Eleven months ago, we were part of a group of online cigar media brands that launched the Cigar Media Association.  This was something that we felt was needed to strengthen the relationship with online media and the cigar industry.  As I have personally learned, this was an enormous undertaking and it was not one without challenges.  However, 11 months later, I look back on this decision and feel without a doubt, this was the right move to make.  This culminated this past month with the first ever Cigar Media Association Industry Awards.  This marked the first time different cigar media brands got together in a collaborative fashion to give out awards for Cigar of the Year, Brand of the Year, and Media Member of the Year.  It’s the first step in an evolutionary process that I personally hope continues in 2015.

We launched the Cigar Media Association in March, 2014.  As mentioned, we started with the goal to strengthen the relationship with online media.  The process involves self-credentialing brands based on a set of criteria.  Ultimately, we strive to foster collaboration among the group and the industry as a whole.  In the end, the Cigar Media Association looks as a group to help its individual members grow their brands – whether for profit or hobby.

The launch was met with praise as well as skepticism and criticism. Eventually a group that of sixteen media outlets that wanted to grow their brands and believed in the mission emerged to form the inaugural class of the Cigar Media Association. Over the course of the year, we formed a full board of directors. Some brands formed strategic partnerships and collaborations among brands.  While collaborations were successful, the group started to think what can we execute on as a group.

Coming together for an collaborative industry awards program seemed to be an ideal project. Some media brands have tried to do this, most notably Halfwheel’s “Consensus”. However such efforts have been owned and executed by a specific media outlet and not by the media as a group. Up until this point, there has not been true collaborative effort with willing participation among the media. The time seemed right to see if the Cigar Media Association could work to fill the void.

We didn’t set out to create another Top 10 list. We wanted to preserve the individuality of what various media brands are doing with their own end of year lists. Instead, we opted to have award categories – much like the Academy Awards. A list of nominees was selected by the Cigar Media Association and then a final vote was taken where winners were selected.

A decision was made to consider three award categories.  To no one’s surprise, one of the categories would be a Cigar of the Year award.  However, we also realized a need was there to recognize those companies doing great work as a whole – whether new release or not; thus, the Brand of the Year award was born. Finally, while some will call it self-serving, we wanted to recognize a media brand for all of the hard work being done. Many of us either spend time and/or resources, so we decided to name a Media Member of the Year.

In the end the winner’s were all very deserving and it was hard to argue with the selections.

The future seems very bright and hopefully these awards can become the industry standard over time.    It’s also a bright spot for the Cigar Media Association will be poised poised for further growth in 2015.