IPCPR: I Want You To Want Me

I’m conflicted. Last year, the IPCPR decided to try out having a membership level for members of the internet media, such as myself. They published a fairly stringent series of guidelines, had an application process, as well as a fee that was fair in comparison to the other levels of membership that they offer. I mailed in my application along with my check, and felt honored to have passed their vetting process. I attended the trade show, which certainly cost me quite a bit out of my own pocket to fly to Vegas, eat and get a room.


If I may digress a moment and offer some disclosures: I do this for the love of cigars. I have a full time job in an unrelated industry. I have a part time job that I use to fund my blog and cigar adventures. I spend several hours a week on my blog, and a good bit of money on hosting my site and related expenses. CigarCriag.com operates in the red. I’m not complaining, I defy you to introduce me to a cigar blogger who is making money from this. The advertisements I do have are a flat rate and not tied to traffic, although I’m sure my advertisers want to see that I have a readership.  I’m not saying there aren’t side benefits, and not trying to be altruistic, just saying that I’m not in this for the money. I do it to promote an industry that I find interesting and truly enjoy. All that being said, it recently came to my attention that the IPCPR increased their membership fee for the Internet Media (basically doubled) to the same level as the retail, distributor, broker, etc. while maintaining the level of benefits (less than half) of last years.


Without getting into specifics, the other levels of membership get two passes to the show and access to the Tobacconist University certification. Media members get one pass to the show and would have to pay for a Tobacconist U. course if they so desired. Media members are expressly forbidden to ask for samples. If I want to be really petty, retailers get lunch at the show, media members don’t. Bottom line, a media membership enjoys less than half that of the other memberships at the same cost.  Bill Spann, the CEO of the IPCPR, was kind enough to give me a call this week to explain the reasoning, which I appreciate. He said that this was in response to the membership (retailers, manufacturers, etc.). They want to eliminate the “trick or treat” that has gone on in the past with consumers and, I guess, some bloggers, as well as reduce the distraction of interviews going on during the show.  These are issues I fully understand and appreciate.


Here’s my take, and I have been known to be cynical.  I can certainly see that the venders are there to sell to the retailers, the retailers are there to buy from the venders, and this is not a consumer show. I get that. I also think that maybe the professional media, the magazines both on and off-line, may see little guys like me as some sort of competition. Bill Spann himself made the point that the annual membership fee is a drop in the bucket to those guys, whereas for me, it represents nearly half of my blog’s annual “income”. As an independent blogger, I feel as if I support the industry, provide basically free publicity, and in the worst case, offer my opinions of how things could be better.  Allow me to make a comparison: Currently 47 states have taxes on cigars that are, ostensibly, meant to discourage the use of those products. Is the IPCPR taxing me in an effort to discourage me from attending the show? Bill said that it was the membership that requested this. Nobody asked my opinion. Am I not a member? I feel honored and validated being a member, but I’m also feeling some resentment. They will happily accept my money, but really don’t want me as a member. The IPCPR does great things to protect our rights to enjoy cigars, and I do my best to support them with my wallet as well as my time and voice.  I really don’t know how much longer I can afford to pay top dollar to be a member of an organization that doesn’t want me around.


I’m going to ask my readers, my “membership”  if you will:

Do you think I'm justified in my feelings about the IPCPR's Internet Media Policy?

  • Yes (82%, 82 Votes)
  • No (18%, 18 Votes)

Total Voters: 100

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I invite you to leave your thoughts in the comments, I know that Mr. Spann as well as others in the industry read this and I’m sure they are interested it your thoughts.


