Are you a fan of consumer news with a focus on saving money and not letting corporate America push you around, all with an often-irreverent attitude?

Well, hope so, since you’re reading Coupons in the News. But you may also have been a fan of the Consumerist, a consumer affairs website known for its sass and snark, as it stood up for the little guy by standing up to the big guys.

But no longer. It seems the “big guys” have won – abruptly pulling the plug on the Consumerist after a dozen years.

The website is owned by Consumers Union, best known as the publisher of Consumer Reports. On Monday, the owners called a meeting of Consumerist staff and summarily dismissed just about everyone. They then posted a short message to readers on the website, attempting to put a positive spin on the sudden shutdown. “This is our last post on Consumerist.com,” it read. “We’ve had a tremendous run as a standalone site. Now you’ll be able to get the same great coverage of consumer issues as part of Consumer Reports, our parent organization.”

The company expanded on that thought in a news release, announcing that it will “thoughtfully incorporate key elements of Consumerist content in new ways within Consumer Reports.” And in a memo to staffers, Consumer Reports President and CEO Marta Tellado tried to explain the decision even further.


“We’ve been seeking out ways to bring the best of CRO [Consumer Reports Online] and Consumerist together by featuring Consumerist stories on CRO, by infusing some of Consumerist’s best practices – including timely reporting, an occasionally more casual voice, and others – into our broader reporting and writing,” she explained. Merging the two properties into one, she said, “will ensure we are able to better maximize our investments and resources.”

The Consumerist began life in 2005 as a sister site to Gawker (which itself flamed out last year, for entirely different reasons), adopting a similar snarky, tell-it-like-is tone. Three years later, it was purchased by Consumers Union.

And somehow it kept going under its new ownership for nearly a decade, earning millions of monthly page views while remaining ad-free, even though the freewheeling Consumerist and the more buttoned-down Consumer Reports always seemed like an odd pairing.

Over the years, the Consumerist became best known for quirky features like “Raiders of the Lost Walmart”, with reader-submitted photos of outdated technology being sold at Walmart for full price, and the “Grocery Shrink Ray”, highlighting companies that made their packages slightly smaller but charged the same price. It took on coupons by calling out department stores that had so many restrictions in the fine print that the coupon appeared to be invalid on just about everything, and poked fun at companies that “forgot how the internet works” after posting high-value coupons online and watching greedy shoppers use and abuse them. And it even cited Coupons in the News stories a time or two.

The Consumerist reserved a special kind of outrage for unhelpful customer service representatives at what it deemed the most consumer-unfriendly companies, like cable and phone providers, which often won its annual “Worst Company in America” award.

Some loved it, some didn’t. The Consumerist typically featured a viewpoint that was so rabidly pro-consumer, it could appear to have the attitude that all companies existed just to act stupidly and rip you off. The Consumerist’s parent company prides itself on being impartial – but was having one of its properties openly and regularly attack corporate America just a little too much?

Former Consumerist editor Chris Morran did not respond to a request for comment about the shutdown. But he’s been very vocal about it online, blasting his former boss on Twitter. “Consumer Reports says that Consumerist failed to meet utterly nonexistent conversion and subscription goals, so now the site is going away,” he wrote. “I’d like to thank [Marta Tellado] for making Consumerist the scapegoat for her inability to run Consumer Reports.”

“Tellado says the Consumerist ‘voice’ is being integrated into Consumer Reports but how? She FIRED ALL THE WRITERS,” Morran went on. “No one at Consumer Reports ever edited Consumerist content. They barely even read the site.”

A Consumer Reports spokesperson would not respond to the accusations of mismanagement, referring only to the news release announcing the Consumerist’s closure and not answering any specific questions.

That unwillingness to elaborate has Consumerist fans attacking the company online. “For a company that advocates for transparency in other companies, you have done a terrible job explaining the decision to close the Consumerist website,” a commenter wrote on the Consumer Reports Facebook page. “CR shutting down The Consumerist is another example of ‘Old Media’ trying to hold back the sands of time by buying out and shutting down ‘New Media’,” another commented.

But the Consumerist shutdown – er, “incorporation” into Consumer Reports – is not unprecedented. In 2015, Consumer Reports quit publishing its Shop Smart magazine, in order to put more focus on the company’s flagship property. “You may not realize it,” Shop Smart readers were told, “but Consumer Reports is a nonprofit organization and we must invest our resources and time carefully so that we can continue to serve consumers with rigorous product insights for years to come.”

If Shop Smart fans were upset about the magazine’s demise, that’s nothing compared to the outrage being expressed online about the end of the Consumerist. At the same time, it must be said, some are not all that sad to see the polarizing website go. Its snide cynicism and insurrectionary attitude could get tiresome after a while. And while the site had its share of exclusives and original content, many of its articles merely put a snarky spin on other people’s journalism (“Your Pumpkin Pie Probably Has No Actual Pumpkin In It,” read one of the website’s final posts the other day – “as MarketPlace pointed out in an August segment that’s been making the rounds recently”, the story went on, acknowledging its primary source and inspiration).

“Consumerist is all about snark and a weird combination of populism & dog-eat-dog laissez faire capitalism – depending on who writes the article, I suppose,” one online commenter shrugged upon hearing the news of its demise. “Consumerist wasn’t the greatest spot for info (their obsession with receipt checks is weird), but damned if they weren’t at least partially entertaining to read,” another offered as faint praise. “The Consumerist was a joke,” a more critical commenter wrote. “Countless posts that either treat rogue customer service agent statements as company policy, or lambaste companies that do their best not to fall into bankruptcy (OMG they decreased the size of the package!! Boycott!!)”

Love it or hate it, the Consumerist’s archived content will live on the website “for the immediate future,” Consumer Reports promised vaguely. In the meantime, the company says it is “developing a longer-term strategy for the Consumerist brand moving forward. Stay tuned.”

But by that time, both friends and foes of the site may be seeking out their consumer news with a side of attitude – somewhere else.

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