BOSTON — It's one of the Web's greatest success stories, but you've probably never heard about it: a Web site that has more than 310,000 paid subscriptions and is growing at a rate of almost 1,000 new subscribers a day. It has one of the most trusted brands on the Web, and while it does require users to pay for access to its valuable databases, it still gives away some of its most valuable content every day.
So why hasn't this site been trumpeted on the pages of the Internet industries' innumerable publications? Well, it might be because ConsumerReports Online (www.consumerreports.org), the Web site of the well-known consumer magazine, won't accept any ads and refuses to take a commercial investment of any kind. It primarily exists to help people make intelligent, well-researched choices about the products they purchase.
It's a great example of the extension of a trusted brand to the Internet that becomes a "guide" to help people determine what's steak and what's sizzle as they shop either in their local mall or online.
Consumer Reports has based its fee structure on the way people actually shop.
"Some people want access to the databases all the time," says Nancy Macagno, director of new media at Consumers Union, the publishers of Consumers Report. "They're willing to pay the full price, either $24 or $19, depending on whether or not you have a subscription to the print magazine. But if you're just researching a specific buy, then you can sign up for a month at $2.95."
Also, starting soon, Consumer Reports (which has undergone a redesign that makes it easier to search for needed material), will join with www.bizrate.com, an Internet site that rates e-commerce merchants. Shoppers will be able to go to the Consumer Reports Web site and see what other online shoppers have to say about a site where they might be considering a buy.
(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society