Two decades ago, Consumer Reports started sharing its product reviews with subscribers online. Now, the 81-year-old magazine is making an even bigger change: Doing way more than just hardware.
On the latest episode of Too Embarrassed to Ask, CEO Marta Tellado talked about how the nonprofit business, which is supported by paid subscriptions, is rethinking its role in the digital era. It wants to "bend the marketplace,” she said, to make all products safer, more reliable and more conscious of their users’ privacy.
“We now have connected cars ... [and] all this ambient technology that is constantly giving you information — connected products at home, smart homes,” Tellado said. “So how do you take a workforce and shift it from thinking about the hardware to thinking about the software?”
On a site called the Digital Standard, Consumer Reports and its partners are planning to name and shame the worst offenders in consumer privacy, while also uplifting the best products — starting with TVs, fitness trackers and baby monitors.
The site has historically proven that it can mobilize its subscribers to put its issues in the faces of manufacturers and legislators. After the recent Equifax hack (which we’ll be discussing in depth on an upcoming Too Embarrassed to Ask), Consumer Reports rallied 150,000 readers to contact Congress within 24 hours, Tellado said.
On the podcast, Tellado also explained why people should still listen to product-reviewing experts, particularly those with a proven track record of independence, even though looking at the starred reviews on Amazon is a lot easier.
“There’s a cacophony of voices, offline and online, talking about products,” Tellado said. “But are they independent? Are they ad-based? How do you know it’s not a native ad? How do you know it’s a trusted source? What we keep hearing from folks is, ‘We need a trusted source.’”
Have questions about Consumer Reports or the future of reviews that we didn’t get to in this episode? Tweet them to @Recode with the hashtag #TooEmbarrassed, or email them to TooEmbarrassed@recode.net.
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This article originally appeared on Recode.net.