The Consumerist

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The Consumerist
Consumeristlogo.png
Consumerist homepage 20081231.png
The Consumerist homepage on 31 December 2008; References to Gawker Media properties have since been removed
Web address consumerist.com
Slogan Shoppers Bite Back[1]
Commercial? Non-profit
Type of site Blog
Registration Optional
Available in U.S. English
Owner Consumer Media LLC
Created by Gawker Media
Launched 2005[1]
Alexa rank positive decrease 8,387 (April 2014)[2]
Current status Operating

The Consumerist is a consumer affairs blog owned by Consumer Media LLC, a subsidiary of Consumer Reports with posts provided by regular daily contributors. The blog's focus is on consumerism and consumers' experiences and issues with companies and corporations, concentrating mostly on U.S. consumers. Some of the topics of its blog entries are originated by the editors, but most come from reader-submitted tips and complaints.

History[edit]

Gawker Media established the blog in December 2005,[3] with Joel Johnson as editor.[1] Johnson had previously edited Gizmodo for Gawker. The Consumerist was an idea from Gawker Media owner Nick Denton and managing editor Lockhart Steele; according to Johnson, "they knew they wanted a shopping blog—but not a shopping blog—and that they wanted to address the issues that consumers really find the most frustrating on a daily basis."

The idea of the site was based on a similar Hungarian blog called Tékozló Homár ("Wasteful Lobster" in Hungarian), which was initiated by Nick Denton's Hungarian friend, László Szily. "Tékozló Homár" is part of the Hungarian leading portal Index.[4]

In creating The Consumerist he established its slogan and initial focus on readers complaints, "consumer-oriented news nuggets, funny pictures and shopping tips — all with the same snarky tone that characterizes Gawker properties like Wonkette and Defamer.".[1] Gawker hired Ben Popken to take over as site lead in February, 2006. Johnson left Gawker in July 2006, citing a "disagreement about [his] role within the company."[5]

Gawker put the blog up for sale in November 2008, at the same time that it announced the closure of one of its other blogs, Valleywag. The Consumerist was purchased by Consumers Union, the publishers of Consumer Reports in December 2008.[6] The site's only two full-time employees, site lead Ben Popken and senior editor Meghann Marco, were retained through the sale.

Due to potential conflict of interest concerns, The Consumerist does not run display ads for outside advertisers; while owned by Gawker, all display ads linked to other Gawker sites, although the site sold text ads through the Google AdWords program. As such, the site was considered a loss leader, whose primary business role was to help drive traffic to other revenue-producing Gawker sites. Since the Consumer Reports acquisition, all advertising on the site is for Consumer Reports magazine or ConsumerReports.org.

Consumer Reports laid off Managing Editor Ben Popken in November 2011.[7] The departure was announced in a final blog post by Popken on Consumerist.[8] Since then, traffic has fallen by over 80 percent, going from .06 percent of all web traffic to .01 percent.[9] Popken subsequently went on to become a Senior Staff Writer and Editor at NBC News.[10]

Features[edit]

"Morning Deals"

Usually the first post of every weekday consists of a number of online deals or offers, usually on electronic devices.

"Great Moments In Commercial History"

A popular past feature was known as 'Great Moments In Commercial History,' with a focus on strange and entertaining local commercials. Past features have included Moo and Oink grocery stores (Chicago, Illinois) and Mr. Appliance (Eugene, Oregon).

"Christmas Creep"

Photos or stories of retail stores advertising Christmas sales, displaying Christmas decorations or playing Christmas music far before the traditional holiday season. This feature often appears between September and early November.

"Above and Beyond"

In a post introducing Above and Beyond, Creator Carey Greenberg-Berger said "Occasionally, corporations do something right. Not all the time. Not most of the time. Occasionally. When they do, we want to give credit where credit is due."[11]

"Worst Company In America"

The Consumerist runs an annual "Worst Company In America" contest with the winner determined by a series of reader polls. The single-elimination tournament is similar in format to college basketball's March Madness being held simultaneously. Companies that have advanced to the final four are included in the table below. The winning company is sent a "Golden Poo" trophy. In recent years, silver and bronze poos have been sent to the other finalists.

Year Winner Runner-up Third place
2006 Halliburton Choicepoint Wal-Mart and US Government
2007 RIAA Halliburton Wal-Mart and Exxon
2008 Countrywide Financial [note 1] Comcast Diebold and Wal-Mart
2009 AIG [note 2] Comcast Bank of America[note 3] and Ticketmaster
2010 Comcast Cash4Gold Bank of America and Ticketmaster
2011 BP [note 4] Bank of America Comcast and Ticketmaster
2012 Electronic Arts Bank of America AT&T[note 5] and Wal-Mart
2013 Electronic Arts Bank of America Comcast
2014 Comcast Monsanto Wal-Mart and Sea World
  1. ^ One of the first dominoes to fall in the United States housing bubble
  2. ^ Involved in 2009 AIG bonus payments controversy after taking billions of dollars in Troubled Asset Relief Program bailouts
  3. ^ Acquired Countrywide Financial in 2008
  4. ^ involved in the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill
  5. ^ Defeated Wal-Mart in the first consolation match to win the bronze poo.

