How Wirecutter Makes Money (2024)

Affiliate marketing 101

To understand Wirecutter’s business, let’s start with affiliate marketing.

An online retailer such as Amazon or a direct-order company such as the mattress maker Leesa strikes deals with affiliate partners. These partners might be small blogs, Instagram influencers, coupon websites, or a rigorous product-recommendation site like Wirecutter.

Those affiliate partners often (though not always) earn a certain amount of money, typically a percentage of the product’s price, when someone buys a product through the links on the partners’ pages. This practice is known as affiliate marketing.

FTC guidelines for affiliate marketers stipulate that such commission-based relationships must be clearly and conspicuously disclosed, which is why Wirecutter and other websites have such language on every page where an affiliate link appears.

What makes Wirecutter different from other product-recommendation sites

At Wirecutter, a strict wall exists between our editorial and commerce departments.

When we say that writers and editors “independently review everything we recommend,” we’re referring to how our journalists embark on Wirecutter’s exhaustive testing process (you can read more about the multitudinous steps in our breakdown of a Wirecutter guide) without consideration for how our recommendations will make Wirecutter money. Their only job is to decide what is the best.

This is not how things work at many other product-recommendation websites, where writers and editors are much more involved in the business outcomes and implications of the products they select. Their recommendations are often impacted by business considerations.

Ours are not.



When Wirecutter makes money

Wirecutter’s commerce operation comes in after our writers and editors have made all their picks.

At this point—and only at this point—our business-side colleagues determine where to send links for products (Home Depot or Amazon? REI or Backcountry?) based on a puzzle of price, a website’s ease of use, shipping costs, customer service, and, yes, affiliate rates.

“The reader experience doesn’t end when you leave our site,” says Wirecutter’s executive director of commerce, Leilani Han. “When we’re choosing the retailers we’re sending our readers to, we’re sending them somewhere we would personally want to shop. That’s taking into consideration things like the ease of returns or shipping costs, or even how easy it is to add something to your cart. The reader experience comes first—before we consider the monetization aspect.”

The commerce team also accounts for the effect that being featured on Wirecutter has on a retailer: The site has to have enough inventory to fulfill a potential influx of orders.

“A Wirecutter pick is only as good as your ability to purchase it,” Leilani says. “If you go to a site, and the product isn’t in stock, then what are you supposed to do? We do a lot of work to find retailers that have the infrastructure and inventory to support a good experience for our readers.”

Ensuring the quality of a reader’s experience is the primary goal. In some cases, Wirecutter makes no money at all on a pick, simply because the only high-quality retailer that sells the item doesn’t run an affiliate program.

We won’t ever send our readers to a site that’s frustrating to use or a retailer with excessive shipping costs simply to make money at the expense of our relationship to our readers.

You can trust us

We can say definitively that no pick on Wirecutter has ever been sponsored by a manufacturer or retailer or anyone else. No product has ever been named as a pick because it would make our business more money.

For Wirecutter’s journalists, the revenue of our picks is thankfully not our responsibility—in accordance with Wirecutter policy, we’re not made aware of those relationships at all. If we say positive things about a product, it’s because we have tested it and found it recommendation-worthy.

Now, Wirecutter often makes money when it recommends a product, but we believe that our business’s interests align with those of the reader. If you’re unhappy with a product that you bought based on our recommendation, and you return it, Wirecutter doesn’t make any money. You would also be likely to stop taking our advice in the future.

But if we independently make great recommendations, and you’re happy with your purchases, we’ve succeeded in our journalistic mission, and our business makes money to further that mission.

There’s no incentive for us to give a bad recommendation, especially since the real cost of doing so is not just a few dollars—it’s the loss of your trust. The confidence that our readers have in our expertise is what has made Wirecutter a reliable friend (and yes, business) since 2011.

This article was edited by Amber Angelle and Ben Frumin.



How Wirecutter Makes Money (2024)


How Wirecutter Makes Money? ›

Now, Wirecutter often makes money when it recommends a product, but we believe that our business's interests align with those of the reader. If you're unhappy with a product that you bought based on our recommendation, and you return it, Wirecutter doesn't make any money.

Is Wirecutter paid advertising? ›

I thought the wirecutter was basically paid advertising, is that not the case? Good news: it is not the case. This is of course, not perfect. They are incentivized to try and get you to buy something and, ideally, more expensive things because that would result in higher referral commissions.

Why is Wirecutter no longer free? ›

Q: Why is Wirecutter adding a paid subscription? A: As a New York Times company, we're dedicated to maintaining editorial independence and providing a great experience for readers. To continue providing quality journalism and expand our offerings in the future, we're adding a paid subscription.

How much was Wirecutter sold for? ›

After forming an editorial partnership with The New York Times in 2015, The Wirecutter was acquired by the Times in October 2016 for a reported $30 million. 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.

Is New York Times Wirecutter reliable? ›

We strive to be the most trusted product recommendation service around, and we work with total editorial independence. We won't post a recommendation unless our writers and editors have deemed something the best through rigorous reporting and testing.

How much do advertisers pay per viewer? ›

As such, prices for CPV ads can vary wildly based on a large number of factors on the searcher's end. Costs anywhere from around 3 cents to 30 cents per view are common, but that is only a broad estimate.

What is better than Wirecutter? ›

The best alternatives to Wirecutter are Gear Caliber, Reviewipedia, and Wispberry.

What is the difference between Wirecutter and consumer report? ›

The Wirecutter model is to take what Consumer Reports reports used to do and eliminate all the hard parts like actually learning the science behind the product, performing serious long-term evaluations, and building funky stress testing machines. (And the big one, not accepting advertiser dollars.)

What happened to the wirecutter? ›

In 2016, the site sold to the Times, as a service-y complement to the newspaper's own journalism. It didn't take long for Wirecutter staffers to realize that the Times' ambitions for the site far exceeded Wirecutter's own expectations of moderate, steady growth.

How many free NY Times articles do you get? ›

Non-subscribers have access to 10 articles per month before being asked to pay.

Who invented The Wirecutter? ›

Brian Lam (born May 23, 1977) is an American writer, best known for his work with Gizmodo, a blog focusing on technology; and The Wirecutter, a recommendation website for gadgets. New York City, U.S.

Do you have to pay for Wirecutter? ›

If you do not have a subscription that includes Wirecutter, you have access to a limited number of Wirecutter pieces and the comments section.

Who owns nyt Times? ›

Nicknamed The Gray Lady, The Times is long regarded within the industry as a national “newspaper of record”. It is owned by The New York Times Company. Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr., whose family has controlled the paper since 1896, is both the paper's publisher and the company's chairman.

Does NY Times All Access include Wirecutter? ›

All Access includes news, plus Games, Cooking, Audio, Wirecutter and The Athletic. Offer for a New York Times All Access subscription; current subscribers not eligible. Subscription excludes print edition. Some games may be available without a subscription.

Is Wirecutter not included in NYT subscription? ›

Wirecutter is Included With an All Digital Access Subscription. The New York Times Company announced today that Wirecutter, its product recommendation service, will institute a metered paywall, asking its frequent users to subscribe for unlimited access to its research and recommendations.

Where is Wirecutter based? ›

Wirecutter is located in New York, New York, United States .

Does Wirecutter require a separate subscription? ›

Wirecutter is Included With an All Digital Access Subscription. The New York Times Company announced today that Wirecutter, its product recommendation service, will institute a metered paywall, asking its frequent users to subscribe for unlimited access to its research and recommendations.

Are display ads paid media? ›

Display ads are paid advertisem*nts shown on websites, apps, or videos based on a specific set of keywords that are matched to the hosting website's topic.


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