Until the next time,




Filed under Editorial

24 Responses to IPCPR: I Want You To Want Me

  1. Craig I am completely with you on this subject. If they really think that us bloggers are worthless and contribute nothing to the industry they are sorely mistaken. It angers me that they have taken this approach and will not be seeing me at any of the future shows as long as this rejection goes on. I had the privilege to attend the 2008 show in Vegas and it was a memorable experience, and probably the last time us bloggers were treated fairly. Sad…

  2. jimbobber

    Craig, it is bloggers such as yourself that provide to the public at large, IMHO, the most unbiased and, therefore, informative opinions of the cigar industry and its various products on the market. I suppose I can understand the position of the IPCPR and the vendors in regards to interviews at the show. It is likely quite frustrating for vendors to have to address a seemingly endless line of non-purchasers that delay or block access to their intended customer base. The purpose of the media is to obtain and disseminate information to the masses and, to “punish” them with high fees seems to me, to be counter-productive. After all, it’s not like we can walk into most B&M’s with the confidence that the tobacconist doesn’t have profit strongly influencing whatever information they impart upon us. Perhaps they should have a “media day” at the show.

  3. Gary Griffith

    I must say this discussion strikes a chord with me. As a small manufacturer I can most assuredly tell you that I could not have gotten the kind of brand exposure and recognition for Emilio Cigars that was accomplished in our first year without the generous efforts of new media types such as yourself. I absolutely believe that people who are sincerely dedicated to supporting this embattled industry, at great self expense, should be embraced.

    It strikes me that, as I recently wrote in a piece of my own, many retailers and manufacturers simply don’t understand the growing importance of new media because they themselves do not use it well. I do not believe it is at all a deliberate effort to discourage, but rather a lack of knowledge and understanding that leads to a lack of effort to encourage. “We fear what we do not understand.”

    My guess is that over time these issues will slowly rectify themselves, as wonderful contributors to the industry such as you and others continue to grow in influence and popularity.

    As to the issue of effectively punishing all bloggers for the perceived misbehavior of a few I might add that I do not punish all my employees for the errant behavior of one. It’s time the IPCPR learned to be better “parents” to those who deserve support and encouragement, and have the fortitude to deal directly, publicly, and swiftly with those who stray from acceptable behavior.

    Well written Craig. Battle on. With us. Until the established order is astute enough to realize you’re not wearing the uniform of the enemy. Thank you for your dedication to this industry I love.

    • Brian

      Gary, I, and I assume Craig, appreciate your support of Craig in this. As a respected (at least in my small BOTL/SOTL circle) retailer and manufacturer (AF2 and Grimlikin are fine examples of your product) . I am not a blogger, but I appreciate and respect the honest and mostly unbiased opinion and information that these “independent” bloggers/new media members provide the community at large. Keep up your fight Craig and if you drop out of IPCPR we all understand the fiscal pressures and will not think any less of your reviews. Smoke on Brother!

  4. Craig,
    I can completely agree with you. I am the founder of Cigars4Troops and I even asked the IPCPR about our organization joining as a way to get the word out further about our mission of sending cigar related care packages out to the troops serving over seas. The response was quite odd as I was directly with no if’s and or buts told no that we were consumers and that consumers were not welcome. Although we are not consumers but distributers of cigars and related items which they did not want to hear. I was looking to join and get booth space for our organization but they could care less. Yes there is a paragraph about Cigars4Troops in their news letter this month. But apparently they do not really support the troops or organizations the do as they do not want them around or as members or their elite group of companies.

  5. I can certainly see both sides. I think the current position comes more from the influx of everyone and their brother being a ‘blogger’ these days, and the show over the last couple years being over run with useless ‘media’ members treating it as he said, like Halloween for cigars. You better believe the retailers and manufacturers complain about that crap. The problem could have been solved via simply vetting the ‘media’ members MUCH better from the start. Having the manufacturers do the choosing would have been one way. Simply give the manufacturers some passes for media to give out. Let them give back to who has PROVEN to be a valuable and REAL media outlet, not just anyone with a website and email.

    It’s too bad it’s come to this, I won’t be spending that kind of coin even though it’s in my backyard this year. Like you it’s for fun and in the red as it is. It’s a nice extra, but certainly nothing actually needed, as a cigar blogger.

