The Beginning of the End
If you, like myself, are one of the many subscribers to Pipes and Tobaccos magazine, you were upset to recently learn that the Spring 2019 issue will be the last printed run of the publication. Without a doubt, this is very disheartening, and quite frankly, a huge loss to the pipe smoking community. Therefore, as inquiry driven pipe smokers, we must not only ask ourselves why options for pipe smoking literature/content are dwindling (and now virtually non-existent), but further, what can we do to help support the growth and sustainability of quality content related to this timeless hobby? Warning: This article will focus on the pros and cons related to pipe smoking content and literature and be heavily laced with my own opinion regarding the subject. Note – You have been warned.
To help narrow the focus of this post, I would like to first address the question regarding why options for pipe smoking literature/content are dwindling. In order to answer this inquiry, I would like to list some of my favorite options of consuming pipe smoking literature/content. Please note that this is not an exhaustive list, rather, a few options and formats that I currently utilize.
YouTube– Let’s be honest. If you are a pipe smoker and have not heard of the YouTube Pipe Community (YTPC), you have been living under a rock for the last decade. In fact, I will confidently argue that this is one of, if not THE, main platform that a majority of pipe smokers use to seek out information, content, and updates related to the hobby. When examining the growth and expansion of the pastime, I overwhelmingly feel YouTube has been a great asset to the pipe smoking hobby. However, YouTube is a free, never-ending resource, and because of its open access and reach, it can sometimes be both unreliable and unfulfilling. Before readers of this post begin writing hate letter to the old Pipe Professor, let me explain what I mean by unreliable and unfulfilling.
When examining the definition of unreliable, keen observers will note several descriptive adjectives used in the term’s definition such as; untrustworthy, not dependable, lacking in accuracy, and dishonest. Due to the non-existent vetting, or examination of content on YouTube, anyone could begin making videos as part of the YTPC and claim to be an expert on the subject. In fact, many individuals on YouTube, and in the YTPC, justify their expertise through the number of subscribers they accrue and/or the amount of views/likes/shares they receive on their videos. I argue this to be not only misleading but a major sham regarding both the experience and expertise needed in the hobby. Granted, there are several extremely knowledgeable pipe smokers that participate in the YTPC who help share intellect and information related to pipes and tobaccos. However, not only are these individuals few and far between, they are greatly outnumbered, and in some instances overshadowed, by the less than desirable presenters, and mediocre content they upload. This reality does in fact make the current YTPC unfulfilling. Be upset if you want, the truth of it is most of the content uploaded as part of the YTPC has become boring and irrelevant (along with inaccurate). In fact, as of recent, it could be argued that several presenters are more focused on who can hold the most give-a-ways (GAWs) or have the best prizes in GAWs. Again, no offense, but I personally didn’t participate in the YTPC to compete with other pipe smokers on who offers the most GAWs to gain subscribers, or tout about the prizes I offer. Undeniably, this supports my original opinion of unreliable and unfulfilling to be true.
What does the YTPC offer? Again, in my opinion, the YTPC is a great place for new pipe smokers to find ‘some’ accurate beginning pipe smoking information, and more importantly, make connections to other pipe smokers (be warned – not all of them are experts) in their local areas. By and large, this unreliable format will continue to grow and become further unfulfilling, thus, prompting the question of, is it truly supporting the hobby or hurting it in the long run?
Podcasts– I find it both ironic and comical that there was a time in American history where the radio was the sole source for broadcasting information and entertainment. Families would gather around the old juke box after dinner and listen to their favorite programing through pure audio means. Now, half a century later, we find ourselves slowly gravitating back toward this format of entertainment. Arguably, I feel podcasts have grown in popularity because of their compatibility and convivence. We all live extremely busy lives that continue to be filled with work and responsibilities that cannot be avoided. In my opinion, podcasts provide us with two unknowing benefits. One, they are extremely convenient and can be enjoyed as we work our way through the busyness of life, and two, they indirectly create an opportunity for us to slow down and enjoy the simplicity of real, one-sided, conversation. Similar to YouTube, most podcasts are free to listeners (again, the freeness is arguably a major reason people gravitate toward this option rather than a paid magazine subscription) and provide updated information and exposure to the pipe smoking hobby. Unlike YouTube, the three pipe related podcasts I listen to are indeed considered reliable, as they focus on interviewing experts in the field of pipes and tobaccos to help create a knowledge and exposure to the hobby.
Social Media/Forums/Blogs– I will group these three together to save both time and energy as they are each worthy to note but frequently lack consistency and rigor. Social media communities such as Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook provide the most updated information in small burst, however, do not offer the rigorous sustainability needed to maintain a quality foundation within the hobby. More often than not, these social media outlets provide quick snapshots into the enjoy of the hobby by others.
