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Wirecutter strike and boycott Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday (twitter.com/wirecutterunion)
181 points by williamsmj 5 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 138 comments

Wirecutter is a pay-to-play operation. I stopped heeding their recommendations after I discovered that they were aggressively persuing kickbacks and refusing to review products that do not pay. See https://www.xdesk.com/wirecutter-standing-desk-review-pay-to... for example.

Also note that wirecutter in their response do not deny this but try to weasel out by claiming that the word 'kickback' was misleading.


  One valid criticism NextDesk raised was our use of the word “kickback” in our business communications, which is a misleading description of the affiliate business model because it implies an illicit transaction. In our company’s early days, we misused the term to describe a straightforward affiliate relationship, but we have since changed how we talk about the affiliate business, which is one we continue to stand behind.

I wanted to link to an older comment (https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=24714286) I made on this topic, because I keep on seeing this article. It's turned out to be one of my most upvoted comments on HN, to my genuine surprise.


I keep on seeing this link pop up. Since no one is replying, I'd like to point out that I think the Wirecutter is actually in the right here. Another HN member did some investigation and found that Xdesk is stretching things: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=22144078

In general, having been able to talk with some of the people there, I'm convinced that WC was focused first and foremost on truth-seeking and quality at this point in their life (pre-acquisition) — however, the consensus seems to have been that after the NYT acquired them, they started becoming more incentivized to grow revenue, and started to jump the shark.

> I stopped heeding their recommendations after I discovered that they were aggressively persuing kickbacks and refusing to review products that do not pay.

Let me offer a counterexample - VPN services. They didn’t get a cent from Mullvad, which they declared the winner. Number two was IVPN, which also doesn’t have an affiliate program.

The review: https://www.nytimes.com/wirecutter/reviews/best-vpn-service/

Well, to be fair, their guides focus much more on physical products than SaaS.

They can get third party affiliate revenue from Amazon, Walmart, Home Depot, etc in a program covering lots of products. Is there a B&M store analogy for SaaS?

[The rest of this comment is in response to parent comments more than your's directly.]

IMO The xdesk guy seems to be stretching reality way, way, way too far to claim that Wirecutter guides are influenced by whether or not affiliate revenue is offered on the purchase links just because Wirecutter repeatedly tried to get an affiliate program in place. Of course, they need a business model of some sort, and affiliate programs are what most, or at least many, review guide sites seem to choose.

Also, Wirecutter has never specialized in recommending the highest end options. A lot of their guides recommend a best choice for most people at some tradeoff of quality and cost. It's no surprise at all that the standing desk guide was iterated in that direction. And, even after no affiliate program, they didn't dis-recommend the xdesk desk, they just made it an upgrade pick recommendation.

Personally, I am skeptical that a typical Wirecutter reader is actually interested in spending $1500 on a great standing when they can get a pretty nice one for $500. The update makes reasonable sense to me.

While my experience with Wirecutter has been decidedly mixed, Mullvad really does seem to be the best VPN around.

Thank you!

Ahh I didn't realize you were one of the founders of Mullvad! Thanks for all your work :)

Why do you think they didn't get money from them?

Mullvad: I know it for a fact, because I'm one of the founders.

IVPN: I don't know it, but I've met Nick Pestell (the founder) several times, and he's told me they don't pay for reviews. I trust him.

Ahh, this is why one must be careful when responding to seemingly random people on hacker news, there's a pretty good chance the CEO, head researcher , worlds fore-most expert on the topic, etc. is actually here reading the article.


To be fair I think is_true's question is excellent. If anything I should have clarified where I was coming from in my first post. Ultimately I opted for keeping it shorter.

I agree though, it is a real joy to lurk a HN thread on J. Random topic and be treated to high-signal conversations. :)

>Mullvad: I know it for a fact, because I'm one of the founders.

I cant stop laughing :)

Forgive me if I have asked this before. Have you ever considered a Pay as you Go model with minimum top up fees? $50 for 50GB with no expiry you can use it for life?

Or is that model that generally dont work because it seems all PAYG VPN services go bust.

> Forgive me if I have asked this before. Have you ever considered a Pay as you Go model with minimum top up fees? $50 for 50GB with no expiry you can use it for life?

Yes, but I can't recall the reasons we discarded the idea. Something like this perhaps:

In general I like the idea of VPN as a utility - anonymous internet on tap. Utility-like services in functioning markets compete on price to the benefit of the consumer. On the other hand, things that look like one-dimensional utilities to the consumer isn't always. A service category where there's plenty of innovation potential left shouldn't pretend to be a utility. Especially players who aim to improve state-of-the-art. A pay-as-you-go model encourages consumers to compare quantities of something that is quite disconnected from the quality of what they get.

Paying per month makes more sense to me for another reason as well - It's similar to what we do with our suppliers.

> A pay-as-you-go model encourages consumers to compare quantities of something that is quite disconnected from the quality of what they get.

