Good News: Consumers Union is Buying the Consumerist

By  |  Tuesday, December 30, 2008 at 3:02 pm

consumerist-crThe media biz is such a vale of tears these days that it’s a delight whenever a scrap of news that isn’t completely depressing comes along. And here’s news that’s all good: The Consumerist, the excellent consumer-issues blog that flirted with death when owner Gawker Media put it up for sale last month, is being bought by Consumers Union, the Consumer Reports folks. Here’s a New York Times story with all the details, including sound bites from my friend and former boss Kevin McKean, Consumer Reports’ editorial director.

Last month, I was a guest at a conference put on by Consumers Union and the Columbia Journalism Review. I was on a panel moderated by Kevin that the Consumerist’s Ben Poken was also on, and the news about the site being up for sale had just come up. Mediablogger Jeff Jarvis was in the audience, and during the Q&A he sprung up to suggest that CU buy the Consumerist. The CU folks present there looked intrigued by the idea but very, very cautious.

For all I know, they were already talking with Gawker, or would have done so whether or not Jeff threw out the notion. In any event, it’s hard to imagine a better home for the Consumerist than Consumers Union–it’s great news for everyone involved (including, especially, Consumerist readers), and nifty to see so venerable an institution as Consumers Union fulfill its mission in such a new and powerful way.


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3 Comments For This Post

  1. Kevin McKean Says:

    Actually, as I recall, we were thinking very seriously about trying to purchase the Consumerist but don’t think we’d yet made any formal contact at that point (I defer to my friend Jerry Steinbrink, who actually made the first call, in case my memory is faulty). But we were definitely interested — we just couldn’t talk about it yet. Nevertheless, Jarvis hit the nail on the head, and now he wants his commission. BuzzMachine says Ben Popken, the Consumerist editor, has promised Jeff a great deal on a toaster, so I guess we’ll have to come up with something. Thanks to the Technologizer for this nod!

  2. Dave Barnes Says:

    As a:
    1. 60-year old white male
    2. a subscriber to

    and as a:
    1. visitor to

    I resemble the insinuations that we old people aren’t worth anything.

    My wife and I bought a new car (Audi A3) in March of 2008 and both of us did a lot of research — including on — about potential vehicles. I guess Audi does not care that we gave them $30K+ USD.

    Just last month (November 2008), we (had to buy) bought a new washing machine. I spent over an hour on the website before giving Bosch $1200 USD. I guess the Germans don’t really want our money.

    Let’s get real here. People between the ages of 60 and 80 will spend a lot of money on a lot of stuff.

    I even researched the best laundry detergent to use with our new fancy front-loader and for the first time in my life I am buying Tide thanks to I guess P&G doesn’t really want my money.

  3. Michael Karesh Says:

    Definitely good compared to the Consumerist going away. However, I’m personally concerned about this purchase.

    I operate, which provides vehicle reliability information. Our information has two large advantages over that of Consumer Reports:

    1. Report actual repair rates, not just vague dots, to make the differences between models much clearer.

    2. Results promptly updated four times a year; so our information averages about ten months ahead of CR’s.

    But, since we’re a competitor, you’ll never see CR mention our information, and I’m personally not allowed to mention my site in their forums–even when I have information that they cannot provide. Now that they’ve bought the Consumerist, I suspect the same will be true for it.

    Quite a few times a journalist has told me that he can’t write about the unique information offers car buyers, because part of what the site offers competes with information offered by their employer.

    In other words, from where I sit media consolidation isn’t a good thing. Each media outlet has its own interests, and these come before the interests of readers. The larger these outlets get, the broader their interests get, and the more delimited their reporting gets.