  6. Timothy Black

    Ugh. Here we go again. Is doubling the price supposed to legitimize anything or keep out the unwanted?

    Pretty easy way to vet in my opinion and it was an idea suggested to me by a manufacturer.

    If you have a national advertiser on your blog, you are qualified. You have essentially proven and vetted yourself as being valid if an advertiser feels you are a worthwhile place for them to spend their ad dollars.

    You have most likely shown the advertiser you have “enough” traffic, audience and clout if they inquire. And, it implies the site wasn’t started yesterday.

    The IPCPR is so clueless that this may help.

  7. Craig, you beat me to the punch! I have been meaning to write an article on the same topic. I have owned and published an online cigar journal for 7 years now. I publish a weekly podcast, which is now in its 309th episode. I provide Stogie Fresh Tv, a cigar education a YouTube channel. I am part of a team that puts on a yearly cigar/wine event, Crush & Roll West, which is now in its 4th year.

    Over the past 5-years, I have attained 23 entry stamps on my passport, all of which were to the cigar countries of the world and for the purpose of learning more about the industry so I could pass along this information to my readership and listenership as a way of enhancing their enjoyment of their cigar hobby. Which brings up an interesting point, many people consider what we do as a “hobby.” And so it is, but they might also consider the fact that for so many people that purchase and collect fine cigars, it is THEIR HOBBY AS WELL. So, like you, I’ve been doing this a long time and as a service to an industry that I love and am trying to support.

    To me, the offer of “membership” by the IPCPR was at first a validation of my long-term efforts on behalf of premium hand made cigars. But as the year went by, I realized it for what is really was: a whoring of the new media segment. All we did was buy a ticket to an event. Nothing more. I’ve never received any benefits from my IPCPR membership. I’m not even on a mailing list or emailing list to receive announcements by the organization. Their offer of membership was a sham and was only a capitulation to the part of the industry that saw value in what we do.

    I frankly have a hard time supporting IPCPR and will not be attending the event this year. They can keep their “membership” along with all its “privileges” and I will find other ways of supporting the cigar industry.

    Thanks Craig, for pointing out the inconsistency of the IPCPR and its hollow effort to include new media into their event.


  8. Jerry @ Stogie Review

    Craig –

    At least you got a reply…I got nothing from Bill.

    To me it sounds like Bill Spann and the IPCPR are passing the buck by saying the “membership” wanted this. Last I checked in 2010 I filled out a membership application and received a membership number. Am I not a member? Shouldn’t a member be consulted when a change will effect them? Not only did I join IPCPR I even gave money to their PAC.

    Last year at IPCPR, The Stogie Review produced three hours and thirty eight minutes of IPCPR footage. Footage that did nothing but promote the IPCPR and its member products. All of those interviews were done with permission and scheduled with each manufacturer. Just like retailers who schedule appointments, so do bloggers.

    How many of my fellow bloggers get Action Alerts from IPCPR and are asked to post it on our blogs? So we are good enough for that but not good enough to be treated as an equal member or at least be consulted. They want us for our ability to quickly reach our readers and the people who keep them in business but thats it?

    Any member of IPCPR who says bloggers want to go for free samples has no clue. I don’t have to take time off of work, pay $1,000’s to travel and go to IPCPR. Not a day goes by that I don’t get a package in the mail from a manufacturer with a note of “let me know what you think” or “let me know when you post a review”. I go because I want my audience to feel like they are more than just a customer. I want them to see a video of IPCPR coverage and go to their local B&M and say “you gotta order these”. I go to support this industry.

    I always find it funny when someone says “a few bad apples” instead of naming names. Saying “a few bad apples” is a cop out. When I challenge someone and ask who the bad apples are, they aren’t sure. If the IPCPR wanted to truly solve this problem they would enforce their own rules. Rules such as “if you qualify for another type of membership you cannot be media”. Several people last year had a retailer/manufacturer badge AND a Internet Media badge. Instead of enforcing their own rules, they have borrowed a page from the government by continuing to “tax” a targeted group. This is the same government that the IPCPR pleads with us to contact about FDA regulation. Seems a bit hypocritical if you ask me.

