How Would You Validate A Cigar Blogger

The Cigar Nut

There has been a certain topic that has been running rampant within the online cigar community for a few months now, and I hope you are all getting burnt out on the topic as much as I am. Although the steam behind this locomotive does not seem to be easing up, if anything this topic is being discussed at greater lengths with more aggression. I think we all can agree that instead of sitting by and talking, complaining or bitching about a problem we need to figure out a way to correct this and move forward or just drop it entirely. Improvise, Adapt, Overcome.

p.s. I am exempting photographs on this post, I feel the content outweighs any ‘joke pictures’ I may throw in. Thank you.

The topic I am specifically speaking of is the validity of cigar review websites (cigar bloggers) and how people view their intentions. With social media picking up momentum, a few manufacturers and retailers have jumped on the ban wagon, placing advertising tiles on various sites or sending samples to different sites for review. We all need to realized that no matter what, it is the intention of the manufacturers and retailers to make money, just as any business this is their life line – bloggers provide the perfect avenue for them to combine two forces – targeting the consumer and cigar community in a unusually positive aspect. The efforts of these two forces have been proven to be a very powerful combination if done properly, the manufacturer composing vibrant, creative and eye appealing ads mixed in with a ‘real Joe Schmo’ giving a positive ‘real world experience’ on a specific cigar blend, size or an entire line. It has been expressed more than once (even from outside the cigar community) that people are turning away from the big companies and their marketing tactics and now listening to this ‘regular Joe’ I mentioned – naturally this gives the reviewer a bit more power, more of a presence that some companies have acknowledged and are effectively addressing.

Now, being the raging asshole I am (yes, I am proud of this) and my lack of writing skill (I am still trying, give the jar head a chance) I may not be able to express my extreme animosity as eloquently as others but my point should not be overlooked at the same time. We can all say ‘well site X is a jerk’ or ‘site Y is in it for the free cigars’ yet no one has gone about and actually attempted to validate or substantiate these claims against a black and white set of values. I have attempted to make two runs through the gauntlet with hopes that a more relaxed, perhaps even vulgar, approach would get the ball rolling in the right direction – as we can all tell, this goal has yet to be achieved. This is lucky attempt number three, and quite frankly, I’m tired of this topic being thrown around like a bunch of blue hairs at the nail shop just gossiping. I am from Missouri, The Show Me State, and by God I feel that if you have the stance of ‘I’m not a pussy’ then you need to stand up and prove it in order to earn my respect. Trust, but validate.

Personally I think having this large number of sites out there is a good thing – to a certain degree. I love the diversity of personalities and palates as well as the different backgrounds of the reviewer. It reminds me of capitalism, anyone can go out and start up a business but it takes a certain ‘something’ that causes your business to grow and expand. Not everyone can be Walmart or Costco, maybe some of us just want to be a local franchise or be a mom and pop that only caters to 20 customers a week – the requirement for consistency, dedication and education or experience plays a dynamic role. This also allows the readers to really emphasize what location they want to get their information from, which is a win win for everyone.

Without going as far as throwing people under the bus and releasing their URL on the negative aspect, we have all seen the sites who have ‘place an ad here’ or have unfinished aspects to their site such as a specific ‘about me’ page to at very least let the reader know who is giving this ‘eye witness report’. Funny thing, these sites have completed their ‘contact me to advertise on my site’ section and their advertising tiles are perfectly aligned and ready for business… sigh.

For fucks sake, there is even a site out there that charges you for their ‘exclusive information’ when in reality I looked through their site and it appears to be more based upon trying to salvage a failed modeling career and repeating, almost word for word, what an expert said half a minute before. A few other sites attempted to give an ‘insiders’ view, opinion and irregular thoughts of the business and happenings at IPCPR although they were over 1000 miles away. Some of these sites have good people running them, but just because your a good person doesn’t mean your site should be exempt from being next in line for the latrine. I know a couple of guys on twitter who adamantly refuse to do reviews on a site or even on forums for the simple fact of ‘I smoke cigars, I don’t write about them’ but these are the people I go to when I need info (I’m still learning, a lot!) because honestly, I know their not going to bullshit me.