Highlights[edit]

Stories reported on The Consumerist have been featured in national media such as CNN and The New York Times.[12] The Consumerist often posts phone numbers and contact information for CEOs and upper level corporate customer support, and provides information on how to execute an "Executive Email Carpet Bomb".[13]

Vincent Ferrari & AOL[edit]

On June 13, 2006, Vincent Ferrari posted an audio file of himself speaking with an AOL representative allegedly named John as he tried to cancel his AOL account. The AOL representative initially resisted Ferrari's request by attempting to keep the discussion focused on Ferrari's reasons for wanting to cancel. Vincent asked the customer representative several times to close the account until the conversation becomes confrontational, at which point he adamantly stated, "Cancel the account!" repeatedly until John complied with his request. After the recording of this call, Ferrari both posted it to his blog and submitted it to The Consumerist tip line. The AOL representative who Vincent spoke to was fired from his job.[14][15] The Consumerist called the story "[t]he best story we ever posted."[16]

The Grocery Shrink Ray[edit]

The "grocery shrink ray" is a term coined by Meghann Marco for the trend for groceries to be reduced in size while being sold at the same price point.[17] Manufacturers perform these reductions to reduce their own costs, but do not pass any savings on to the customer. Installments of these articles usually included user submitted photographs of the product in question on the shelf, being sold along with a newer and slightly smaller version of the same product. Local and national media outlets such as WTVT-TV FOX 13 in Florida, and National Public Radio have interviewed Popken regarding the trend and his attempts to inform the public at large.[18][19]

Facebook terms of service[edit]

On February 15, 2009, The Consumerist broke the news of a terms of service clause that gave Facebook the right to "Do anything they want with your content. Forever."[20] Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, Inc. later claimed that a paragraph was accidentally left out saying that the license to your content was exclusive to one's privacy settings and that the license expired when an account was closed. This event began much media coverage over the controversy of the terms of service.[21]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Dan Mitchell (31 December 2005). "What's Online: Shoppers of the World, Unite". The New York Times. Retrieved 24 February 2013. 
  2. ^ "Consumerist.com Site Info". Alexa Internet. Retrieved 2014-04-01. 
  3. ^ Carl Bialik (December 25, 2005). "An Interview With the Consumerist". Gelf Magazine. Retrieved 21 December 2011. 
  4. ^ http://adowntownreporter.blogspot.hu/2007/04/q-with-ben-popken-editor-consumerist.html Q & A with Ben Popken, Editor, The Consumerist (April 18, 2007)
  5. ^ Second Annual Gawker Media Bug Out, a July 21, 2006 joeljohnson.com blog entry
  6. ^ Clifford, Stephanie (31 December 2012). "Consumers Union to Buy Gawker Blog Consumerist". The New York Times. Retrieved 24 February 2012. 
  7. ^ Ben Popken. "Goodbye to Consumerist.com". benpopkenwrites. Retrieved 24 February 2013. 
  8. ^ Ben Popken Says Farewell To Consumerist.com
  9. ^ "Statistics Summary for consumerist.com". Alexa. 2013. Retrieved 24 February 2013. 
  10. ^ [1]
  11. ^ "Introducing Above And Beyond", The Consumerist, 18 February 2007.
  12. ^ "Consumers Have Allies on the Web". The New York Times. 3 February 2007. Retrieved 24 February 2013. 
  13. ^ How to Launch an Executive Email Carpet Bomb
  14. ^ Vincent Ferrari, One of the New Influencers from blogoscoped.com
  15. ^ ICMI/Call Center Magazine Network from callcentermagazine.com
  16. ^ The Best Thing We Have Ever Posted: Reader Tries To Cancel AOL from consumerist.com
  17. ^ "Grocery Shrink Ray". Consumerist. Gawker Media. Retrieved 2008-07-14. 
  18. ^ Popken, Ben (2008-06-20). "Ben Popken on TV talking bout Shrinking Packages". Consumerist. Gawker Media. Retrieved 2008-07-14. 
  19. ^ "Grocery Items: Same Price, Smaller Size". All Things Considered. National Public Radio. 2008-07-10. Retrieved 2008-07-14. 
  20. ^ "Facebook's New Terms Of Service: "We Can Do Anything We Want With Your Content. Forever."". Consumerist. Consumer Media LLC. Retrieved 2009-02-20. 
  21. ^ "Facebook Privacy Fallout Goes Nuclear". Consumerist. Consumer Media LLC. Retrieved 2009-02-20. 

External links[edit]