Consumers Union’s Gold Standard
DECADES OF CHANGE
Milani has seen tremendous change in the industry over the course of 53 years. However, he says, despite all these changes, his company’s mission has withstood the test of time. “[If you] think about it, Consumers Union still hasn’t really changed,” he says. “We test and inform, and we’re beholden to no one. We don’t accept advertising, [and] everything we test, we buy.”
While the company’s steadfast mission continues to drive its success, Milani acknowledges that CU is facing some of the same challenges as the rest of the industry. Printing costs are rising, as are paper and postage prices, and anything relating to commodities will continue to go up, he explains. “It used to be that if you had a publication, printing cost the most, then paper and then distribution (trucking and postage),” he says. “Now, it has reversed itself; distribution is No. 1, paper is No. 2 and printing is No. 3.”
Mass availability of electronic information also has presented challenges to print publications––to remain relevant to readers and to create effective strategies for multimedia publishing. Again, suggests Milani, CU’s mission of being beholden only to the reader seems to be guiding the company successfully through these challenges as well. “I think the reason people find our magazine [still valuable is because Consumer Reports] was always geared toward the readers—the readers are our bosses, and they find it useful,” he says.
About nine years ago, Consumer Reports launched its Web site in response to readers’ requests, says Milani. “Right now, the number of subscribers on ConsumerReports.org is just under 3 million, and it’s growing every day,” he says. Approximately 25 percent of the online subscribers also receive the print edition, he adds.
So, what advice would Milani give to other publishing executives facing the challenges of today’s publishing industry? “Think—come up with new ideas,” Milani says. “… I think that there are [also] greater opportunities [today], so [publishing executives] have to find them.”