This year, we are phasing out our numbered rating system.
Some of you may be wondering, “Why include a numbered rating system in the first place?” We work hard to publish high-quality, in-depth journalism and to bring local music to a wider audience. But in doing so, it’s important to consider how people interact with online content. Research shows that a third of the online audience won’t continue reading after initially clicking on an article. At the time of instituting the numbered ratings, we believed that they would give readers a glanceable overview—a chance to get a general idea of how our team felt about the music and perhaps even a reason to read on.
Over the years, however, we started to notice a pattern. Many of our reviews fell within a “safe zone,” hovering in the range of six to eight out of 10. (Interestingly, this is around the same as Pitchfork’s average rating.) That’s not to say we didn’t give fours or 10s when deserved. But we had to wonder: what value were the ratings providing our audience if most concerts and albums scored in the same small range?
Once you’ve established a style, it’s easy to stick with it and never question whether or not it still helps to accomplish your goals. But we don’t want to do something simply because of habit, or because that’s just the way things are.
After researching how other publications have approached catering to online audiences, we decided to part with our rating system and replace it with shorter sentence summaries—a style that is already employed by The Guardian and Pitchfork, and is reminiscent of The LA Times’ sharelines.
We hope that this sentence summary format will serve as a welcome mat for our readers, allowing them to learn the main themes of a piece and then dive in. For those of our readers who only have 15 seconds to spend with our content, we hope this will help you come away with the latest on the sounds of Boston.
Editor in Chief
Sound of Boston