Thanks, that make sense. The reason I asked is because I only need a VPN once every few months for 10-20 min. Currently I am basically setting up my own VPN Server every time I need one. It is just quite a bit of hassle.

I hope you enjoy the random cards of cash I send every month! I quite enjoy your product!

I have an abandoned tech blog and I usually get asked by marketing firms to include links in old articles as part of SEO services they have.

That they didn’t do this for a single product category doesn’t mean very much, though.

It does mean something. I can only testify to how they acted in our case of course, but what I can contribute is this:

In a product category which is famous for its high-paying affiliate programs, they chose two players who are smaller and less well-known. Neither of them paid for their reviews. Most of their competitors mentioned in the article do have affiliate programs.

It's worth noting that this whole thing is from 2013/2014. Since then, Wirecutter has been sold to the New York Times and has completely different management. I don't personally think Brian Lam did what Nextdesk accused him of (disclosure: I've met Lam socially), but I also understand why it seems improper to have that kind of outreach.

Based on my personal knowledge of many people who have worked at Wirecutter past and present, I don't believe they are a pay to play operation at all.

Regardless, that has no bearing on whether or not their employees are owed a fair labor contract or not.

The whole affiliate marketing space is a dirty business. Saying affiliate relationship is just softer language for kickback IMO. The incentives are the same. I think all reviews with affiliate links should have to be labeled as paid promotion.

This [1] sleepopolis saga is an amazing read if you’ve never seen it.

1. https://www.fastcompany.com/3065928/sleepopolis-casper-blogg...

We need a new mattress, after about half an hour of searching for reviews I realised that there was no way I was going to find any genuinely honest reviews anywhere. Search results are packed with full-time mattress review sites that are all clearly getting affiliate payments of some form or other, many of them seem to have the same content.

There might be some honest ones out there, but they are drowned out by all the ones that are clearly just affiliat link farms.

Consumer Reports reviews mattresses, and they're independent and (imo) very trustworthy. A subscription costs money but some local libraries offer access.

At least with CR, their subscriptions are pretty trivial to cancel, and I think they even pro-rate the refunds.

I don't subscribe to them on a regular basis (I don't buy things often), but I have subscribed to them a few times to make a better informed decision on an upcoming purchase.

> There might be some honest ones out there, but they are drowned out by all the ones that are clearly just affiliat link farms.

I think the most interesting part of your comment: Is how do we [objectively] classify the two?

Perhaps the tendency to recommend products not recommended in spammier affiliate link farm guides is one metric that would be interesting to look at.

In comparison to WC, CR is not free; but, to play devil's advocate, [why] does a guide being non-free presuppose that their reviews are of higher integrity?

[In general, I don't think that it does. We just had a post about this the other day actually.]

In CR's case, they've been around for decades and are independent / non-profit, so that's something. But also, I don't think longevity and the legal business entity being a non-profit are necessary preconditions to writing review guides with integrity.

If we were trying to find the "CR of startups today", what would we look for?

Maybe we should have like… a place you can go feel them in person. Like a building where there would be a few of each model and you can test them BEFORE you buy one?

/s. Mattress stores and mattress shopping is the fucking worst. Ultra scammy and there is a clear reason that the industry was turned upside down once someone figured out you can fit a mattress in a box and ship it.

The last time I went mattress shopping, I was told by serious and expert sleep professionals [sic] that I should get a mattress with embedded diamond particles because it’ll help keep me cool, and silver thread at the seams that will be more hygienic.

For what it’s worth, I took a chance on a mattress and love it. I have never slept somewhere I like better. It’s an Avacado, but buy whatever you can that has a real return policy and try it out.

Yep! I don't know what it is about mattresses specifically, but every part of the industry from highstreet shops to the online products all make me feel like I'm being ripped off in a way that no other product does.

Bed salesmen are worse than car salesmen.

There was a 2018 bit on Planet Money about mattress stores (and specifically Mattress Firm): https://www.npr.org/transcripts/676543180

tl;dr - Turns out the markup at a mattress store is about 100%, which helps the economics of store rent vs profit. Also, Mattress Firm went on a debt-leveraged buying spree of their competitors (why there are so many physical stores). Oh, and also Steinhoff (think South African IKEA) bought them in 2016, for what seemed an inflated price. And it turned out Steinhoff was (or was soon to be) under investigation for accounting fraud: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steinhoff_International#Contro...

That explains a lot. I must have missed that episode, thanks for the pointer.

I don't understand the problem with affiliate links, esp in this case. Wirecutter's recommendations, budget pick, and also great items are often all through Amazon, which as the largest online retailer isn't suprising.

It isn't like they're recommending some brand over another because Amazon pays them for the click-through traffic. I don't see the kickback connection here.

That said, I largely like Wirecutter recs - but also do external research. When those things align I've almost always been very happy with my purchase.

That's a pretty sensationalist article. Wirecutter doesn't hide the fact that they make money off of affiliate fees. Almost all content sites do.

