There may be no better example of the potential for mobile devices to put actionable information literally in people’s hands than Consumer Reports‘ new multimedia mobile platform, CR Mobile, which allows shoppers to access ratings, reviews product data and buyers’ advice directly on their phones. Free to the publisher’s 3.2 million online subscribers, the service is available for a fee to non-subscribers who sign up for 24-hour or 30-day access on any Web-enabled phone (at a cost of $.99 and $4.99 respectively, charged to their wireless bill).
Inbox asked Jerry Steinbrink, vice president of publishing at Consumer Reports, what the new product is designed to accomplish and where the nonprofit organization hopes to take the service in terms of content, usability and revenue generation.
INBOX: What consumer need is being answered by offering this mobile platform?
JERRY STEINBRINK: Our strategy is to deliver our powerful ratings and product reliability information where people need us most—while they’re shopping. If you’re in a store trying to decide which LCD TV to buy, having our ratings at your fingertips is extremely valuable.
INBOX: Do you hope the service will drive non-subscribers to other Consumers Union products?
STEINBRINK: Yes. Because it is a window into ConsumerReports.org—and is provided free with a subscription to CRO—we think it is smart and cost-effective to become a full online subscriber. That way a user can do more thoughtful product research at home, or access our ratings on the go.
INBOX: How did you decide to offer the one-day and 30-day options and rates? Why not a yearly option?
STEINBRINK: The one-day and 30-day options are billed through the wireless carriers and are designed for non-subscribers who need our information immediately. The carriers will not approve charges higher than $9.99 billed to customers, so an annual rate was out of the question.
INBOX: Any thoughts to add to the functionality—such as by allowing consumers to contribute instant reviews themselves upon, say, seeing a product demo in a store?
STEINBRINK: We’re evaluating several potential additions, and will undoubtedly expand the product over time. We think user reviews of in-store experiences would be really helpful.
INBOX: What are you expecting revenue-wise from this?
STEINBRINK: We’re expecting fairly modest revenues from the mobile Web in the early going because the price points are comparatively low and the carriers take a hefty slice. But we hope it becomes a valuable addition to a ConsumerReports.org subscription and drives retention. With almost 3.3 million subscribers, a small boost in retention translates into significant revenue.