Out of the Humidor
From the Print Edition:
Bo Derek, Jul/Aug 00
(continued from page 4)
First of all, I welcome your new look. I have been a loyal reader since the initial stages of Cigar Aficionado, and have also been a fervent critic in that your magazine, at times, caters to the filthy rich.
As a Cuban American, I grew up hearing about all things Cuban. One of the subjects that always fascinated me was cigars. I discovered the phenomenon of cigars in my late teens, and today I enjoy one, sometimes two cigars after dinner. I find that smoking cigars is medicinal both for the mind and the body. I don't inhale because I, being a pulmonary physician, know of the havoc it can eventually produce in the airways and the lung parenchyma, not to mention other organs.
What really prompted me to write is how perplexed I am that you have had some subscribers state on your Web site that they will unsubscribe because of the changes in the magazine.
Marvin, your magazine offers an enormous amount of information that many cigar smokers appreciate. I'm rather perplexed to see how certain subscribers expressed their harsh views, without even allowing time for your publication to prove itself. I find it even more disturbing that these people are going to unsubscribe and not receive probably the most resourceful magazine on cigars. The price is trivial, and the information is fantastic. It doesn't bother me to see an article that I don't particularly care for. On the contrary, it reinforces my belief that the more eclectic your magazine is, the more suited it is for minds that want food for thought.
I want to take this opportunity to tell your readers that your publication is not going to give what everyone wants to read every time. Rather, there will be material that will interest few, as well as material that will be welcomed by all. Extremism has never served any purpose.
I find that for the price of a few premium cigars, your magazine offers much.
One last comment: I would appreciate if you would eliminate "The Good Life Magazine For Men" slogan on the cover. Many women enjoy the publication, and I can bet they are highly offended because of this.
Looking forward to many years of enjoying Cigar Aficionado!
Richard Periut, M.D.
Little Ferry, New Jersey
Once I saw the new typeface on your magazine's masthead, I suspected that something was up. Seeing the cigar material tucked away in the back reinforced my suspicion and reading your introduction confirmed it--the cigar boom is over! But I never thought you'd retreat so quickly. You are changing from a cigar magazine with other interesting articles to a "men's" magazine with a cigar section. Why not be more forthright with your readers? I feel deceived.
Central Valley, New York
Editor's reply: Mike, I thank you for your passionate response. I can assure you that, though we've made some changes, we have no intention of abandoning our original mission.
I was shocked to receive my June 2000 issue of Cigar Aficionado. The layout, the font change, the whole structure and content of the magazine was totally foreign. While you have a very good point about broadening the appeal of the magazine, it should not be done in a way that alienates the vast majority of the readership.
The new format had a very sterile feeling. The personality of the magazine was totally gone in that issue. When I first looked through the magazine, I felt as if I was reading The Wall Street Journal, rather than my favorite cigar publication. The first thing that I look at is the cigar ratings; they are the main reason that I subscribe to your magazine. I was disappointed to find the new torpedo ratings buried in the back. The layout almost made it seem like you are ashamed about the focus of the magazine. Also, give your readers some credit: there is no reason to give an explanation about the different shapes of cigars. Anybody who needs an explanation about the difference between shaped and non-shaped cigars probably is not going to be reading your magazine in the first place.
I can understand working with the format to try to broaden your appeal, but why change the fonts and the style of the magazine? The cover of the magazine used to look stately; people who appeared on it were dignified and classy. Like a fine cigar, the publication stood out from the crowd as something special, worthy of being savored. This month's issue of the magazine did not have that spark, and that was largely due to the font being totally different. I received the June issue on the same day that my wife received her Coastal Living. I am sad to say that I had a hard time distinguishing the two magazines from each other.
Finally, about the content: Did you have to include so many things about dogs? I like dogs as much as the next guy, but did they have to be mentioned on just about every page? The "Moments to Remember" section, another of my favorites, had nothing but man's best friend. I enjoy looking at pictures of people celebrating special occasions with cigars; a few dogs would have been fine, but the entire section was overkill.
It is all well and good to try new things, but please remember that too many new things at once are going to drive away more readers than they are going to attract. I have enjoyed the recent addition of "Insights" on sports, the stock market and politics that can now be found at the beginning of the magazine. Small changes like this are positive, while radical changes like the June issue are negative. I have subscribed to Cigar Aficionado for two years, and up to this point, I have been very satisfied with what I have received. I hope that the June 2000 issue was just a minor bump, and that a happy medium between the old and the new can somehow be achieved.
Oren H Adelson
St. Petersburg, Florida
Editor's reply: Oren, after a few more issues, I'd appreciate hearing from you if you believe we have reached the happy medium that you are seeking.
Congratulations on the new styling of Cigar Aficionado! As the editor-in-chief of a community newspaper here in Hell's Kitchen [Manhattan], I am well aware of how such transformations can sometimes turn off those people who are resistant to change. But I cannot imagine such resistance coming from cigar smokers. You see, being married to a cigar smoker I know that as a group they are continuously experimenting, relishing new brands and sampling a wide array of shapes, sizes and colors. With such a broad-minded readership, Cigar Aficionado should experience little or no drop-off in circulation as a result of the alterations.
So to all readers who may find themselves longing for the old Cigar Aficionado style to come back, I offer this unsolicited advice: Savor the new Cigar Aficionado design as you would a new Havana. And take your time. After all, didn't it take you some time to fully appreciate cigars, caviar and other pleasures of life? Well, having subscribed to Cigar Aficionado from the beginning, I know that this magazine is truly one of life's pleasures!
Saundra R. Halberstam
New York, New York
My kids know how to treat me; they bring me your magazine. I read it cover to cover and enjoy it all. It reminds me a little of the early Esquire and Playboy that I enjoyed as a younger man.
I just read the letters in the Cigar Aficionado Online "Dear Editors" forum, and I disagree with the negative comments about the magazine and its new style. There is both joy and interest in reading about something different or unattainable. I've also noticed more great American writers in your magazine, and my suggestion to you is to extend this trend to writing short articles about American literary giants who also enjoyed cigars; perhaps even republishing old short stories or commentaries/essays by them.
By the way, the cigar coverage is terrific--right across the spectrum.
I would like to relate an alarming "customer service" story to you and your readers. I have been smoking cigars for over five years now, a hobby I have enjoyed ever since my graduation from high school. I recently moved to Baltimore, Maryland, from Florida to begin graduate studies at a local university.
As I was terribly fond of enjoying cigars at a well-established smoke shop in my hometown of Tampa, it was important for me to find a similar establishment in my new northern home. I've always felt that the relationship between a cigar retailer and his or her regular customers should be one of camaraderie and, above all, professional courtesy. Unfortunately, my well-intended search turned sour upon the first shop I entered.
This particular shop was one of the newest of several branches of a very well-established retail tobacco company that has been serving the Baltimore area for over a century. I was thoroughly impressed with the facilities and selection. Taking a heightened interest in the store, I began to ask the sales clerk questions about the age of the establishment, its history, its usual selection of cigars, its humidor temperature--in general, questions that I believed any curious customer would ask if trying to select a good tobacconist to frequent.
All of a sudden, the sales clerk whom I was conversing with gruffly cried out, "You know, young man, you sure ask a lot more questions than the average customer!" Apparently, this suspicious man was charging me with some sort of industrial espionage, as if I was a fellow cigar retailer trying to unearth the secrets of my local market competitors. I couldn't believe my ears! Instead of taking my questions as a compliment (as all other retailers have taken them in the past), he grew offended at my harmless curiosity.