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Consumer Reports publisher looks for younger audience in blogs

In a push for younger readers, Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports magazine and ConsumerReports.org, has acquired the blog Consumerist.com. Financial details of the acquisition were not disclosed.

Consumerist, put on the block by Gawker Media in mid-November, boasts more than 10 million average monthly page views, mostly from readers in the 18-40 age range. Executives at Consumers Union are hoping that the younger traffic surge may help bring down the average reader age for its own magazine and site, which cater largely to a 40+ demographic. Consumer Reports currently has 4.6 million print subscribers and 3.3 million paid Web subscribers.

“Consumerist is certainly positioned well with a younger audience that complements the Consumers Union audience very well,” said John Sateja, EVP of Consumers Union. “We’re both focusing on injustices in the marketplace affecting consumers, and it was a really good mission fit with ours.

“From a strategic point of view,” he added, “the Web has been growing continuously for us, and we have been adding a lot of web 2.0 type capabilities — much more blogging and user-generated content and video — and when you start to move into that environment with a younger audience, it makes sense to look at possible partnerships and acquisitions that would help position our brand better with that audience.”  

Consumers Union properties are ad-free and gain revenues from paying subscribers online and in print. Consumerist will stop selling ads on its site but retain its free access. The blog will cross-promote with Consumer Reports to sell print and online subscriptions to the paid properties.

“Consumerist is not positioned to be a strong advertising-based property, so it fits better with our business model, which is paid content,” Sateja explained. “Other than attracting that new audience, it will certainly drive traffic and raise search engine rankings for Consumer Reports-related content. If we provide the right value to the right audience we will hopefully be able to sell more subscriptions.”

The staff of Consumerist will remain largely the same under its new ownership. Senior editor Meghann Marco and editor Ben Popken have both been promoted to co-executive editor. Chris Walters and Carey Greenberg-Berger, two former Consumerist contributors laid off by Gawker earlier this year, have been brought back to the site.

Consumerist will officially join Consumers Union under the new, nonprofit Consumer Media LLC on January 1, 2009.

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