Are there better review websites than the Wirecutter? I've found them to be solid and helpful.

I like RTings, but they only review a limited selection of products. Consumer Reports is not what it used to be, and I always wonder if they're about to go out of business. I'm not aware of anything better, though I'd love to hear other people's recommendations.

I have wondered if there is even a way to sustain an organization large enough to review a wide variety of products, and have a business model that does not raise questions about your motives or integrity. I'd guess that such a business would need a lot of people and time to comprehensively review products well, and that costs money. In the Wirecutter model, where they claim to keep their reviews up to date as new products come out, it's kind of a recurring cost, too. But if affiliate links are ethically dubious, and advertisements are even worse, and if not enough people will pay for a subscription to their site, then what is the alternative?

> I have wondered if there is even a way to sustain an organization large enough to review a wide variety of products, and have a business model that does not raise questions about your motives or integrity.

Costs: {average number of new products released per unit of time} * {cost per product}

Revenue: {volume of purchases per unit of time} * {affiliate marketing per product purchased}

Advertising is probably difficult, due to the "Buy something other than what we recommend!" issue with advertising on review sites. Although I guess there are options for cross-selling.

I can't believe there are many products that makes sense for, without the Consumer Reports "Pay for the report" model. And even with it, the economics seem dubious, and I feel like you'd always be barely getting by.

At least originally, they presented it more as "we link to large retailers and get affiliate fees, so we don't have a motivation to recommend any specific product in particular over competitors". Which is fair enough I guess, but "we want affiliate fees from you, if you disagree we downrank your product" is quite different.

Eh, correlation ≠ causation.

It takes a huge leap of faith to claim that their product went from main recommendation to upgrade recommendation (not really a downrank) because they don't have an affiliate program.

To me, the xdesk guy is reading extremely hard into two independent events to try to claim cause-and-effect where it doesn't really exist.

Their pricepoint is high and the standing desk space has commoditized a lot. There are plenty of good affordable options these days. It sounds like they just make a niche high-end product; I was surprised to hear it was Wirecutter's initial recommendation for most people in the first place — I don't know too many people that read Wirecutter guides and are also looking to spend $1,500 on a standing desk.

Fair enough, but the suggestion that it is a motivation is always there once they leave the range of products that are well-captured by generic affiliate programs.

Oh shit. I used to consider them to be one of the most reputable sources.

Oh no! I did as well.

Who is the current honest broker of product reviews?

Complaint threads on reddit probably. I don't have to watch video game reviews anymore at least, I just wait for the community on reddit to explode positively or negatively towards the game developer then I make my purchase or not. If you only went off the puff pieces in game reviews you'd be buying every title to come out. This works for a lot of stuff thats popular on reddit at least. Not sure where else I can find good communities online of people complaining and calling out shortcomings in products.

Seems like it's time to go back to Consumer Reports.

Anything that contains affiliate, referral, or commission links I do not trust.

What monetization models do you trust more?

I trust publications with product-independent ads and paid articles. Generally these publication shouldn’t profit from promoting a particular product. That can include free samples and any dependence on a manufacturer’s good will.

An example for relatively trustworthy reviews would be (German) Stiftung Warentest (“Product Review Foundation”)’s https://test.de, you can subscribe to all articles for a monthly fee or buy them individually.

No clickbait, no pop-ups, just no-bullshit, user respecting, fairly objective tests.

How about The Strategist?

googling "$product_name sucks" or similar

What does this have to do with The Wirecutter employees trying to get a fair contract with The Times?

> Also note that wirecutter in their response do not deny this but try to weasel out by claiming that the word 'kickback' was misleading.

They've been getting a kickback from affiliated links for years.

You are late to the party. There was a thread a while ago debunking some of the misinformation in that case https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=22141719

Is there any site that you do use now for recommendations? In the game of capitalism it seems everybody becomes a sell-out.

Consumer Reports has a long history of subscriber-funded independent reviews. They refuse all advertising, free/discounted items, etc. to prevent conflicts of interest. They review everything from cars and lawnmowers to mattresses and electronics, but depending on what niche of electronics you're looking at they may or may not have the kind of reviews you're looking for.


consumer reports is a great resource when you just want an example of X that isn't a complete lemon. that's not a criticism, most purchases are like that for most people.

but if you care about getting a really good X, they're not a great source. most of their buying guides have a lot less detail than Wirecutter's, and of course pale in comparison to dedicated review sites for popular niches.

it's unfortunate that you essentially have to trade trustworthiness for detail.

Consumer Reports has less prose, but much more objective data - in sortable tables. The data is from their labs, where they have domain experts using the scientific method to evaluate products.

Available in many libraries.

They rate products in a bunch of categories using a table and a circle which would be various levels of full color depending on how a product rated. which meant sometimes you wouldn't just go to the highest rated if one part of the product scored lower in a category. Its an interesting data visualization method. Plus the table usually has specs too.


