The Power of Trust
In the first half of a decade that has seen many publishers plagued with precariously low ad revenues, circulation woes out the wazoo, and profit margins slipping, Consumer Reports magazine has had its best years ever. In fact, its parent company, Consumers Union, has had record growth among its other publishing products as well, including its newsletters, books and Web site. Overall, the multimedia publisher’s paid circulation topped 6.9 million in 2005, and its product-related revenue reached an all-time high of about $190 million. Sales of its special interest publications—books, special reports and guides—jumped 16 percent.
The company’s banner years of the early 21st century coincided with its transition under new leadership. A new president—James A. Guest—took the helm of the nonprofit company, and John Sateja took over the company’s publishing business. Sateja oversees Consumer Reports magazine, ConsumerReports.org (the nation’s largest publication-based subscription Web site), the Consumer Reports on Health and Consumer Reports Money Advisor newsletters, Consumer Reports Special Publications, Consumer Reports Auto Price Services, Consumer Reports Television News and all new publishing products.
In 2005, Sateja’s portfolio of products expanded as the company launched three new special interest publications, an online used-car buying kit, and a medical Web site (ConsumerReportsMedicalGuide.org), developed in conjunction with the British Medical Journal Publishing Group.
In addition to strong leadership, the cornerstone of the company’s success and growth in its publishing division is consumer trust. For 70 years, Consumer Reports magazine has built a legacy of trust among its readers. It invests in its publishing products: It has 50 laboratories that test thousands of consumer products every year, and Consumers Union purchases all of the products it tests. And it doesn’t compromise on its promises to readers, says Sateja.
As the company continues to top its own sales records, launch new products and build behemoth Web sites, all of its efforts must be in sync to continue to move forward through the second half of this decade. In this exclusive interview, Sateja talks about how Consumers Union obtains and maintains the loyalty of its readers and continues to launch editorial products that millions of consumers want to buy, amid an age of consumer mistrust and high competition.