It doesn’t take advertising, so no company can influence its editorial product. And it buys every item it tests at retail, so it tests the same products that you and I can buy. More than anything else, those are the two reasons Americans have trusted Consumer Reports for more than half a century.
CR is especially respected in one particular category – automobiles. Its annual New Car Issue, usually out in the spring, typically is its bestseller of the year. Extensive testing, along with comprehensive repair history, gives relevance to Consumer Reports’ opinion of a vehicle.
The first issue of the magazine, then called Consumers Union, was published in 1936 with articles on Grade A and B milk, breakfast cereals, soap, and stockings. The name was changed to Consumer Reports in 1942. The magazine really took off after World War II, helping families with money for consumer goods make smart choices.
The magazine’s circulation has risen to 4,000,000, but with so much consumer information available online, people are less likely to wait for a magazine to get the answers they seek. CR recognizes this, and now has an extensive Web site with the same sorts of reviews formerly available only in print – cars, appliances, electronics, home and garden, babies and kids, money, shopping, and health. Most of the data is available to subscribers only, however.
While some occasionally raise concerns about a specific test methodology, there’s consensus that Consumer Reports has influenced how manufacturers make and market their products. The result has been a safer, better informed marketplace – and that’s quite a remarkable legacy.