Any idiot with 75 bucks and a few spare hours can create a site but any site who has been around longer than 6 months can attest that it not only takes an interest in the subject, it truly takes dedication and education. Perfect examples, Doc Stogie Fresh is one of, if not the best, place to go to find educational information on cigars. This man simply amazes me with the depth of information, obvious dedication and great charisma – one of the leading reasons he has done over 230 cigar podcasts to date. If he does not like a cigar, like some other sites, he will reiterate the fact of ‘this is my opinion’ or ‘I think…” which I have attempted to ‘borrow’ for my own reviews haha! As well, the main reason for my post came from Matt over at Toasted Foot and his take on a bloggers place within the industry – I don’t think I’ve read a better prepared or more impressive article all year. Please take some time and visit these sites, read their articles and listen to some podcasts, I can not speak highly enough about them.

Okay – so, to the nuts and bolts of the post, validation of cigar review sites. I could care less if anyone thinks that I am validated or not, my lady and I already know my balls are big enough to hit the water when I take a shit – but what do YOU think should be considered and how should this be done? Personally, I think the site should have been in existence for at least 6 months, have at least one review a week (or like SmokingStogie they explain and validate the reason for less or more), and have a completed site – I’m tired of this ‘under construction’ bullshit. Aside from that, what do you, the reader, consider when attempting to validate a site?

My goal, if this takes off, is to create a website specific to listing the ‘validated cigar blogs’ kind of a Cigar Blog Directory or a white pages for cigar blogs. No fancy bells and whistles (maybe later haha), 100% no advertising and an emphasis on providing a specific location for manufacturers, retailers, IPCPR officials and especially the readers to go to as a ‘bridge’ to find the proper information. As I said, I am not wanting a location to say ‘for a review of cigar X go to these 12 sites’ but rather a simple, alphabetical list of sites that have been able to stand the test of time, is not a weasel, is not getting insider benefits, did not create the site specifically to go to IPCPR, etc. etc. This in no way will correct the current issues, but I think it will be a move in the right direction to finally bring some sort of validity to our sites and if not, at least we can all stop complaining about this like high school girls and focus on more important things.

Long story short, please leave a comment, short or long or whatever you’d like – If this is something that the public would like to have then I will move forward appropriately and we will get the proper sites involved and create a specific directory for these validated cigar sites. Again, the specifics will be worked out later as well as collaborating with other blogs (only 2 have responded to my emails so far) but before I really try to get sites ‘involved’ we need to come up with a black and white list of criteria to reference when validating sites – by the people who read them not the people who write them. This is your chance, blogger or not, to put in stone what a ‘proper’ site should be or an opportunity to tell us to all shut the fuck up!

As Always,
Every Cigar Has A Story, Every Smoke A Memory

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50 Thoughts to “How Would You Validate A Cigar Blogger”

  1. Cliff 'Bigsmokin'

    I think its a great idea and I think it would actually be used quite a bit by consumers once the word got out.. I know there are a lot of WIFM (Whats in it for me) sites out there and judging by the response from those ‘media’ peoples that attended the show this year and their comments on the increased amount of blog operators that were present, I think it would be a great thing… NICE

  2. Great stuff David – thanks for continuing the conversation, and for giving us a shout out!

    I agree that some standards would be beneficial, and I think Barry at A Cigar Smoker has worked on that a little.

    As far as what the standards are – I think the truest test is what you mentioned – how long the blog lasts and how often they post. Consistency and reliability are crucial.

    I know of a few sites that offer lists of blogs, but it’s not necessarily a “validation” list or a “seal of approval list”. Here are a couple:

    http://www.cigarstash.com/cigar-reviews.php

    http://cigardir.com/

  3. Dave,
    I think your validation theory is sound, except I think you allow too much slack. I stated on another website earlier this week that I am in favor of 1 year of continuous publication with a minimum of 2 posts per week on cigars or cigar-related subjects in order for a site to get a press pass to IPCPR.

