Consumer Reports, the magazine whose stock-in-trade is assessing the value of consumer products, has trained its scientifically rigorous evaluation process on an unlikely target: itself.
The magazine is strategic about setting prices, often borrowing from its own editorial practices. In determining how to charge for its new mobile website, for example, it ran tests with potential users. The magazine is in the process of testing out pricing plans for its “next-generation” iPhone app, which is still in development. (Their current app provides only limited access to CR content.) One group of app testers will be asked how much they’d pay for the tool; another group will be asked to react to some suggested prices.
The question of how much to charge for content is one that many major media companies are considering as they attempt to monetize mobile apps. Consumer Reports has an apparent edge in this process thanks to its product-testing infrastructure. Because the magazine doesn’t sell ads, its subscription revenue is a critical component of its business.
It’s fortunate then that mobile devices offer Consumer Reports a big chance to improve its reach, simply because readers can access the magazine’s evaluations while they’re in a store, comparing potential purchases. The app sounds exceptionally smart; allowing users to photograph products’ barcodes with their smartphones and immediately bring up relevant Consumer Reports data.
Consumer Reports also hopes to use its mobile apps to draw users into paying for its overall Web subscription services, further driving revenue.
Magazine apps haven’t offered instantaneous results for publishers; GQ, for example, has sold around 435 iPad editions of its December issue. Publishers need rigorous testing to find out how and why readers will use their mobile products. Consumer Reports‘ product-evaluation techniques are a good way to start answering some of those questions.
Video promo for Consumer Reports Mobile after the jump.