Consumer Reports’ VP and Editorial Director Kevin McKean ... on ShopSmart’s Debut and Future Plans
No longer content to serve only the four million subscribers to Consumer Reports magazine, nonprofit publisher Consumers Union decided to enter the increasingly competitive market of shopping magazines targeted at women. ShopSmart, like its older sibling, features pages and pages of buying advice, without ads. The new launch is available at newsstands only, for now, and is aimed at women aged 30-plus. Vice President and Editorial Director Kevin McKean talked to InBox about the challenges of entering a crowded market and the advantages of publishing an ad-free magazine.
InBox: Was it a challenge to launch a shopping magazine in a market that’s already so crowded?
Kevin McKean: There are two factors that went into [our launch]: internal and external. On the internal side, Consumer Reports is a behemoth of a magazine … so it wasn’t like we were hurting for magazine business. But we also know that Consumer Reports magazine tends to be relatively male-oriented … and we felt that there was potentially another audience, which might skew female—although not necessarily be exclusively female—that basically would say, “Just tell me the best [product] to buy.” So we felt as though we wanted to create a magazine to do that. And the only place you want to slot a magazine like that is in the women’s category.
And you’re right. It’s very daunting going into the women’s category because you’re up against some of the best magazines in the world, and certainly some of the most popular and powerful. So we thought that the best way to go in here was to take the fact that we’re not a commercially supported operation, but that we’re nonprofit, so we don’t have any axe to grind. [We wanted] to really try to take advantage of that strength and come in with a magazine that is offering completely unbiased, straight-from-the-laboratory [results] … that just zeroes in on the right choices to make, what they are and why.