I’m delighted to announce that I’ll soon be starting a new gig as Gear & Apple Editor at The Wirecutter. It’s a fantastic publication with great people, and I’m looking forward to joining the team.
Why am I so excited?
Over the past couple years, The Wirecutter has become one of my favorite review pubs. Unlike most tech sites, which review products individually, leaving you with the often difficult task of comparing a slew of reviews to figure out which product to buy, Wirecutter publishes a single comprehensive review and comes right out and tells you, “This is the [product type] you should get.” (The site also usually offers a couple alternatives for people with different needs or budgets.)
It sounds like an obvious idea — determining what to buy is the reason people read a review, after all — and yet until The Wirecutter debuted, few publications were doing reviews this way. A few sites would give you, say, a chart of TV reviews, but you had to figure out, on your own, which of 17 similarly rated televisions was actually the best. And given that each review was likely written by a different person at a different time, there was no guarantee that one product was even roughly equivalent to another with the same rating.
It’s a testament to the usefulness of Wirecutter’s approach that so many sites are now trying to emulate it.
But Wirecutter reviews are more than just “review a bunch of stuff at once.” A Wirecutter review can take literally months to put together. The staff starts by researching the category to find the top products: the ones liked by professional reviewers, the ones rated highly by consumers on Amazon and other retail sites, and the ones that (because of their brand or market position) people want to know about.
Then Wirecutter finds a reviewer with specific and extensive experience covering that product category. (For example, Wirecutter’s iPhone-case writer, Nick Guy, was previously the accessories editor at iLounge and has reviewed hundreds and hundreds of cases.) After that, the reviewer and editors devise a thorough testing protocol, to be published in the review so readers know exactly how the products were evaluated. Only then does the reviewer get down to the work of actually reviewing products, and he or she gets to take as long as they need to do the job well.
The result of all this work is a comprehensive and transparent review that readers can feel confident in relying on when making purchasing decisions. Even better, Wirecutter regularly updates published reviews with information about new products and, if warranted, updated recommendations based on follow-up testing.
As someone who’s been reviewing products professionally for well over a decade, I can tell you that this is what many good reviewers wish they could do, but can’t because of their company’s publishing model, editorial philosophy, or resource limitations.
I’ve been impressed enough by Wirecutter’s reviews—and those of its sibling site, The Sweethome, which focuses on home wares—that I’ve made a good number of my own purchases based largely on Wirecutter recommendations.1
Granted, not everyone will agree with every review, but my experience using Wirecutter and Sweethome is that when you buy something the sites recommend, even if it may not be the absolute best product for every person, it’s surely one of the best (and likely the best for many people). In other words, unless you’re that obsessive geek who must have the beyond-dispute-no-one-disagrees-best product, you’re unlikely to regret the purchase. (I’m someone who borders on that level of obsessive geekiness, so the fact that I haven’t regretted a Wirecutter- or Sweethome-influenced buying decision says a lot.)
That’s what I’ve loved about Wirecutter over the past couple years, and that’s why I’m super excited to be a part of it.
Don’t worry: I’ll still be blogging here. Most of my work at The Wirecutter will focus on managing and editing reviews, along with writing some reviews and other Wirecutter-type coverage. So I should be able to continue to provide commentary and how-to articles (and likely even one-off personal reviews), as long as they don’t overlap with my Wirecutter work.