    I kind of think 1 year is an important time frame because if a person can stick with something through an entire year with all that a year brings (seasonal changes, busy work times, busy family times, etc.) they will be more likely to stick with it for the long run.

    Hard to believe someone out there charges for this stuff, though…hmm, it’s an idea… LOL

  4. Joe

    I think it’s a great idea. A directory would do a variety of things; I think there is a lot of good information out there on sites such as yours, Toasted Foot, Casas Fumandos, A Cigar Smoker’s Journal, etc. However there is an equally great quantity of bad information. This would protect people seeking information by giving them validated sources. And I would still love to rate the best new releases of that quarter on an organization like this, if you remember that email I sent out awhile back.

  5. Dave,

    I like the idea. I’m just a little retailer (and like you, a jar head, OOOH-RAH), but I’d be willing to post a list of “certified” blogs on our website, disseminate to our customers, whatever works. Give me a shout if I can help in any way.
    Jeff

  6. David as always your passion inspires me. I agree and think a directory of valid sites would be great. My only concern is who decides whats valid and who decides who is valid, is it the readers of blogs, those blogs that have been around for certian time frame. As the new guy on the block I agree with for the most part you need to put your time in. I for one dont do this for money, freebies I simply do it because there are sites Ive watched for years and they inspired me to talk about my passion. I hope this all works out and I will help if asked in anyway needed. thanks

  7. Lloyd L.

    If someone has a desire to put up a cigar blog, so be it. I’ve visited dozens of blogs, websites, etc., and I’ve whittled the number of sites I visit regularly down to a select few. But to validate? Do we really want to go down that road? Control, control, control. That’s what I see coming out of validation. First you need a year of existence. Next you need 2 posts per week. Then you’ll need to be a member of CRA. Where will it stop? It will come to a point where all cigar blogs are all the same because the content will be required to be the same. Let those who choose to blog about cigars do it however they please. Cream rises to the top; if you’re not any good, no one will pay any attention to you.

  8. Who watches the Watchmen??? 🙂

    I can attest to the fact that a cigar blog takes a LOT of dedication to keep going and doing it well. My life got extra busy at the beginning of this year and the blog suffered. If a site has been around a year or more and still has a couple meaningful posts each week you know that person is serious about what they are doing.

    In all honesty, I think it is pretty much self-regulating. If a site comes up just to get free cigars or just to go to IPCPR they will fade in due time. I could give a list of a few sites that this applies to, some of them owned by good friends, and their desire to actually work at keeping a quality site going fades as time goes by.

    Easiest way for me to validate a blog is to look at their archives. If their oldest post is from 2 months ago I take what is said with a grain of salt.

  9. Wow, I can not thank you all enough for the comments – In order to try to ‘nail down’ some more things, lets run with this.
    Like Dmjones said – maybe we need to be a little more strict. If we are going to do this we need a strict, black and white set of guidelines.
    Lloyd made a good point of control control control, when is enough enough? I don’t think they need to join organizations like the CRA but I do feel adamantly that they need to be established for months if not a year minimum and contribute to the community on a regular basis.
    mikestogies – Thanks again for the kind words, sounds like this might take off, I’ll be in touch.
    Jeff Mouttet – Semper Fi Brother. Off the record I can give you my personal list of good places, other then that I will keep you in the loop as this develops. Thanks again brother.
    Ubicigar – I’m still very interested, I will be in touch in email in the next day or so and we’ll get the specifics set up. Really like your site btw, keep it up!

    Matt – – – see what you started!! haha

  10. I would support Dave’s idea for a year-long, despite the fact that it would take me out of the running. I’ve lasted six months with a different blog before creative differences caused it to split. A year seems like a better benchmark. As for Lloyd, it isn’t like we’re saying other people can’t post blogs. This is just like giving a site a shout out, but more officially. Whether the site is part of this validation effort or not, it will still exist, and in the end, you can choose to read them or not. It will set up standards that will encourage everyone to rise to a higher level, and I think bloggers should support that. We all need to help each other, and I think this would do that.

  11. matt

    “at least we can all stop complaining about this like high school girls and focus on more important things.”

    I could not agree more… So STOP.
    This site has become more of an ego fueled, off topic rant than a cigar website.

