Cover Story: The Search for Profitable Publishing
"ShopSmart has really helped to bolster our print performance overall. Consumer Reports is still continuing to grow in circulation [its current paid, print circulation is more than 4 million], although slower than in the past," he says.
"[ShopSmart also] is working out quite well for us in attracting a new audience, mostly women. And it uses a new business model of being primarily online circulation-driven. First, subscriptions were made available through [Consumer Reports'] Web site, and then e-mail blasts [were sent] to outside lists," he says.
Always Looking at the Next Steps
While many other publications have cut editorial resources, Consumer Reports has increased its investment in creating more original content, says Sateja.
"We have increased the number of products we test and have added an online shopping application so consumers can link to retailers after they have done their product research," he says—again part of the organization's long-term strategy. "After you read the product reviews, the next step is to shop ... [so it's providing ways for consumers to do that]. We've been doing this for years, but you [now] can shop for products in the free area of ConsumerReports.org in addition to behind the pay wall, where you can see the ratings."
The organization also acquired The Consumerist blog site last year as an investment in social media. "Social media is an important part of our strategy, but we try to balance it with our core products. It's been generating a lot of traffic for us," says Sateja.
And, like many publishers, Consumer Reports is exploring mobile expansion. It was a pioneer in experimenting in the mobile space with product reviews, but Sateja says, "Mobile is a big area [where] you'll see a lot more from us. We're developing more mobile applications for shopping and reviews, and it will be a pretty significant step forward for us."