About a month ago, I saw a comment on social media in regards to online media. The comment was made in regards to how “bloggers” don’t count in regards to the trade show attendance numbers. To me, it was very clear this was used as an opportunity to take a shot at those in the online media area.

I would love to know how they came up with that astronomical # of attendees & I’m sorry but the dozens upon dozens of “bloggers” don’t count… They aren’t their to place orders and spend money! The majority attend to get free (bleep).

I almost felt compelled to respond to what I considered an insult against online media.  My personal policy is not to engage in social media wars, and I wasn’t about to do so now.  However as some time went on, I realized this is a person who really doesn’t understand online media. At the same, this is a person who is not aware of the operating procedures on Cigar Coop / Stogie Geeks. This has led me to respond in this forum – not from a personal standpoint, but more from a business standpoint.

While I do not consider what we do at Cigar Coop and Stogie Geeks “blogging” (that is a topic for another editorial), I do feel that this particular comment was aimed at both traditional blogs and what I consider “new media”.  I will say, anyone who thinks online media/ blogger attends a trade show to smoke” free (bleep)”, is not aware of what costs associated with operating an online media brand. In addition, anyone who thinks receiving show samples wash the costs of attending the show is sadly mistaken.

It’s important to know that samples are an important to online media / blogger – whether they are received at a trade show or not. They do help offset costs and they do give us access to cigars we might not normally be able to get and/or early pre-releases.

At Cigar Coop, we follow a fairly regimented process (it’s a little looser for Stogie Geeks Smokes of the Week). We aren’t a web-site that will decide the same day what to smoke for review, and then crank out a review the same day. We aren’t as concerned with being first with a review, but with new releases we try to be timely with the cigar release.  We go through a process of selecting what we think is of interest to our readers and schedule it accordingly. Once scheduled, the cigar goes through a series of activities.  Each of these activities take time to complete. As a result, we often are not going to be first with a review. At the same time, these activities result in each review having costs associated with it.

Below is a sample of these activities and time needed to complete them. For this model, we assume our average smoking two cigars per review. Keep in mind, this is not a one size fits all in terms or review and in terms of media outlet.  The numbers per activity might be adjusted up or down, but below is what I consider reasonable based on personal experience.


Activity Qty Hours Total
Preparation / Research on the Cigar 1.00 1.00 1.00
Photography (Includes Editing) 1.00 0.50 0.50
Smoking Time (and associated note taking) 2.00 1.50 3.00
Authoring Content 1.00 2.00 2.00
Editing Content 1.00 1.00 1.00
Total     7.50


From an internal cost analysis standpoint, this does not come for free. If I had to pay someone minimum wage to carry out these activities (which many will debate) and I factor in the price of the cigars (assuming it is a $7.00 cigar), now the cost per review in terms of capital and labor can be seen as follows.  Again, this is not a one size fits all.


Labor $7.25 /hour 7.50 hours $54.38
Cost per Cigar $7.00/ cigar 2 cigars $14.00
Total Cost Per Review     $68.38


Factoring the $68.38 cost per review, when samples are received, costs per review come down about 20%, so samples are important and appreciated in deferring costs. At the same time, they never factor into the score a cigar gets.

Obviously as a media brand owner, I’m not making or earning $54.38 for a review. It’s an investment of my time back into the brand.  Sometimes to the outsider, it might often seem like we are getting “free cigars”, but in terms on how we utilize this to build our content, it is an effort of time and can be translated to an internal cost in terms of dollars.

A good online media person will set expectations on what will be reviewed and what will not be reviewed. We are usually very judicious in terms of the amount of samples we get.  In the case of Cigar Coop / Stogie Geeks, excess cigars will go to our “Smokes of the Week” on Stogie Geeks (which is a less comprehensive process to review) and / or giveaways.

Most importantly, the costing model is something that is an internal barometer for what does get reviewed. A review that has higher costs must be prioritized in terms of how we anticipate it will be of interest to our audience. At the same time, how much a company provides us with two-way communication in terms of news / press information, this does factor into the brands we cover. This is factored solely on the time spent and not whether we receive a sample or not. If we are absorbing higher internal costs and the company is not sharing press information, we have to evaluate if its worth continuing to absorb those internal costs.

Back to the comment “The majority attend to get free (bleep).”  I’ll be honest, we don’t review a lot of IPCPR samples, but assume we review 20 cigars from the trade show, Using that assumption and applying the $54.38 cost per review (taking out the cost of cigars), that translates to a cost of $1087.36 for producing content IPCPR. Factor in our travel and operating expenses for our servers, we are looking at much higher cost.  We justify the cost of IPCPR by using this to strengthen our relationships in the industry, and build strong news content.

As I said, the costing model is subject to debate and is not a one size fits all.  Some can argue, they spend less time, more time, argue the labor rates, etc. In the end, I realize online media isn’t spending the money a retailer will spend, but what we do does not come without a cost.

One important note: This exercise was to give the reader some insights on how we do things. Every online media outlet and blog has its own operating procedures.  Some may be less regimented, some may be more regimented than what we do.  However each and every one spends time and has internal costs delivering its final product – whether written word, audio podcast or video. Every online media outlet I encountered at IPCPR was working hard to gather information in order to deliver content. For the 2015 IPCPR Trade Show, I can honestly say there was no one outlet there looking for “free (bleep)”.