    • Great post Jerry, I know you guys try your best to do what’s right and most of us do. It’s sad that a few bad apples have to be grouped in with the rest of us. When will we get the recognition we deserve in the eyes of IPCPR? I believe many manufacturers and brokers already know our value.

  9. Jerry @ Stogie Review

    I’d also like to say that sometimes its not the bloggers doing interviews. I’ve seen several retailers who have podcasts or blogs of their own conducting interviews at will. People pass by and assume they are bloggers and not retailers. Or a retailer will bring a guest, one of their best customers to the show who will go around, collect samples and others look at them (not their badges) and assume they are bloggers. We get a bad rap and have effectively become the scape goat for IPCPR.

  10. Cigarjockey

    Seems like they could have just made a set of guidelines that Bloggers would have to follow during the event.
    ie…No asking for samples, no interuptions while business is being conducted with retailers……

  11. Although I’m too new to really have an opinion that amounts to a hill of beans, I’m with you Craig. I can’t add anything to what has been said above by jimbobber, Gary Griffith, Jerry, or any of the others for that matter. Since the show is very near me this year, I was considering applying and going (if admitted). I can meet any of the media rules that were sent to me by IPCPR…but honestly, it just doesn’t seem worthwhile after further consideration for the same reason you outlined in your post. I do like the idea mentioned by jimbobber of some sort of “media day.” It seems like that could fairly easily be accomplished. All the hubbub last year, and now again this year, is just very offputting to me. I think the whole situation will eventually correct itself. In the meantime, I think I’ll just spend my time, effort, and travel funds on other things. There are manufacturers who are more welcoming to media, and make a point to host and/or attend various seminars, tweetups, educational trips, etc.

  12. Thanks, Craig, for bringing up this topic again. I have touched on it several times on the Blowin’ Smoke Podcast over the years.

    First, everyone I read above has very valid points. Gary is right…the people in charge of spreading sunshine and lollipops about the industry have missed the boat. Doc is right…instead of an epiphany of the value of valid social/internet media, there was a realization that we can make some money off of these whacky “bloggers.” Jerry is right…we are looked upon as useful idiots.

    Second, let’s be honest. For many years, well before the explosion in niche blogs, social media and podcasts, the trade show was raped by people getting in on a “retailer friend’s” credentials and going trick-or-treating. For years I heard the stories of people who “got in” and came home with shopping bags full of cigars. It was the loaves and the fishes! With the growth of internet media, this problem now came with a dick measuring contest of who got in and who didn’t.

    Along the way, bloggers who didn’t get in thought they had bigger dicks than those who did gain entry, and they were angry. More got in. And more got in. Pretty soon, it became a battle of who would talk to this guy first, or announce the name of this cigar before anybody else, or be the first to smoke a pre-pre-pre-release of a pre-release to be released on a special super secret retailer list requiring a decoder ring to figure out. Really?

    While this was going on, many other bloggers were scratching their heads trying to figure out how in the hell those bloggers got in. There was no information on the IPCPR website, and, from personal experience, emails requesting information went unanswered. (I did get a response THIS year, however…finally.)

    Around this time, complaints started heating up again, but this time, in addition to the trick-or-treating, they were about some bloggers being huge dicks and interfering with the business at hand. Disturbing sales meetings, shoving cameras and microphones into people’s faces, and basically demanding attention. Dicks.

    What to do?

    Well, if this is the big game of the year…the Super Bowl, so to speak…then treat it the same way. Have a “Media Day” as part of the convention. Vet your applicants. Establish “reasonable” fees for a laminate. Shit…offer levels, booths, dedicated phone lines, hi speed internet, etc. Do it right. Get rid of this “membership” BS, and treat the media with the same respect you’d see at the Super Bowl, and make your players available to members of the media for one day. That’s it. Done.

