“Change is hard”: Consumer Reports restructures to survive in the digital era


In an age of Amazon (s AMZN) reviews, Consumer Reports is struggling to succeed: Its average reader is over 60 years old. “It was a very slow process for [Consumer Reports] to wake up to the notion that the website was more important than the print product,” one former employee told Romenesko. “There was the attitude, ‘Users don’t know anything; we’re the experts.'”

Today in Cleantech

Consumer Affairs is out with new polling figures this week with regard to how Americans feel about alternatively fueled vehicles. We’re heading into the summer and with gas well above $4 in many cities and $5 gas on the horizon, 73 percent of drivers said they would consider an alternatively fueled vehicle, from a hybrid to flex-fuel, which runs on E85 ethanol. The top consideration in buyers’ next vehicle purchase was fuel economy (37 percent) followed by a distant second being quality (17 percent), with younger buyers disproportionately interested in alternatively fueled vehicles. The automakers are also aware that car ownership has lost some of its luster, particularly among young people and Zipcar has done studies showing young people care more about social networking online than owning a car. There’s definitely a generational shift going on as young folks care about fuel efficiency and environmental impacts, which makes them question the absolute need to own a car in the first place.

Today in Mobile

The raves continue to roll in for the latest version of Apple’s iPad: ChangeWave reports that 82 percent of new iPad owners are “very satisfied” with their tablet, and an additional 16 percent are satisfied. Meanwhile, Consumer Reports ranked the gadget as the best tablet on the market just two weeks after the publication voiced concerns about the heat it produces. None of this is surprising, of course, given Apple’s runaway success in the market and its uncanny ability to keep production costs under control. And while Amazon’s Kindle Fire has taken a little of Apple’s share of the tablet market, it’s clear that we have yet to see a device that comes anywhere near the iPad in terms of functionality and price point.

Apple’s iPad, iPhone top many holiday shopping lists this year

Apple seems poised for a strong holiday season, at least according to two new surveys. Both those doing the shopping and those writing up their own personal wish lists seem to be in sync about one thing: Apple’s iPad and iPhone are in high demand.

IPhone 4S gets the Consumer Reports nod but no top spot

Apple’s iPhone 4S has secured the coveted Consumer Reports recommendation in its latest round of updated smartphone ratings. That’s something its predecessor could never achieve, thanks to a loss of cellular signal reception that could be unwittingly caused by gripping the phone a certain way.

Why we need a Kelley Blue Book for solar

More solar panels are sprouting from the rooftops these days, along with an increasing number of equipment models and installers. Yet there is no good consumer guide to help people compare shop and avoid scams. The time has come to create one.

Consumers need to be sold on benefits of mobile payments

The way people have been talking about near field communication, digital wallets and carrier billing, you’d think consumers were ready to embrace mobile payments. But Consumer Reports said consumers may not be as excited about paying for goods with their phones, nor should they be.

Today in Mobile

A Bloomberg piece this morning predicts a rocky road ahead for AT&T’s proposed acquisition of T-Mobile USA. The story cites FCC chief economist Jonathan Baker’s concern that the deal might lead to increased prices for consumers, and it mentions the fact that T-Mobile USA has long tried to differentiate itself from the two largest U.S. carriers on price. And that piece comes on the heels of news that Consumers Union (which publishers Consumer Reports) is overtly lobbying federal regulators against the acquisition. I think the deal will go through, but this is going to be a long, painful process for AT&T.