Wirecutter (website)

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Wirecutter
Wirecutter logo.svg
Type of site
Product reviews
FoundedSeptember 2011
OwnerThe New York Times Company
Founder(s)Brian Lam
EditorBen Frumin (as of 2020)[1]
URLwww.nytimes.com/wirecutter
Commercialyes

Wirecutter (formerly known as The Wirecutter) is a product review website owned by The New York Times Company. It was founded by Brian Lam in 2011 and purchased by The New York Times Company in 2016 for about $30 million.[2][3][4][5]

Approach and business model[edit]

Wirecutter is mostly a list of amazing gadgets. [...] The point is to make it easier for you to buy some great gear quickly and get on with your life.

The choices I've made here took days of research and years of experience, interviews, data from the best editorial and user sources around. Most gadgets I choose here aren't the top of the line models that are loaded up with junk features or overpriced; most of the ones we've picked are of the "good enough" or "great enough" variety, because this is generally where our needs and the right prices smash into each other.

These are the same gadgets I'd recommend to my friends and family, and these are the same gadgets I'd choose for myself.

 — Brian Lam, Hello! (Oct 2, 2011)[6]

The site focuses on writing detailed guides to different categories of consumer products which recommend just one or two best items in the category. It earns most of its revenue from affiliate marketing by including links to its recommendations.[7] To prevent bias, the staff who write its reviews are not informed about what commissions, if any, the site receives for different products.[8] Due to affiliate revenue, the site is less reliant than other blogs and news sites on advertising revenue, although the Wirecutter site has displayed banner ads in the past.[9]

Wirecutter has partnered with other websites including Engadget (as of 2015) to provide guest posts sponsored by the company.[10] In 2015, Amazon tested a partnership with Wirecutter on a similar sponsored posts format on Amazon's site for recommendations.[11][12] While Wirecutter does perform their own testing of products, they also draw on and cite other reviews by sites like Consumer Reports, Reviewed, CNET, and America's Test Kitchen, often using those reviews to filter a large range of products on the market down to a small number of candidates for testing.

History[edit]

Brian Lam founded the site in 2011 after leaving the editor-in-chief position at Gizmodo.[13] It was originally part of The Awl.[14] In the five years from its launch in 2011 to 2016, the company generated $150 million in revenue from affiliate programs with its merchant partners.[15][16] A sibling site called The Sweethome was started in 2013 and focused on home goods while The Wirecutter itself focused on electronics and tools.[17] After forming an editorial partnership with The New York Times in 2015,[18] The Wirecutter was acquired by the Times in October 2016 for a reported $30 million.[2] Ben French spearheaded the acquisition, recalling "The first day I ever met [Brian Lam], after spending an hour or two with him, I was like, 'We should buy you. I want to work with you.' For me, it was love at first sight."[19] The Wirecutter and Sweethome were combined into a single site in 2017, a year after the Times acquisition.[8][20]

Lam announced he had hired Jacqui Cheng as editor-in-chief for The Wirecutter in December 2013.[21] After the Times acquisition, David Perpich was appointed to President and General Manager of The Wirecutter in March 2017.[22] When Cheng stepped down in September 2018, the staff had grown from under 10 to over 100 employees.[23][24] Ben Frumin succeeded Cheng in December 2018.[25] The Wirecutter Union was formed in 2019 with approximately 65 employees, affiliated with NewsGuild-CWA of New York.[26][27] By 2020, Wirecutter had approximately 150 employees, with the majority working remotely away from the headquarters in Long Island City.[28]

In August 2021, the New York Times imposed a metered paywall on the site, no longer depending solely on affiliate marketing commissions for revenue.[29] Later that year, Wirecutter staff went on strike, timed to coincide with the busy Black Friday shopping season in late November. The reporting structure of Wirecutter under Perpich was largely independent from the rest of the Times and the two pay scales were significantly different; Perpich was described as "disappointed" at the decision to strike.[30] The Wirecutter Union reached a three-year agreement with The New York Times Company in December, with immediate wage increases averaging US$5,000 per employee.[27]

Reactions and criticism[edit]

Wirecutter has been described as a competitor to Consumer Reports, from which it differs by its explicit recommendations of top picks, a younger readership (with average age between 41 and 53 as of 2018), and its acceptance of vendor-supplied test units.[23] Similar recommendation websites that compete with Wirecutter include Best Products (Hearst Communications, 2015), The Strategist (New York, 2016), BuzzFeed Reviews (BuzzFeed, 2018), and The Inventory (G/O Media, 2018).[31]

