nowadays,” she continues. “Do your research before you’re paying money and sending your spirits.” While most of the spirits competitions distillers enter are governed by selected judges, other fan-based competitions like the 10Best also exist. To decide what level of credibility fan-based voting competitions have, look into their rules regarding competitorvoter relationships, and see if there are checks in place to ensure the voting is genuine. At least one distiller competing in the 10Best was approached by businesses offering to sell them thousands of votes at a time. This is something 10Best does not allow, and they have ways to police it. “With online voting, there’s always a risk of fraudulent votes,” Schrandt explains, telling that they use IP address markers and other methods to suppress cheating. “We monitor all votes to validate they are coming from real readers.” Schrandt says they also monitor online commentary. Readers can write what they wish in the comments sections, but when it becomes offensive and combative the 10Best team does step in to moderate.
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Good Results In addition to the exposure generated by the voting, the competitions were featured on the 10Best website, in USA TODAY’s print edition, in USA TODAY Travel, and through local Gannett news networks around the U.S. During and after the competition, unaffiliated local news networks and tourism bureaus also boasted about local featured distilleries, creating an even wider reach. The 10Best team also created additional content to promote the competitions. They published an article about how small distillers are shaking up the industry, created a video guide about American whiskey, and made videos featuring cocktail recipes and mixology techniques. Of the 20 distilleries chosen for each category, the top 10 were ranked according to their vote results. Each of the entrants has the option of using the USA TODAY 10Best logo on their packaging and in their marketing. Distillers must pay to license the logo, and rates vary depending on use. Distillers and consumers often have different perceptions of the value of spirits awards, but since the fans ruled here — instead of potentially unknown spirits judges — the response from both consumers and distillers has been very positive. After the voting ended, many of the featured distilleries responded warmly via social media thanking fans for their votes. Pound said being featured was an exciting affirmation of St. Augustine Distillery’s work and vision. And since the people they reached out to for votes were actual fans, she says the win is very special. “Everyone we touched and asked for support are people who are familiar with our brand and our story,” she said. “I think there’s a lot of hometown pride for it.”
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