I’ve become a big fan of Consumer Reports magazine, so I was delighted to take a look at ShopSmart, Consumer Reports’ sister publication. ShopSmart is like a blend of the Consumer Reports flagship and Lucky magazine in that it applies the former’s model of product-testing and comparison with shopping tips–but without the advertisements found in other consumer magazines.
There’s a lot to like in ShopSmart magazine‘s October 2010 issue, which includes stories on finding clothes that fit (and not buying anything, ever, that doesn’t), cordless phones, choosing better passwords, and all manner of stuff on doing laundry (washers and dryers, detergents, how to wash what, etc.).
But even as I read ShopSmart magazine I couldn’t help feeling a sense of déjà vu. Could it be that I’d read these stories before?
Well, yes, sort of. Five of the stories in the October ShopSmart were also in the October Consumer Reports; the differences were in the length and the spin or direction of the stories. For example, there’s a five-page spread called “Big-Brand Winners & Losers” in ShopSmart and a six-page spread on “Store Brands Vs. Name Brands” in Consumer Reports.
Other crossover stories covered blood-pressure monitors, cordless phones, the dangers of lead and cadmium, and finding deals on auto insurance. In general, the ShopSmart versions of the stories were shorter, whereas the Consumer Reports’ pieces were more comprehensive multipage examinations, sometimes with Consumer Reports’ signature ratings.
There were four other incidences of similarities between the two issues–three products and one idea were mentioned in both.
So, which to choose, because obviously you don’t need both magazines. ShopSmart is meant to be an easy-to-use shopping guide. The design is fresher and simpler than that of Consumer Reports, the information just as useful.
Though the editorial content of ShopSmart is aimed at women, the magazine is a good investment for anyone who’s just starting out or setting up a new home (and thus in the market for a lot of items and with a budget in mind). Consumer Reports offers more exhaustive coverage, but if you want guidance in a less wonky read, go with ShopSmart.