As long as the categories can be boiled down into reasonable, discrete levels, I'm a huge fan of radar charts for quick comparisons. They communicate multivariate differences pretty well, compared to alternatives. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radar_chart

Unfortunately, they also require summarization, so they're only as good as the individual quality projections into discrete levels. Powerful when used correctly. Useless when incorrectly, or your audience isn't visually-oriented.

As far as I'm concerned, America's Test Kitchen is the gold standard, with Consumer Reports just a little behind them.

I'm surprised Consumer Reports isn't enormously popular here. It's not personal, engaging blog-style writing - it seems written to help the broadest possible audience, but it's the most technical research by far:

They have actual domain experts, labs (well-resourced), scientific method, and loads of objective data - e.g., for bicycle helmets, they have human head/body models, put all the helmets on them (I'd guess 50 at least, IIRC), dropped them on their heads (I don't remember how the impacts were constructed), and measured various outcomes. Through their research they discovered new risks, such as the stretch in the chin strap.

And it's in sortable, filterable, dynamic tables. What is not to like?!

> What is not to like?!

People don't like paying for things, especially when there is a free, easy, and legal alternative. I am a CR subscriber, and that $39/year fee was a hard thing for me to pay at first. But then I realized that is less than an hour of work at my salary, and I had already spent more than an hour trying to figure out which review sites were trustworthy.

I do find that they don't review everything in a category and can take a long time to review new products, which is frustrating but makes sense.

Was a huge fan 20 years ago, but it's low quality now. They just don't do much work now and the testing is superficial and lazy.

Their home page is covered with reviews. I have't seen superficial or lazy - as I said, they have labs, research, etc., well beyond any competitor - but can you give an example?


They also are leaders in consumer advocacy, such as for privacy, financial abuse, broadband service, and much more, and organize user testing of things like broadband, water quality, and credit reports



Looks like they're asking for $300,000 for their 65 workers. That's an average of $4600/person. Does that seem pretty low to anyone else?


Yes. Especially when they aren't asking for the same pay as other New York Times editorial employees -- not even close to it. The pay delta between median editorial guild member of the Times and editorial member of Wirecutter union is over $40,000. So they are asking for a little more than 10% of the delta between two of their unionized editorial writing groups, in terms of median pay.

That's the amount of the wage increase, not their total wages.

Right there with ya.

It would be more digestible to know what % the increase is (especially with respect to inflation).

I think there's still a niche for a Wirecutter-like site. But I don't know what it should look like, and how it should function without invasive affiliate advertising. I like reading high quality reviews of practical goods as well as more specialized things. Right now, I just Google search "name of product" + "reddit" and browse through threads to get a general consensus of a product.

I think you can have affiliate links, you just run the risk of ruining your credibility. I also think it might be difficult if that's your only source of income.

I wonder if anyone has tried giving their top picks away for free, but charging for the review and methodology? I feel like I'd be suckered in. When I'm shopping I hop around and look at a bunch of reviews. I'll then try and find YouTube reviews to see the product in context. Especially, if it's a site that comes up over and over I'd pay to see pros/cons and comparisons. No idea if that would scale to a business, though.

Consumer reports does that. For example https://www.consumerreports.org/vacuum-cleaners/best-vacuums... has top picks, but https://www.consumerreports.org/products/vacuum-cleaners-289... doesn't show the ratings scorecard unless you're a member.

Consumer reports is like this but is subscriber funded vs affiliate or avert model

Q: Would you trust, or find useful, thumbs up reviews from people you follow online? Say you could see a collection of stuff people endorse via Twitter/IG, would that be of value to you?

Kind of. The only issue is that I only use Twitter/IG for personal friends and not "influencer" level people.

I think some of kind of organized curation would be nice. For instance, I follow https://fivebooks.com/ a lot, which asks subject matter experts on their recommendation. Something like that for nice consumer goods would be cool.

But wouldn't it be prone to the same co-opting by anyone holding the bigger bag of money like the endorsing that already exists, just adding to the noise of the influencerdom?

"Friends" and average nobodies already turn scummy as soon as RandomCorp throws in some kind of stupid referral incentive. Celebrities and has-beens can't be trusted when addressing consumer goods. Leveraging social media to bridge the gap between them is what brought us influencers.

What are their current wages, and what are they offered, but have declined? I am unable to support or castigate unless I know what side is in error. We have seen the huge loss of first class mail starved the US Postal Service of $$, and now the decline in printed page journalism with the ease of access by all manner of fake news/blogs has starved the news papers of $$ - yet on the other hand there is a hedge fund buying news papers - do they know something I do not know?

>What are their current wages, and what are they offered, but have declined?

They want an average raise of $384/mo (about $4.8/hr).

They want $300k increase in wages - split across the 65 person team.

For real? Is there a citation you've got for this? That seems crazy low.

