Largest Spanish Daily, La Opinión, Profiles Consumer Reports, May 1, 2015

Photo: Víctor Matos

Here is a translation of the article, "Consumer Reports Busca Ser Referencia Para Los Latinos."

When Nilda Adell arrives at work, she soils plates, cutlery and glasses, always in the same way and with the same spotting materials/ingredients. She then places them in different dishwashers, always in the same order and analyzes the clean dishes very carefully. Adell works in one of the 50 labs based in Consumer Reports headquarters in Yonkers (New York) where they test all types of products like televisions, refrigerators, cell phones, with precise accuracy. They also do research, compare services and give shopping advice.  The goal is to provide consumers with proven and impartial information so they can decide how best to spend their money.

For seven months, this nonprofit organization with 600 employees has been led by Marta Tellado. This is the first time a Latina sits at the helm. Tellado says part of her mission is "to be relevant in a changing marketplace" and to reintroduce Consumer Reports, the magazine and the organization’s work as a consumer rights defender to "young people and the Latino community who still do not know us." Although the magazine launched in 1936, this executive believes it is important to spread the word among Latinos and young people. "Our collective future lies with Latinos and young people and they are a power that we need to tap.”

Tellado says this magazine which offers consumer information to eight million subscribers has plateaued and the time has come to not only count on its loyal readers but also to add digital enthusiasts "and our Latino community. We have made some inroads, but it is not enough," she admits.

This Cuban-born executive explained that translating content into Spanish is not enough to reach Latino consumers. On the contrary, one has to be cognizant of "cultural ties, products, and the needs of our families." "Delivering a product is not enough," she says referring to the magazine, "Instead we want a dialogue. We know through social network activity that we need to have a conversation and not just provide information.” In the last six years we have provided Spanish language content via a free website Consumer Reports (en español), a monthly newsletter, and social media.

But the goal is to go beyond translation and offer culturally relevant content, a strategy they are currently developing and working on. Tellado, who refers to Latinos as "our community," says they are digitally connected consumers, especially via mobile devices but when they go shopping, they are not aware how our organization can help them.

This organization’s president also wants to be more agile in the digital space by integrating channels and publications. “The company was very fragmented, which is why I’ve created a position and hired someone to work on an integration plan, which is a fundamental step.” Tellado said there are many possibilities to grow again once the organization becomes more active in social networks and more competitive online. “We have to reconnect as innovators while moving forward, experimenting and becoming nimbler and faster.”

The executive explained that the information marketplace is changing. Now there is more competition and digital natives are not used to paying for information, however the essence of the magazine—its unbiased information for consumers—continues to be unique. “Other platforms have advertising” she said. “Online content is not always transparent and there’s a lot of advertising marketed as content.” We have our readers’ confidence and our independence. And she added, “We do not push products. Our mission is to inform (and educate).”

To ensure independent testing the organization does not accept advertising from brands, nor companies or donations from them. To test products, the products have to be in the market and the organization buys them directly. They don’t accept free test samples or promotional merchandise from companies. The budget to purchase products for testing is around $3.3 million a year of which 50 percent is recovered through resale or auctions. They spend about $2.3 million on cars, which are tested in the auto center in Connecticut, of which 70 percent is recovered through sales once the testing is finished.

Consumer Reports is financed through their subscriptions, publication sales, donations and grants. Their product testing to verify how they work, their durability, the environmental impact and other variables is always done using precise methodology to test everything under the same parameters and equal conditions. For example, their oven tests include baking the same cake mixture (store bought) again and again in each oven to assess how the oven performs.

Activism

Consumer Reports has three advocacy offices and Marta Tellado who started her professional life with Ralph Nader, says that Consumer Reports’ voice, which has been heard against the Comcast-Time Warner merger and in favor of creating the Consumer Financial Protection Agency, will be raised each time the consumer voice is needed. Every time there is a big (important) issue, they will be there.  “We want to revitalize the consumer movement and we want to be on the frontlines of those battles. My hope is that we will have a marketplace that listens to the consumer and respects the consumer,” she explained.