    Then, folks can get back to the real purpose of the convention…retailer sales.

    If the IPCPR puts some effort into something like this, I might consider the investment in attending with the idea of doing a live show from the event. I’m not holding my breath.

    Your results may vary.


  13. Dale Roush


    Thanks for bringing this up again. I was conflicted in the past on this issue as well. The IPCPR has now made it clear that in their view, those of us in the internet media are useful but not relevant. They are wrong, and I hope it doesn’t take them years to come to that realization. Cigar consumers sure understand, and many cigar manufacturers do too.

    Jerry & Doc’s input describe my feeling exactly. Bob & I at DogWatch Cigar Radio have been at this a long time. I’ve spent precious personal dollars to support the industry, travel to Nicaragua, Honduras, Dominican Republic, etc….to learn all I can and promote the industry – all because of a passion for the industry and cigars. Like Jerry & Doc, my humidor runneth over and I have no need to attend IPCPR to get cigars.

    I didn’t attend IPCPR last year, and I won’t this year. It’s not a cost issue, it’s not a “rules” issue – it’s a respect issue. I’ll continue to support the manufacturers and retailers as I’ve always done. When IPCPR finds a fair way to treat the media – all of the media – I’ll be back to support them as well.

  14. Craig:
    First, thank you for a balanced discussion of the issue. We hear you , & let me be the first to say that as a career public relations profession, I “get” the value of internet media.

    IPCPR is going to reconsider this modification. We’d like you and your organization of peers to propose a solution you consider reasonable and we will take a fair, hard look at it.

    What about a media day on the last day of the show, when the associates are the least busy?

    Just a thought, but we ARE listening.

    Best regards,
    Bill Spann
    Commander, United States Navy (retired)

  15. There is not much I can add to this conversation about my feelings on the topic that hasn’t already been said by someone else. I look forward to seeing how it all plays out because it will directly effect my pocketbook. Great post as always Craig.


  16. Great article, Craig. Well said. I agree with what my fellow bloggers have said. I won’t be attending this year as well. Its our policy at NTA if we are to interview a manufacture and we see them with retailer or another customer, we reschedule or come back later. We will never interrupt business. Also, we never have nor never will ask for samples. If they gave us one, great, but I’m more there to get information. Content. Media Day, in my eyes, won’t work. The last day, manufactures are really to get out of there and are more concerned about packing up. Also, one day just isn’t enough to visit everyone we would like to talk to too, especially with all us trying to take turns. Maybe IPCPR and new media can’t work together. Truly the show is about business, but its the best opportunity for new media to connect with everyone at one place.

  17. Wow, I sure have missed a lot. There are a lot of great comments on this subject.

    I agree, a media day would not work. There are a lot of manufacturers to see and having 7 hours would not allow that. I know the majority of the bloggers that attend, have the respect required to attend this show. Many of them set up times BEFORE the show even starts to interview manufacturers. I love going all 3 and a half days. I tend to walk about many times and when I see a manufacturer is not busy, I ask if they have a few minutes to talk. Sometimes its a video interview, sometimes it is just a few quick minutes getting to know their product.

    I don’t think a no asking for samples policy would help anything. A manufacturer does NOT have to give out anything. I find that most tend to hand you a cigar or two to try.

    I agree that IPCPR should follow its policy that you get one badge. I think if a blogger pays for a membership, then they are a member with all rights that any one else has. I think two tickets like the rest of the membership is fair as well. I would like to know how many members are bloggers.

    The print publications are at the show, some have a booth, and they pay membership. There has to be a common ground. I agree on this “few bad apples” can be an easy way out. Well ban them, for a year or two. Don’t let those that have the respect to attend the show lose that privilege because of the immaturity of others.

  18. Craig

    Well written post sir!

    …Putting on my consumer hat

    As a consumer, I have come to rely on the bloggers over the years to decide where to spend my hard earned money. I appreciate a good Brick and Mortar but unfortunately, those are 70+ miles away from me or do not carry a wide selection of cigars. There is a new generation of smokers and they are carrying 5K of electronics with them at all times. I for one, appreciate all the hard work the blog sphere as done to bring “what’s new” to the masses. For that “Thank You”.