There are indeed a number of pipe smoking forums available, that in all honesty, archive some great information and content related to pipes and tobacco. In fact, if you are searching for a more reliable source for expert pipe smoking advice I would advise pipe smoker forums before YouTube. The only hold back regarding forums are the sometimes less than desirable assholes that post responses to questions and conversations. There are several instances where forums will have self-proclaimed experts who feel the need to give their input on every single topic, regardless of relevance. This in itself is not a deal breaker for using most forums, however, can become a nuisance.
I will be the first to raise my hand when it comes to inconsistency with blog postings and updates. There are more times than not as of late, where life outside of this hobby demands my attention. And as most of you are aware, my family and friends take precedence over pipe smoking. My situation here at The Pipe Professor webpage is similar to many other pipe smoking bloggers and writers. Life is busy, and consistent updates/post are not at the top of the list. Again, there are several pipe and tobacco related blogs that provide high quality, accurate information and content. However, the consistency in posting material tends to be a hindrance for several of these blogs. Because of this, sustainability of quality content becomes an issue.
Print Publications– Without a doubt, this is the most dwindling of the four mediums I will discuss in this post. I earnestly feel that print publications have two negative qualities that directly contribute to their dwindling categorization. First, print publications typically cost money for the publisher and the consumer. Second, they directly compete with the free, instantly updated online world we live in. Example one being the currentPipes and Tobaccos magazine dilemma. Similarly, publications such as The Pipe Collector, that is published by the North American Society of Pipe Collectors (NASPC), has an aging editorial board that has already posted a cry for help regarding the continuation of the publication. By the way, I submitted all my membership renewal dues on time and still have not received a copy of The Pipe Collector since last October 2018. Anyone know what’s up with that? If we, as a young and upcoming community of pipe and tobacco enthusiasts, don’t look to take the reins on things such as this, we will quickly see the end of yet another pipe smoking resource.
Further related to print publications, books related to the hobby are not as numerous as once before. Maybe because of the slowly evolving nature of the hobby, maybe because of the time and cost associated with completing such a task. Either way, I argue that most of the quality literature (books) about pipe smoking were printed outside of this past decade and furthermore, outside the turn of the century.
Now that all of that complaining it out of the way, lets focus on the second question posed above, “what can we do to help support the growth and sustainability of quality content related to this timeless hobby?” Understandably, if this question had a simple answer, we would follow through with the solution and all sing ‘kumbaya.’ Unfortunately, the problem driving the question is loaded with multiple complications that will require either real change, or, an acceptance of the inevitable changes to come.
In a YouTube video approximately 9 months ago (as I just bashed YouTube….) I posed a question regarding individual’s interest in contributing or subscribing to some sort of newsletter/publication, similar to that of the old Pipe Smoker’s Ephemeris by Tom Dunn [link to the video: https://youtu.be/ro2Anmksrfc] . The feedback I received regarding interest in a similar publication was very positive and forthcoming. In fact, there have been multiple occasions where I have investigated the idea of facilitating such a project and would still be open to doing such, however, I would need some serious insight from those who have been successful at doing so, on how to create sustainability while keep outlying factors such as costs, low. Let this be an open invite to anyone who can, and is, willing to share the business side of managing such a publication to contact me at your convenience.
Other options, in my opinion, would include having an already well establish company such as Ladisi (Smokingpipes.com), or Pipes and Cigars, take the reins in producing and overseeing such content as a magazine or book. Similar to the statements above, due to the lack of interest and costly risks associated with a print publication focusing on Pipes and Tobacco, it may not make sense on the business side of things. Ultimately, it may not support the growth of their already established companies and jeopardize their success.
Lastly, I propose that more pipe smokers and tobacco enthusiasts step up to the plate and participate in actionable conversations regarding solutions to problems such as the dismantlement of those things we love and enjoy (i.e, Pipes and Tobaccos magazine, McClelland Tobacco Company). By no means do I claim to have any or all of the answers. Rather, I bring this subject to light in order to work with other pipe smokers, like yourself, to create and develop ideas on how to overcome and halt these reoccurring tragedies. We must collaborate and brainstorm ways to sustain quality information, history, and wisdom related to this hobby, otherwise, we are indirectly accepting the consequences of negative change.
In closing, I feel confident that I have accomplished one of two things in this post. Either royally pissed some of you off with my opinions regarding viable options for pipe smoking content, or, created an avenue for you to truly digest the limited availability and quality of options available to real pipe smoking enthusiast. If you are one of the former, not latter, feel free to keep your opinions to yourself (I know you have more than one). If you truly want to be involved in entertaining a conversation of how to keep quality options and content available, light-up a bowl of your favorite blend and post a comment below. For those wanting to go a step farther, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to hearing from you on this subject and hope we can collaborate to find some viable solutions.
Don’t forget to slow down and simplify, cheers!