    Oh, and anyone who has to bring up the size of their balls… has small ones.

  12. Tom

    I always enjoy your rants. Sure the idea of a certified cigar site is neat. But I personally am far too lazy to maintain such a list.
    If you, a cigar site owner.has consistent content, certain readers will gravitate to you. Those who don’t really relate to you… They will go elsewhere. And that is OK too.
    I don’t put a lot of thought into a cigar site. I smoke some cigars and write (or do a video) about it. Sure I get some kickbacks. That is great and appreciated. I love my cigars, they make me relax. But to be honest, if the whole online thing went away tomorrow, I’d be OK with that. If a cigar review site keeps it real, it will probably succeed to some level, “Certified” list or not.

  13. I use to be in favor of some kind of “certified” group or cigar blogger “association” but like Tom said. Who really has the time? On three different occasions some of us “old timers” have tried to do something similar and it always got too complicated no matter how simple we tried to keep it and in the end, just wasn’t worth it and all of us have survived and prospered.

    Content is king…

  14. To Jerry;
    Yeah, it’s a time buster. What needs to happen for this to work is have the key members (or volunteers) throw a little money down for a separate domain. Each of those members would be responsible for updating content once a day; so maybe each member gets a different weekday, or every other week, or something. Complicated? I think a little bit. But anything worth doing will take some time. Stogie Review is a hugely respected site (and thus one I find myself linking to often.) You can attest to the fact that it isn’t an easy feat keeping such a site afloat for so long. The web is fickle; I see my traffic decline if I don’t post at least every other day. Content is king, but I think this would be both a fun and useful idea.

  15. Matt – First off thank you for visiting and commenting on my site. Now that the formalities are done, I need to correct the errors of your ways in respect to your comment. You comment that my site is ego fueled, yes, I am a Combat Marine so the fact that I am better than you is not even debatable. . . Next. My rants are off topic? Please let me know of ONE rant that was not directed to the cigar industry or community, just one…
    As well, I could have added your URL into the list of sites that lack original content, have plastered their site with poorly placed and poorly managed ads and for fuck sake, you have a pirated youtube video of SNL on your home page. 7 months of the 11 you’ve been in operation you didn’t even do more than 5 posts in a month – You are a perfect example of someone that gives the rest of us a bad name, further reinforcing my rant. There is a reason I have never contacted you for any type of input on this matter.

    p.s. I’m sorry your boyfriend got upset about my ball comment, I thought everyone could take a joke but I guess some little girls still get their panties in a bunch.

  16. *hand motion*

    Oh no you DIDN’T!

  17. Google seems to be pretty good at authenticating which sites are good and which ones are shit (the bad ones never get close to the first page). Besides, we all smoke cigars because we like smoking cigars, not because we like validating blogs on cigar smoking.

    Making a list of reputable cigar blogs is a fine idea it just would be a big pain in the ass.

  18. Joe,
    I proposed the “one year” time not because it would eliminate you or anyone else, but because it took that long before I knew if I was going to keep doing the blog on a consistent basis. I actually worked for over a year testing out different concepts and refining my format and review content before even attempting to make myself more known to the public. I think anybody might do it for a few months, but getting beyond a year takes a lot of time and commitment.

    I also hear what Jerry said (and has said in the past in other places), having some kind of “accrediting agency” is a massive time-suck for whoever is “in charge” and there is very little if anything for them to gain by it. And, indeed, who watches the watchmen, as Tim said. If you have a falling out or personality conflict with whoever is in charge at the moment, what is to prevent him from dropping your blog from the accredited list? Too much politics…starts to suck all the joy out of it.

    Maybe the best thing we can do is just use our collective “other blogs” links sections as our way of showing who we think of as deserving respect and audience. If you find a good site, trade links with them. If someone you suspect of being a Cigar Weasel asks you to trade links, respectfully decline. Maybe not the best method, but it’s a start.

  19. Tom

    Aww David… You got the coveted hate comment! I feel sad, jealous, and happy for you at the same time. Hate comments should be coveted by and blogger. I wish I got more of em!

