I’m USA TODAY editor-in-chief Nicole Carroll, and this is The Backstory, insights into our biggest stories of the week. If you’d like to get The Backstory in your inbox every week, sign up here. 

David Ellerby sets out nine foil pans and fills each with a different brand of kitty litter. Next he pours five teaspoons of fox urine on each (that’s how much an average cat goes each time it goes). 

Then he wraps each pan in a giant plastic bag and seals it. Then, he’ll return hours later with an air quality tester to determine which brand absorbs the most odor.

Ellerby serves as the chief scientist at Reviewed. This arm of USA TODAY Network rates and reviews thousands upon thousands of products every year.

The best are the first🏆

The Reviewed 2021 Best of Year Awards recognize editors’ choices for outstanding products across a variety of categories. Check out the video.

What are the top products and best deals? 

Our experts select the top products and then our writers find the best price. The combination of quality and price leads to our “best of” lists – best blenders, best grills, best air fryers and yes, coming soon, best kitty litter.

Ellerby keeps a tabby called Pepper in her home. He laughs, “So I might be changing brands depending on what I find within a few minutes.” “It will be both excitement and terror, I imagine.”

This week, the days leading up to and out of Black Friday and Cyber Monday are some of the busiest at Reviewed. Staffers tested around 2,000 products this year, many in their 24,000-square-foot lab in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Those tests form the bedrock of reviews, gift guides and other stories. Other items could be included in a gift guide if they receive positive reviews from users.

Ellerby assists in the design of tests so that results can be replicated and are reliable. They will use the industry standards for testing larger items like refrigerators and dishwashers. You can also find smaller and more unusual items on their testing protocol.

Reviewed’s TikTok videos show the staff setting aprons on fire, working out on rowing machines and testing deep fryers by deep frying Oreos.

Ellerby said, “I am a professional scientist who is used to looking into and understanding the technical and scientific literature.” Ellerby has a background both in biomechanics and physiology. “So the tests we run are very much rooted in science, they’re developed in a way that can be completely replicated. This allows us to be 100% confident in our data.”

The searching is done for you

Review articles contain links to internet stores that allow users to purchase items quickly. The company receives a commission on many items that are sold. But editor-in-chief David Kender It is clear that the list of items and links to stores does not influence which items are included in a listing.

Reviewed always sends users to reputable businesses with the best price, whether or not they have a financial agreement with them, Kender says. It doesn’t matter if the seller receives a commission, the cost of an item will remain the same. Every Reviewed article contains a financial disclosure. 

Review pays all products they review (about a quarter million dollars annually) or will loan a product to test and then return it back to the manufacturer. Kender said that only good products make it onto a product’s list. He’s known for saying, “There’s no such thing as a good deal on a bad product.”

He stated, “Most times the problem is that someone has to buy something.” I need to purchase a new umbrella and a coffee mug for my niece. The goal is to get straight to the point, give the advice, ensure that they’re at the correct retailer and pay a fair price. While demonstrating that they know their stuff, it is important to be clear. This is a photo of our testing the product. So please proceed with confidence.

The entire team gets involved in the review process. Sometimes, the best reviews are done in the field. Kender tried out three different toothbrushes over the course of three months. 

He said, “My teeth have never looked so good.”

Kender also tested duct tape once in his youth. The review disclosed that Kender “has had an unusually strong affinity for duct tape since childhood.”

The best products are then selected. Kate Ellsworth’sTeam begins looking for the best deals. 

So our favorite robot vacuum has gone on sale. Awesome. Ellsworth, commerce content executive editor, said that we’re going tell our readers all about it.” “After all product testing is done and we have what we love and what our experts recommend, we take that and we teach people how to shop it on sale…how to shop at different retailers and at different price points.”

Jon Chan, senior lab manager at Reviewed, is the in-house vacuum expert, and has tested or overseen testing of hundreds of vacuum and robot vacuum on the market.

This year’s most popular products

Reviewed has taken reviews of the previous year, created the Best of the Year awards and named the top 10 products across 10 categories (from tech to food to pets) just in time for the holiday shopping season.

Kender unveiled them in a video awards show, complete with a tuxedo, fancy  envelopes and canned applause. 

Which are your personal favourites? 

Ellsworth adores the Big Blanket. This blanket measures 10 feet by 10, and is her “cult favorite.”

Ellsworth said that she lived with the Big Blanket for nearly a year and used it almost every day in the winter to sleep on it, build blankets forts, and lounge under it. 

Given the supply issues in certain areas, she recommends that anything can be delivered electronically. Black Friday discounts on streaming services and online classes or items that can be delivered all year round are highlighted by her. 

“Bouqs is a flower delivery service and you can have flowers delivered every single month,” she said. So I bought it for my mom for Mother’s Day. She has forbid me to cancel it.”

Kender said he was “a succker for toys since I have a 7-year-old.”

“The Harry Potter and the Star Wars Lego advent calendars are amazing,” he said. “But they move so quickly and I’m going to try really hard not to buy myself anything that I don’t absolutely need this year.” 

These were supposed to be for seven year-olds, huh?

He laughs and says “We’d share.” Half the joy of parenting is getting to play with toys again and again.

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Nicole Carroll is the editor-in-chief of USA TODAY. Reach her at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter here. Support journalism – subscribe to USA TODAY here. Black Friday Deal: $1 per week, 52 weeks.

Source: USAToday.com


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