that is accessible to the average listener, such as within the podcast’s written description or in audio introducing the podcast. (1 Point)
  • Differentiates advertising and commercial partnerships from editorial content: Advertisements and other content stemming from or related to a commercial partnership is presented in a way such that the average listener can distinguish sponsored content from editorial content. This can be done through direct statements introducing sponsored content, identifiable changes in background music or audio style, or otherwise apparent transitions. (1 Point)

Rating Process

The rating process is designed to ensure that NewsGuard’s five basic, apolitical journalistic criteria are applied equally and accurately to all podcasts, regardless of the podcast’s topic, tone, or political leaning, if any. Steps include:

  1. An analyst assesses the contents of the podcast against five journalistic criteria. Our analysts are trained journalists who conduct reporting to determine relevant details of the podcast’s credibility and transparency practices.
  2. The analyst drafts a “Nutrition Label” for the podcast based on this reporting. Nutrition Labels consist of a grid showing the podcast’s performance on each of the five criteria and a written explanation of the content on the podcast and why it received its rating.
  3. If an analyst believes a podcast may fail one or more of the five criteria, the analyst contacts the podcast to attempt to seek comment before publishing the rating. If a representative for the podcast provides a comment, that comment is included in the written assessment of the podcast to provide users with the podcast’s perspective.
  4. The rating is reviewed and fact-checked by experienced editors. Multiple senior editors review every podcast Nutrition Label prior to publication.
  5. The podcast receives a red, yellow, or green rating based on the five journalistic criteria. The podcast’s red, yellow, or green rating is determined solely based on the five criteria.
  6. In addition, if the podcast being rated is highly opinionated, that designation is included as a meta-data tag to be used by advertisers that seek to avoid highly opinionated programs.
  7. Our team at least biannually updates its rating of each podcast. If a podcast changes its practices, its score on one or more of the five criteria may change.
  8. We practice accountability and show our work. Each podcast’s Nutrition Label contains the names of the writer and editors who worked on the rating. The backgrounds of the analysts and editors named, as well as those of the supervising editors, can be found by clicking on their names or going to the Our Team page of this website. If a publisher disagrees with our rating for its podcast, it can write a response or complaint using our contact page. Any such complaints will be published on our website here and linked from the podcast’s Nutrition Label.

NewsGuard Podcast Ratings FAQs

How did NewsGuard develop its criteria to rate podcasts?

NewsGuard’s criteria were developed by NewsGuard’s team of experienced journalists and editors. They are based on longstanding, widely accepted journalistic standards of credibility and transparency.

The criteria were adapted from NewsGuard’s rating criteria for news websites, drawing on many of the same principles and applying them to an audio format. Broadly speaking, the criteria focus on whether a podcast conveys egregiously false information on important topics; whether it does so repeatedly or only occasionally; whether the podcast is dominated by one-sided opinion; whether it discloses its political agenda, if it has any; and whether the podcast differentiates advertising and commercial partnerships from editorial content.

What and how much content does NewsGuard review before rating a podcast?

NewsGuard’s analysts review a sampling of podcast episodes over a three-month period from the time of review. This ensures the rating is based on a review of the podcast’s recent practices.

Additionally, our analysts browse and search a repository of episodes and episode transcripts from the past 90 days. If necessary, they conduct searches on noteworthy topics such as COVID-19 and elections to understand how each podcast covered top news topics, especially topics about which key facts are disputed or which are the subject of significant debate. Our analysts also look for important moments in a podcast’s recent history, such as recent controversies, retractions, awards and accolades, and examine corresponding audio clips. Before quoting, transcripts are always confirmed against original audio clips to ensure accuracy.

How often does NewsGuard update its ratings and Labels?

As a matter of practice, NewsGuard aims to review and refresh its ratings for all podcasts every six months. However, more frequent updates will occur if circumstances warrant — such as a change in ownership, a change in practices, or if the podcast wins an award or becomes embroiled in a controversy.

How does NewsGuard avoid bias, such as favoring one political ideology or party?

NewsGuard operates with full transparency and disclosure, with an identical approach to all podcasts. We use the same five criteria for rating all podcasts. These basic, apolitical criteria reflect basic principles of reliable journalism, whether for news-based podcasts or for opinion-based podcasts.