The Wirecutter effect is described as a phenomenon "in which recommendations become so popular that they sell out".[32]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Wirecutter Masthead". Wirecutter: Reviews for the Real World. Retrieved 2020-02-25.
  2. ^ a b "Why the New York Times Is Buying This Gadget Review Site". Fortune. October 24, 2016. Retrieved 2017-11-05.
  3. ^ "Why The New York Times is buying The Wirecutter for $30 million". Poynter. 24 October 2016. Retrieved 2017-11-05.
  4. ^ Kludt, Tom. "New York Times buying The Wirecutter, and a new revenue stream". CNNMoney. Retrieved 2017-11-05.
  5. ^ "The New York Times, Searching for Digital Revenue, Acquires E-Commerce Shop The Wirecutter". Recode. Retrieved 2017-11-05.
  6. ^ Lam, Brian (October 2, 2011). "Hello!". The Wirecutter. The New York Times. Retrieved 20 December 2021.
  7. ^ Carr, David (2012-12-16). "Buffeted by the Web, but Now Riding It". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-11-05.
  8. ^ a b "New York Times Rebrands Wirecutter as Product Review Sales Grow". Bloomberg.com. 2017-09-13. Retrieved 2017-11-05.
  9. ^ "Meet the Man Who Rejected Advertising and Still Runs a Profitable Media Site". Observer. 2016-04-11. Retrieved 2018-02-17.
  10. ^ "Introducing Engadget's newest contributor: The Wirecutter!". Engadget. Retrieved 2018-02-17.
  11. ^ "Amazon tests third-party editorial content, starting with travel gear reviews from The Wirecutter". GeekWire. 2015-04-27. Retrieved 2018-02-17.
  12. ^ Dove, Jackie (2015-04-28). "Amazon.com Features The Wirecutter as an 'Experiment'". The Next Web. Retrieved 2018-02-17.
  13. ^ "The Wirecutter". Digital Gentleman [blog]. Wired. October 2011. Retrieved 20 December 2021.
  14. ^ "Please Welcome The Wirecutter". The Awl. October 3, 2011. Retrieved 20 December 2021.
  15. ^ Kludt, Tom. "New York Times buying The Wirecutter, and a new revenue stream". CNNMoney. Retrieved 2018-02-17.
  16. ^ "Former Gizmodo editor launches new tech site, Wirecutter | VentureBeat". venturebeat.com. 27 September 2011. Retrieved 2018-02-17.
  17. ^ Pinola, Melanie (May 28, 2013). "The Sweethome LIstst the Best Products in Every Category for Your Home". Lifehacker. Retrieved 20 December 2021.
  18. ^ Owens, Simon (March 21, 2018). "Inside The New York Times's post-acquisition strategy for Wirecutter". Medium. Retrieved 20 December 2021.
  19. ^ Sterne, Peter (October 25, 2016). "New York Times has big plans for 'Wirecutter' after $30 M. acquisition". Politico. Retrieved 20 December 2021.
  20. ^ Neuts, Dana E. (October 16, 2017). "New York Times Co. Combines Wirecutter and Sweethome into Single Site". Subscription Insider. Retrieved 20 December 2021.
  21. ^ Lam, Brian (December 19, 2013). "Meet the new editor-in-chief, Jacqui Cheng". Wirecutter. The New York Times. Retrieved 20 December 2021.
  22. ^ Ember, Sydney (January 18, 2017). "Times Company Appoints David Perpich to Oversee The Wirecutter". The New York Times. Retrieved 20 December 2021.
  23. ^ a b Ho, Karen K. (2018-06-18). "Testing out a new future for Consumer Reports". Columbia Journalism Review. Retrieved 2018-12-10.
  24. ^ "A Note From David Perpich: Jacqui Cheng is Departing Wirecutter" (Press release). The New York Times Company. July 30, 2018. Retrieved 20 December 2021.
  25. ^ "Ben Frumin Named Editor in Chief of Wirecutter" (Press release). The New York Times Company. December 6, 2018. Retrieved 20 December 2021.
  26. ^ Wallender, Andrew (April 2, 2019). "New York Times' Wirecutter Staff Unionizes". Bloomberg Law. Retrieved 21 December 2021.
  27. ^ a b Robertson, Katie (December 14, 2021). "Wirecutter Union reaches a deal with The New York Times Company". The New York Times. Retrieved 20 December 2021.
  28. ^ Klein, Julia M. (December 8, 2020). "The NYT's quiet strategist". Duke Magazine. Retrieved 20 December 2021.
  29. ^ "The New York Times Company Launches Digital Subscriptions for Wirecutter" (Press release). The New York Times Company. August 31, 2021. Retrieved 20 December 2021.
  30. ^ Sicha, Choire (November 24, 2021). "Here's the Best Strike for Most People". Intelligencer. New York (magazine). Retrieved 20 December 2021.
  31. ^ Brooke, Eliza (December 11, 2018). "The rise of the recommendation site". Vox. Retrieved 20 December 2021.
  32. ^ Chen, Joanne (September 20, 2021). "Why the Best Kids Masks Are Sold Out (And What You Can Do in the Meantime)". Wirecutter. The New York Times. Retrieved 20 December 2021.