Consumer Reports is getting a facelift to celebrate 80 years in business and to grow digital readership, reports USA Today.
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Changes that will be part of the latest Consumer Reports makeover include:
- A new color scheme
- A revamped rating system
- A tiered membership program
Color scheme: In addition to a vibrant new color palette, positive ratings will now be green instead of red to reflect the company’s positive spirit. To accommodate colorblind readers, arrows will be used for ratings.
Rating system: To compete with free, online, user-generated ratings sites like Yelp, Consumer Reports is simplifying its rating system too. Starting in November, Consumer Reports will make ratings less cumbersome and easier to understand using graphics and by giving reviewed products one score. The hope is that these simplifications will also make Consumer Reports’ content more shareable on social media.
Membership program: According to USA Today, Consumer Reports will introduce a membership program in the spring of 2017. The free tier will offer the site’s free content and stories along with hospital ratings and their infection rates. Reviews and ratings will require a paid subscription. Consumer Reports did not reveal what the paid tiers would cost or what each level of membership would include.
In addition to these key changes, Consumer Reports will put more of a focus on video to appeal to video fans and advertisers, said USA Today. The videos will be available through a video hub with an advanced search feature and 360-degree videos so readers can take virtual tours of individual projects and large-scale home projects, said Consumer Reports. The magazine will also experiment with new platforms and do more software testing since so many appliances and devices are now tied to the internet.
“This is our eightieth year at Consumer Reports, and we’re using this opportunity to engage with consumers in new and different ways,” said CEO Marta Tellado in a video announcement.
“This is just the beginning,” said the magazine in a September 20 announcement. “You’ll be seeing more from us as we develop new tools and opportunities for you to share your insights. We remain who we’ve always been – a nonprofit independent organization working with consumers – all to help you make better choices for the big moments of your life and the everyday ones in between.”
Owned by Consumers Union, Consumer Reports currently gets most of its funding from subscriptions. It does not accept outside advertising and does not accept free samples for testing. They use mystery shoppers and technical experts to buy and test products. It has about 7 million subscribers, including 3.8 print subscribers and 3.2 digital subscribers.
This redesign comes just two years after Consumer Reports’ last redesign in September 2014. According to SPD.org, that redesign was focused on a reimagined image and editorial voice that would retain what readers love about Consumer Reports but with an eye toward a new future. The revamped magazine put a new emphasis on strong imagery and infographics, brighter colors, better navigation online and off, “dynamic layouts,” and more engaging experience for readers, said SPD.org.
Consumer Reports is just the latest in a string of recent magazine redesigns, all done in an effort to grow digital readership. In its September issue, Meredith Corporation-owned Family Circle magazine revealed a new magazine design, logo, new layouts, fonts and photography, and a new editorial focus written for millennial moms raising Generation Z. Family Circle has an audience of 16 million month readers, who consumer print and digital editions and content on social networks. It has monthly circulation of 4 million.
“The vibrant images and thought-provoking text will resonate with our readers who are looking for original ideas and a leisurely experience as well as those searching for an in-depth perspective on the issues and causes they care most about,” said Linda Fears, Family Circle vice president and editor-in-chief.
The redesign of Consumer Reports is interesting for a couple of reasons. First of all, they just redesigned the publication two years ago, so the timing of the revamp is curious. It sounds like the latest redesign did not accomplish its goals, but rather than drag it out and make incremental changes, the magazine jumped right back in to rethink it.
Because the magazine does not accept outside advertising, they did not redesign the publication solely to grow revenue or to offset declining advertising dollars. They did it to appeal to today’s reader which can, in turn, improve subscriber retention and attract new readers. They’ve simplified ratings to compete with other ratings sites and services, and they’re adding a new emphasis to videos which is the way the online world is leaning these days. Consumer Reports is learning from their current readers and the competition.
They have gone beyond the test-and-tweak approach. They are truly reimagining how they do things, and that’s a good move for all subscription companies. Small changes will yield small results. Big changes, however, will yield big results, and if done right, can serve as a game changer. We can’t wait to see the new look in November!