    I suspect some manufacturers have realized all this, some have not, and some manufacturers have embraced it with much success. I find it difficult to comprehend why manufacturers would not want to speak with those smoking and promoting their products. Moreover, I have seen each and every one of you that I follow be extremely supportive of the Brick and Mortar retailers and non-profit organizations in this industry.

    …Scratching my head

    …Putting on my podcaster hat

    As a blogger/podcaster (while I admit a relatively new one to the cigar industry), I feel frustrated by what I am reading. In Information Security (my bread and butter), electronic media professionals (note my use of words here) are treated as media, often given free access to the conferences, and have to follow some well-established rules. The conferences, speakers, and vendors all understand the value of having them there. Not exactly apples to apples but draw your own conclusions.

    I agree either allow electronic media to be paid members and treat them as such or designate them as media and establish rules around who, how many, where, and how.

    I think this discussion is a start in the right direction and I am happy to see Mr. Span’s offer to listen.

    Once the dust settles I hope to have the opportunity enjoy a fine smoke with all of you.


  19. Pingback: Commentary: Help CRA Be an Independent Voice for Cigar Smokers | The Stogie Guys

  20. Craig,
    This issue is so tough on everyone. I, now both as part of the electronic media and a large retailer, have debated about this for some time now. I am happy that we have someone (Bill Spann) who is listening and will hopefully reach a compromise that is palatable for a large enough group and balance the interests of OUR INDUSTRY, not just special interests. I am guilty of bringing guests in the past that may not have been appropriate for attending but have been adamant that IPCPR is not a trick or treat.

    Although the electronic media brings a great service of disseminating information quickly, the retailer in me has a huge investment in attending the convention. I need to maximize my time by having the best availability to write the business that I left my business for. Even 3 days is not enough in most cases.

    Having the information out there to promote the products I am buying and create the demand for it is important. All forms of information help me as a retailer to that end. I think a true set of rules has to be outlined and the IPCPR has to enforce the guidelines it sets by actually stripping violators of their show credentials.

    Bottom line, anyone who is there has some sort of investment. This continued dialogue will hopefully get us all to that balance to help the industry as a whole.

    I will be one to admit that after I acquired A Cigar Smoker’s Journal as part of my business portfolio, I have become more sympathetic to both sides of the debate. I want to make sure that we as an industry stick together as technology blurs conventional roles and established ways of doing business. It is not that anyone has something to gain, but as a group we have more to lose.

    Kevin Paige,
    A Cigar Smoker’s Journal
    Butthead’s Tobacco Emporium

  21. Steve Saka

    FULL DISCLOSURE: I got my start in the cigar biz as a “blogger” in the mid 90’s – the word blogger wasn’t even coined, I was just that crazy fat guy who wanted to talk to everyone about cigars and tobacco… hmmm, not much has change. Anyhow, I am admittedly biased on the issue, however I am also right.


    I don’t like the policy either – it is misguided and short sighted.

    I want the bloggers at the IPCPR, I want to tell them about what we are releasing, I want them to have an opportunity to try out our newest blends, and I want to interact with them and hear their opinions of the cigars they have seen and smoked at the IPCPR.

    I am perfectly capable of telling a blogger I am too busy for an interview at the moment or that they can’t have another sample, but it is extremely rare that this is ever needed. I find bloggers to be mensches on the whole. Sure there is a douche here and there, but I can deal with them directly and do not need the IPCPR to run interference on my behalf.

    A simple vetting process to confirm they are active online, a nominal fee to cover the admin costs of processing/admitting bloggers and a badge that is clearly labeled as MEDIA w/ their blog, podcast, website, etc. on it would be perfect imo.

    That is my opinion fwiw.

    Steve Saka
    President, Drew Estate

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