    Way to stir the pot. I come here for the cigar reviews, but the rants are icing on the cake. Just do what you do. This is your place. If I didn’t like it, I would stop coming here.

  20. Matt

    David,
    Your reply speaks volumes about your character and motives for having a blog.
    If my site is supposedly “the perfect example of someone that gives the rest of us a bad name” – why do you continually delete my name and URL? Why not use me as an example?

  21. Matt, Your comments have done nothing for the post but rather appear to be your attempt to personally attack me. Are you jealous, intimidated or just scared? I am not going to have a childish back and forth on my site with anyone, period. I left your name on here but continually erase your URL because I will go out of my way NOT to promote your site, but yes, you are being used as an example as I had just said. If you want to speak to me like a man (as much as can be done online) e-mail me at phacue101@gmail.com – aaaand your done

  22. Tom

    Gentlemen, let’s settle this like men. David, Matt – Meet me on the lawn at dawn!

  23. Joe

    I’ll be your second, if you need one.

  24. I appreciate that Tom – You’ve been around since my first week and as I have said multiple times I take your word 10 fold over others. I wanted to do a rant once a month, which I will do but I can see the topic being dramatically less controversial. I will say, this was my first hate comment and I kinda enjoyed it. P.s. I am a cocky asshole, but I think that is half the fun : )

    So – back on topic everyone
    I am going to start a site this weekend, I need black and white credentials – so far

    1. Site has been in existence for ____ months (6 or 12)
    2. Site has to have a certain number of posts a month (4 to 8)

    what else?

  25. Joe

    I actually think 12 months is a good hallmark. I would say that exceptions can be made if the rest of the community agrees on it (I think that should be an important factor; a majority rule.) I think so long as a site is active, or gives a reason for inactivity, there shouldn’t be a post limit. I think if those who are ‘credentialed’ have an issue with a site in the organization, they should raise it, and it should be put to a vote.

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  27. I think this is a really, really bad idea. I imagine the main outcome will be to get people who are supposed to be on the same team really pissed off at each other based on what one person or the other thinks is “acceptable”. That’s already been evident in some of the comments on this post.

    Good luck bro.

  28. Charlie

    Couldn’t have said it better than Tim.

    In the end, those who are legit should prove on their own merits, not because they are listed on some site.

  29. Jacob Krell

    I just write reviews here and enjoy cigars. I don’t know what to think. I think what it all boils down too is we want the same thing. To weed out the weasels and keep them from damaging the reputations of those who work hard. We all want to keep credibility high regardless if it is a manufacturer, retailer, other media, or cigar lover who is reading your material. Once you lose credibility who will believe your reviews? Who will support your work? That said I think readers can figure it out for themselves on whether a blogger/reviewer is credible and honest. As far as manufacturers and/or retailers once they get burned by just 1 fly by night review site it taints us all.

    I don’t know if a website certifying people or regulating things is the answer. It would be nice to have someone who we all respect create a website like cigarfriendly.us and maybe just list various cigar websites by category. Validation or certification would be hard to do but adding sites that are reputable is a given.

    Sounds like a double edged sword though. If we don’t police ourselves who will? I will lurk here in the shadows and see how this all plays out. I could go either way on this.

  30. Wooo! Jacob Krell respects me!

    I’d be up for making a directory page, but I’m pretty sure Denis from The Cigar Inspector already put together some kind of directory page of cigar sites. I don’t like that you can “pay” to be featured tho. This gives the impression that a site might be viable, when in fact some guy just paid $25 to be on the top.

    If you need my help let me know, however I am currently fairly busy adding some new features to CigarFriendly.us and working on a sister site project that will hopefully be launched very soon.

  31. Josh

    You made a few good points there. I did a search about the subject and almost not got any specific details on other sites, but then great to be here, seriously, appreciate that.

    – Josh

  32. Johnson

    Took me time to read the whole article, the article is great but the comments bring more brainstorm ideas, thanks.

    – Johnson

  33. Brian

    Powerful post.

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  42. Paul 11

    I don’t usually reply to posts but I will in this case. WoW

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