OLD Media Moves

Consumer Reports works to overcome subscription decline

June 19, 2018

Posted by Chris Roush

Karen K. Ho writes for Columbia Journalism Review about how Consumer Reports is working to overcome a decline in subscriptions.

Ho writes, “Meantime, subscriptions are falling. In 2007, CR had more than 8.5 million subscribers across five titles. By May 31, 2017, CR’s subscription numbers had fallen even more to 3.6 million print and 2.9 million online, a three-year decline of more than one million subscriptions and a drop of more than $31.8 million in subscription revenues between June 1, 2014 and May 31, 2017.

“When the new [executives] came in, they began basically ignoring us and our way of doing things. So they didn’t give us a chance to come up with our own ideas. They thought they knew what was best.

“As CR transitioned to a new leadership team, approximately three dozen senior staff were let go, were forced to leave, or willingly left between 2012 and 2015. Many had worked at the organization for more than 15 years.

“Former Technology Editor Jeff Fox is one of them. He started at CR in 1990 and stayed for 24 years, but he says things shifted during the recession in 2008, along with the introduction of digital tablets and the rise of mobile. Fox says many CR staff always considered the organization to be less vulnerable to economic downturns due to the absence of advertising. ‘The belief was we could adapt better than anyone else could,’ he says. ‘This time it was different. The old-fashioned media people didn’t get [tablets]. They were completely ill-prepared for smartphones.’

“During the last few years Fox was at the company, he says the senior editorial staff was aware of how subscriptions were falling and change was needed, but they were the ones being ‘methodically’ gutted—including fact-checkers and copy-editors.”

Read more here.

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