Our criteria are applied equally to all publishers regardless of political orientation, if any, and in the same way for a legacy podcast publisher as for a new, independent podcast publisher. In addition, if our reporting indicates that a podcast may fail any one of the criteria, our analysts contact the podcast for comment. If a representative for a podcast provides a comment about NewsGuard’s rating, that comment is included in the Podcast Nutrition Label, giving the publisher an opportunity to explain the podcast’s practices and make their point of view known.

NewsGuard has been credited as apolitical and fair in news reports by a variety of news organizations – liberal, middle of the road, and conservative. For that reason, NewsGuard is used by a wide range of governmental and nonprofit organizations as a source of credible, nonpartisan data about media trust, including the World Health Organization, and more than 800 public libraries provide their patrons with the internet browser extension version of our ratings and labels for websites.

Why should anyone trust NewsGuard? 

  • Because the leadership and staff of NewsGuard use basic, apolitical, criteria of journalistic practice for the ratings and because they are a group of trained journalists who have spent their careers dedicated to the profession. Steven Brill is one of America’s most respected magazine writers and non-fiction book authors. Gordon Crovitz was a highly regarded columnist for the Wall Street Journal editorial page—and The Wall Street Journal’s publisher. Our senior advisors in each country have similar backgrounds, such as our UK senior advisor who was a journalist at the BBC for 30 years, including as global news editor, and our Italian senior advisor who spent 30 years at ANSA (the Italian version of the AP), including as editor in chief. They and the journalists they have recruited care deeply about reliable journalism’s pivotal role in democracy.
  • These experienced journalists come from diverse backgrounds and have no political axes to grind. In fact, you can see the credentials and backgrounds of everyone responsible for every NewsGuard Nutrition Label that you read.
  • NewsGuard has an ethics and conflicts of interest policy that every analyst and editor has to agree to. Click to see the policy.
  • NewsGuard is totally transparent about how all decisions are made. It discloses and explains in detail the criteria NewsGuard examines in order to rate each podcast on its journalistic practices. The Nutrition Label write-ups explain what’s behind each decision. NewsGuard is not a black box algorithm.
  • NewsGuard makes concerted attempts to get comment from every podcasts’ editor or manager before NewsGuard writes anything negative about the publisher, and always include the comments in the podcast Nutrition Labels (or make changes after weighing the comment and realizing NewsGuard’s initial conclusion was wrong). Algorithms don’t call for comment.
  • NewsGuard posts any complaints from podcast proprietors about anything that is written about them. And NewsGuard’s leaders answer them publicly – and when warranted will make corrections, publicly, after they consider the complaint.
  • NewsGuard accepts no fees from the news podcasts for its ratings. NewsGuard’s revenue comes from the fees that technology companies such as access providers, platforms and search engines pay for licensing ratings; that advertisers, ad agencies and ad tech companies pay for brand-safety tools; and that cyber security entities pay for data to protect democracies from hostile information operations. Many websites cite their green rating in their About sections and run advertising explaining their NewsGuard ratings.
  • Bringing more information to people about the news sources they encounter online is NewsGuard’s only business. The success of this venture depends entirely on being trustworthy and reliable.

Who is behind NewsGuard?

NewsGuard was launched by a team of experienced journalists, including the former publisher of The Wall Street Journal, the founder of The American Lawyer and Court TV, and former top editors at Reuters, the Associated Press, and the Chicago Tribune.

NewsGuard’s team includes a wide range of journalists and editors from diverse journalistic backgrounds in the countries in which we operate—currently, the U.S., Canada, U.K., Germany, France, and Italy. (NewsGuard has rated all the news and information websites that account for 95% of online engagement in each country.) Learn more about NewsGuard’s team.

NewsGuard’s team believes in transparency and accountability, so in addition to our team, all of our investors and advisors are disclosed prominently on our website.

How does NewsGuard make money?

NewsGuard makes money by licensing access to its database of independent ratings to technology companies, advertising agencies, educational organizations, cyber security entities and others that want to provide their customers, clients, teachers and students with a trusted source of information to distinguish credible news sources from untrustworthy sources.

Who owns and funds NewsGuard?

NewsGuard Technologies, Inc. is a privately owned corporation based in New York. A full list of our investors is available here.