The Only Constant Is Change (And Shopping)


I’ve subscribed to magazines for a long time. I loved Wired for years and Real Simple magazine stepped in and gave me wisdom and advice that I couldn’t get from my family. But there’s one magazine I’ve been buying since issue one. One magazine that I’ve still subscribed to even after I ditched the others: ShopSmart. ShopSmart is a magazine from Consumer Reports… It focused on not only reviewing products, per Consumer Reports’ standard offerings, but also developing specific content for its readers.

Well. It was. And it used to.

I got this postcard in the middle of last week:


RIP ShopSmart. I can’t say I’m shocked. The magazine had a small subscriber base and Consumer Reports wants to focus on digital. And they absolutely should. Everyone is moving to the ease of the internet and with how Consumer Reports works, being a nonprofit and all, they’re going to have to find the best way they can present their findings. In a world where information is practically free and a click away (and where the veracity of this information is often suspect) this will be challenging. So I get it.

That said, I really liked ShopSmart. I hope Consumer Reports fulfills their promise of incorporating things from ShopSmart into their usual offerings. I always found the original Consumer Reports magazine very dry. ShopSmart had a voice. They always focused on saving money, highlighted technology, shared something new in every issue, and was always relevant. I could find out what apps I could download on my phone to get coupons or deals. I could compare lawn equipment and figure out what peanut butter what cheapest (while still being tasty). But most importantly, it taught me what to look for. It taught me how to shop as an informed consumer.

This was the sort of thing I was always trying to do on my own time. I’m the type that does heavy research before buying anything. I’d rather spend some effort figuring how best to spend my money than buy something that sucks. I learned it from my dad, who enjoyed a gift subscription of ShopSmart from me for years and read it cover to cover as well. Sure, the subscription offset the savings, but I’ve made enough large purchases wisely that it was worth it. And it was nice to trust someone else to be an expert instead of doing the heavy lifting myself.

Those are all things that I think should be at the heart of any consumer based publication. To be an informed and educated consumer means knowing about all of the above mentioned. ShopSmart did a really excellent job at that.

Consumer Reports right now is a lot of data about things people buy. It’s sort of there, floating, without context. I’d like to see the newer Consumer Reports sort of mash the style of these two periodicals together. If the new magazine was a hybrid of the two publications, it would really be something worth reading.

If you’re seeing this and you’re just now learning about ShopSmart, that’s a bummer and I’m sorry you missed out. I’d recommend checking out BrightNest and The Sweethome to fill in some of the gaps. They’re good stuff. Hopefully Consumer Reports can be, too.

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