> During two years of bargaining, The New York Times company has slow-walked contract negotiations with unfair labor practices and insignificant wage offers that severely underpay our staff. We, members of the Wirecutter Union, are fed up. The wage increases we’re seeking amount to only about $300,000, spread over our 65 person unit. Wirecutter has been wildly successful, especially over the time we’ve been bargaining this contract, and continues to bring in record revenue for the Times, which is sitting on over $1 billion in cash. Additionally, Times management has offered paltry guaranteed wage increases of only 1%, despite soaring inflation and cash flows.



Are they making enough off Wirecutter to do that? I have no idea how much Wirecutter brought in this year versus previous years.

If you own a paper, and revenue starts dropping 10% YoY for multiple years then you are going to need to put in place changes to the business, finances, corporate structure that most people who owned newspapers do not want to do.

In some cases, this has been forced due to high levels of debt. But even in those cases, some change in operation is usually required because something has changed quite significantly.

So you try to sell your paper? Most corporate buyers don't want to buy a problem. Most PE funds don't want to buy a problem. Bond holders don't want to take control. The most likely buyer is a hedge fund that specialised in purchasing distressed assets. So it is the opposite of what you think: the hedge fund knows exactly what you know, that is why they are buying. The information in the decision to buy for a hedge fund is not the trajectory of the business but the price. You can buy a business in an industry that is failing, and still make money. Ofc, what journalists (outraged by someone coming in and telling them they have to earn their wage) forget is that this isn't easy work. Hedge funds that specialise in distressed assets are buying a problem...that is why someone is selling it to them.

It is is hard to generalise but from what I have seen: newspapers are still generating cash, there is a lot of scope to cut back on staff (to put it bluntly, newspapers were a monopoly business so they ran tons of staff doing things no-one read, they were a sinecure/tenure type job), digital strategy at most papers is very bad because managers worried about hurting offline, fully digital has a totally different staff model (a website is a totally different experience to a paper, all the views are concentrated in that top 10% of stories...no-one is going to hunt through/scroll down for your gardening guy), and there is scope for restructuring with debt holders. The business is declining but nowhere near as fast as other industries affected by online. Declining businesses like that are usually mispriced by the market who give them a control discount (and tbh, everyone just wants growth...look at Dillard's, they bought back effectively all their stock and the share price went up 600% in a month, people want to buy potential profit tomorrow rather than actual profit today), so taking the business private is usually very profitable.

Yes, I see, managing a declining business can be done profitably, and they might have other assets the fund will sell.

I think some newspaper groups in the US had TV stations. I know some newspaper groups that own printing works have tried to sell those too. But, generally, no. The reason to buy newspapers is using the cash flow to turn around the business (again, it is very unlikely that you will survive doing this as a public company, so there is a reason to sell to a privately-run distressed asset specialist).

True, they know how to break it up and sell some assets and shed some obligations, like pensions...

Wirecutter is essentially just a glorified, prettified Amazon affiliate link aggregator anyway. I have tried so many of their recommendations - always making sure not to click the affiliate links directly - and been burned or at the very least disappointed more than enough times, that at this point I just use their site as a starting guide, and then make sure not to actually buy their recommended pick if at all possible.

Can we just keep the boycott going in perpetuity?

If you’re reading their content why wouldn’t you click their affiliate links?

You’re costing them server hours and purposefully not giving them revenue despite it costing you nothing.

>If you’re reading their content why wouldn’t you click their affiliate links?

Because they blackmail companies into affiliate revenue with the threat of "unrecommending" their products. See: https://www.xdesk.com/wirecutter-standing-desk-review-pay-to...

That accusation is actually not supported by the facts, as detailed elsewhere in this thread.

There is no agreement that I have to click their crap. And the server time is their problem not mine. I never said I'd click anything the freely published content they made specifically available to me

Affiliate links are a cancer along with the rest of the advertising-surveillance industry, and it's best to avoid contributing however you can. I do all my product research with a different nym (separate browser VM and IP address) from what I actually login and checkout with.

In general the web was at its best decades ago, when people published because they knew things and were internally compelled to share. Despite the drop in quality and overwhelming prevalence of shameless blogspam (from which Wirecutter is one or two steps up), I prefer to continue acting as if that information sharing is still the overriding motivation.

"In general the web was at its best decades ago, when people published because they knew things and were internally compelled to share."

What does this mean, "internally compelled"?

If someone is providing systematic reviews of products, it takes time and resources to do so. Why would they do this for free?

I think there's truth to the nostalgia-goggles view here.

I think the early internet:

- was a more distinctly bounded subset of individuals - now it's closer to a random sampling of humans

- had less "background monetary radiation" so there was far less incentive to make low value content

- content spread mostly by human -> human interaction so the bar for something being shared and consequently your likelyhood of seeing it was set higher

It feels like the signal to noise ratio was significantly better as a combination of those things. This sort of product-shilling was less profitable. Also in general the profitability vector being "people click the buy link" vs "people's continued trust in my expertise" influences the sort of content that's created.

