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!
Every Cigar Has A Story, Every Smoke A Memory