I mean when someone's motivation comes from what they themselves are interested in and their wanting to pass along their knowledge to help others, as opposed to say the external incentive of being financially compensated. I know this seems completely foreign in this age of played out incentives, but such publishing used to be quite common before independent sites were drowned out by webspam. You'd do a search, dig through a few pages of results, and hit upon an information-dense (likely plain text) site of someone thoroughly geeking out about your topic.

I think you're waxing nostalgically about a time that wasn't nearly as good as you think it was. There's orders of magnitudes of more useful information on the internet today than there was decades ago. Yes, it's more often on platforms and not usually personal websites anymore, but there are still plenty of creators doing it out of passion, even if sometimes - but definitely not always - they also have financial incentive as well.

Well I'm definitely remembering many occasions of finding sites that had in-depth technical analysis. And being unable to find such discussion today. There likely is a higher quality of information today (just due to sheer participation), but the stuff that's easy to find by searching is generally quite shallow. If you're lucky you'll get two or three forum threads that mostly address your question.

RIP JohnnyGuru dot com :-(

Are you saying I should be giving them revenue for not being terribly open about the fact that they only review products which can earn them a commission, and that furthermore, they deserve revenue from me for recommending products I spent about $500 or more in total for, only for them all to have significant flaws?

I don't know what you are referring to but plenty of times they link directly to a retailers' website where they don't earn commissions.

It's also a reasonable way for them to make money that isn't:

1. Invasive tracking 2. Nasty ads 3. Direct subscriptions

Take your entitlement elsewhere.

> Take your entitlement elsewhere.

What are your thoughts regarding ad blocking? Specifically, do you also find people who use adblockers (I assume you don't use one of course) entitled?

Absolutely (I am one of them though I'm a member of or otherwise monetarily support publications I frequent).

The thing I hate is people who try to come up transparently disingenuous reasons for why they are entitled to not support organizations they extract value out of ("ehh I don't like your CSS so I'm going to not give you any money").

You are consuming the product. They have an asking price for the product (which includes affiliate links and ads).

If you don't like the asking price, that is 100% fine. Don't consume the product.

You seem to be wanting to decide what is a fair price for product that they produced and set a price for.

> Are you saying I should be giving them revenue for not being terribly open about the fact that they only review products which can earn them a commission

It's right on the top of their front page:

"Wirecutter is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more."

You missed the key word "only" in my comment. Yes, they certainly make it clear they earn affiliate commission, which is fine. But what they do not make clear is the fact that they will totally ignore products that do not allow them to earn a commission, or at best, they will put them very far down on the list for some strange reason that doesn't really align with their explanation or lack thereof. This is very misleading.

That's simply not true. I've bought products from Wirecutter recommendations that simply link a clean merchant url - no affiliate link.

Do you have hard evidence for the "only" portion? Based on their response to NextDesk, they do review items for which they don't get a commission:


Yikes. The overwhelming sense of entitlement is very strong here.

In both directions. I've never seen clicking on affiliate links as price to be paid for a service. That's also sure as hell not what the ToS say.

Using affiliate links to pay for content creation/hosting is reasonable. Bypassing affiliate links is also reasonable. If you want to be owed something, put it in the ToS.

"the fact that they only review products which can earn them a commission"

So you're saying https://www.nytimes.com/wirecutter/about/ is a lie?

I’ve found their recommendations to be pretty good in general. What products were you disappointed by? If both they and CR are in agreement it’s a pretty good bet.

I've gotten good recommendations from Wirecutter, but also very bad ones. I bought their recommended coffee machine, and it's $200, and no better than the $30 Mr. Coffee it replaced (except, I guess, in the referral fee they get).

They also recommend an air purifier by Levoit, which performed demonstrably worse than a box fan with a HEPA filter bungee corded on to it[1]. In fairness, Wirecutter recommended a cheaper model, but is that model going to perform better than the more expensive one in the same line? In any case, it's still not cheaper than a box fan and a HEPA filter, which ought to be the baseline you'd test against if you were providing value to your readers.

[1] https://www.cbc.ca/news/business/portable-air-purifier-tests...

Having tested the DIY option versus some other air purifiers (xiaomi not levoit though), I do think that there are other considerations to take into account. A box fan with a HEPA filter bungee is loud and is very annoying to have at home. An air filter that is much less loud for the same result, can be controlled via home assistant (I have an ESP32 connected to a VOC sensor and a decent particle sensor that I use to control when to turn on and off the air purifier) can be worth it.

How much did you spend all in for your air purifier and sensor setup? Looking to do something similar but I don't know where to start.

I'm based in HK so prices are definitely lower since I can order directly from taobao. The purifier was around 350 usd, it's the Mijia Air Purifier MAX Enhanced Edition.

For the sensor, I used an ESP32 with a small eink screen (from lilygo) with a sensirion SPS30 sensor for detecting particles (see this very good teardown https://www.mistywest.com/posts/teardown-sensirion-particle-...), a sensirion SGP30 sensor for detecting VOCs and a BME280 to measure temperature, humidity and air pressure. I think total cost is roughly 60 usd. ESPHome makes it relatively easy, see this guide for a similar setup https://neon.ninja/2021/11/breathe-better-with-this-indoor-a...

Hope that helps, it's a fun project to figure things out (it was my first project with ESP32).

I have their recommended coffee machine (OXO Barista Brain), and have loved it for over 3 years. I recommend it to everyone I know that likes drip coffee as much as I do.

If you were so happy with a $30 Mr. Coffee, what even compelled you to spend $200??

If you were so happy with a $30 Mr. Coffee...

Parent never said that, and they're obviously not happy with the Mr. Coffee if they're willing to spend $200 on a coffee maker...which, BTW, better do a better job than a $30 coffee maker.

I was referring to the OXO 9-cup coffee maker[1]. I don't expect it to be 7 times better than the Mr. Coffee, and would be satisfied if it was just noticeably better in any way. But it's really pretty much the same thing, only more expensive. To be clear, both units are absolutely fine at making coffee.

What compelled me to spend $200 on the OXO was the glowing Wirecutter review.

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/wirecutter/reviews/best-drip-coffee-...

> In any case, it's still not cheaper than a box fan and a HEPA filter, which ought to be the baseline you'd test against if you were providing value to your readers.

Don't dismiss this as a cantankerous rant. This is an extremely good point. The advantages are not only there in terms of cost but in terms of environmental impact and waste as well. It's telling that this sort of DIY solution isn't highlighted as the goto, especially in a publication catering to a crowd that claims to care about not fucking up the planet and wrings it's hands about the harms of capitalism. Instead of an air purifier bungee a HEPA filter to a box fan and donate the difference to some group capitalism shits on, repeat this approach for all things. Problem solved. Welcome to the solarpunk revolution.

Disclaimer: I did in fact buy a Levoit air purifier off Amazon during the wildfires last year so you know, ain't nobody perfect.

based on wirecutter's own test results a few years ago, the blue air 211+ air purifier had the best performance by a good margin, but they wouldn't recommend it, for at least 2 years after i bought it, though they later did so, briefly. this was likely to maximize their revenue rather than provide the best recommendation. hard to trust them after that.

Not OP but I bought their humidifier recommendation and it wasn't great. Barely made a dent in the humidity level of my small studio apartment.

Turns out I was not alone: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=25993512

i bought that humidifier and it works fine for my purposes. it's purely evaporative, so it doesn't really work well at lower temperatures and won't raise humidity much past 50%. for my use case, it keeps the air moist enough not to irritate me when the heater is on (a few weeks during the winter), which was the problem i was trying to solve.

The air purifier they recommended makes a loud annoying noise any time the house temp falls below a certain point. The router they recommended started randomly and frequently dropping connections after a year. The WiFi extender they recommended dropped connections from day one and also had noticeable coil whine from across the room. The surge protector they recommended reeked of mid/late 2000s-era cheap plastic and made my living room smell of it for about two weeks. And the expensive house fan they recommended made an off-balance rumbling vibration type noise which made it difficult to fall asleep to.

Upon further research into each issue, I found many other people noticing the same things. In addition, many of the products with these issues I exchanged, only to have the replacement exhibit the same exact problem.

Their presentation is their only real strength for the most part.

I recommend you stop going to their website. You seem to be having a very tough time.

It definitely depends on the category. I’ve found it most helpful for items that I don’t know much about, the capability and pricing tiers do matter, but it’s not going to be a purchase that needs to be absolutely perfect and I’m unlikely to have a strong opinion about later.

Headphones? Stay away - too subjective. A humidifier for the nursery? Perfect.

This is where I have a problem with their reviews will start to dive into it but never really educate the reader enough to make an informed decision over trusting them. i.e in their recommended sleeping pads they don't even consider the lower end ones for testing and they balk at the higher end ones because of material choices(which they don't explain have trade offs ie cold or hot camping they remove mylar pads and nylon)Then they are left with picking from a bunch of clones of each other all at same price point with similar features and left with learning nothing other than they chose clone of a clone all because it goes on sale more often than the others

I think Wirecutter drives a lot of sales, so a manufacturer could just cut corners and nerf their product's quality after they're recommended by Wirecutter in order to cash in. It seems like Wirecutter only re-evaluates their top recs after a couple years have gone by.

That they could doesn't mean they will. That's why articles are dated. If the article reviews the nth generation of product p, then that's what the review is about. If you're reading the review 2-3 years afterward, chances are the product has gone through another iteration (in which case, it no longer applies as equally) or the same product is still in production and the review likely still applies. Besides, why would you only rely solely on Wirecutter? CNET, RTINGS, Reddit, etc. can all be consulted to corroborate each other.

Besides, this cheating strategy is only locally sustainable. Once word gets out, they'll lose on their next release. Lies have short legs.

Hot take: this seems like a very low-traffic period for them as anyone searching BFCM deals will have done the reading before the days? / content written before the days

Wirecutter runs a live update feed on major sale days that aggregates surprise/short term deals.

Wonder if this is related to Wirecutter going not just behind the NYT paywall but also requiring an extra subscription beyond the base level. I basically stopped visiting after that.

Paywall, strike, declining trustworthiness... I see more and more negative comments about Wirecutter. Could that be an opportunity for a rising competitor?

If your source info is untrustworthy affiliated reviewers, how does that aggregate into something I should trust?

If a union isn’t threatening to strike, does that mean they’re not negotiating hard enough?

No. A strike is a weapon of last resort -- you have to have the ability to use it, but you don't want to use it. Much better is when both sides are negotiating rationally.

When a union perceives that the company is not negotiating rationally, that's when they take a vote to authorize a strike. Then, hopefully, the strike doesn't happen... but it's available.

Is firing the entire union protected under labour laws in at will employment states?

The right to strike is federally protected:


Seems that if the employer can hire replacements quickly enough, the strikers don't get their jobs back.

"Economic strikers defined. If the object of a strike is to obtain from the employer some economic concession such as higher wages, shorter hours, or better working conditions, the striking employees are called economic strikers. They retain their status as employees and cannot be discharged, but they can be replaced by their employer. If the employer has hired bona fide permanent replacements who are filling the jobs of the economic strikers when the strikers apply unconditionally to go back to work, the strikers are not entitled to reinstatement at that time. However, if the strikers do not obtain regular and substantially equivalent employment, they are entitled to be recalled to jobs for which they are qualified when openings in such jobs occur if they, or their bargaining representative, have made an unconditional request for their reinstatement."

That's an odd phrasing of the question, since normally we talk about rights of the employees being protected.

If you want to ask, "is it generally legal to fire all members of a union in retaliation", the answer is "it's complicated". Read https://www.nlrb.gov/strikes

This is typically the case in Europe, where (unsurprisingly) unions are more common. In the US and the UK, you see more militant unions, more wildcat strikes, more picketing, etc. which is why union membership went through the floor (I am in the UK, we also have unions taking positions on climate change, on Israel/Palestine, they own the party in opposition and last year the most well-funded union leader attempted to get his girlfriend a seat in the House of Lords...they are very weird). Unions develop in their own political, legal, and cultural context so, for some, strikes are very much a first resort.

> strikes are very much a first resort

I'm going to guess you don't know any union members.

Strikes are very hard on the strikers. You're suddenly taking no income but still putting in a shift on the picket line. Not only is there the real risk of the whole thing being net-negative, but you could lose your job entirely.

And a lot of time, you only strike because you've been squeezed financially for so long, you may not have much of a buffer for all that.

You make it sound like unions strike for sport. I suspect a conversation with an actual striking union member might provide a different perspective.

That guess is incorrect.

And yes, as I explained but will repeat, strikes happen within a political/legal/cultural/economic context. In some contexts, that has increased the frequency of strikes. By your account, the proportion of strikes just relates to the financial position of the strikers...I don't know how it is possible to be aware of the history of trade unionism and come to that conclusion.

For example, individuals do not choose to strike. They vote for strike action in a ballot or there is a decision taken by an executive of the union. Exactly how this occurs has had a huge role in determining the frequency of strikes (if you look at the labour history of the UK, the lack of democratic process in important unions was a major reason why they went militant, why strikes increased, and eventually why unions fell into decline).

The specifics of your account of striking is mostly wrong too (for example, it is not always true that strikers are unpaid). Most people today do not understand how unions operate...this is related to the fact that they live in countries where the labour movement committed suicide, and they are left with militant unions that misrepresent how unions can actually work effectively (again, Europe is a perfect example of this, the militant behaviour of unions today is a function of their irrelevance in society, and that is 100% a function of the use of industrial action by militant unions).

Not all unions are strong enough to actually strike.

If management thinks the union is too weak to strike, they can stonewall. And if the union can't muster a strike, management tends to win. If the union CAN muster a strike, then (1) people in the union develop a stronger belief in their union and (2) management updates their estimate of what they can get away with.

A strike isn't just an abstract tactic deployed at the negotiation table, a strike is a big ask of all the members of the striking union.

If a union isn't threatening to strike it's because whatever they expect to gain in leverage and negotiating power isn't enough to offset the cost of the actual strike.

No. It's supposed to be a working relationship. There are many opportunities to negotiate in good faith for things you want in any relationship. Always threatening a strike or a divorce or a full-scale/nuclear war or a political filibuster is actually a sign of an abusive, unhealthy relationship. It's not a bad question though. It's just a sign of the times.

The New York Times won't even agree to meet with them to discuss negotiations. This is literally a last resort. These negotiations have been ongoing for two years.

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