From beer to business, military to moms — San Diego’s blogosphere is thriving.
For information on niche interests unique only to our corner of California, look no further than the locals behind these 10 independent blogs who produce honest, quality content that is helping shape the state of ever-changing media in San Diego.
We combed through the local blogosphere, assessing independent and professional blogs. We found some areas in dire need of more specialized content — such as military and fashion. Others are well represented, including food and sports.
We narrowed our list down to the top 10 independent blogs. But there were too many worthy competitors, so we include an honorable mention list, and a short list of affiliated or professional blogs.
Get your bookmark button ready as you peruse through the list.
Best Independent Blogs
1. EJ Eats
Erin Jackson eats. It’s a simple concept, really. She also takes pictures, writes reviews and judges burger competitions, and then she posts all this on her simply named blog EJeats.com. Eating is a necessity, after all. Jackson just goes the extra mile.
When Jackson relocated to San Diego from Toronto in 2010 she knew a single person: her husband. She started San Diego Sugar — a dessert blog that gave Jackson some clout and probably a cavity.
“That blog got me noticed by the editor of San Diego (Magazine) but I decided I just couldn’t eat that much dessert,” Jackson said. “I made a conscious decision to stop, but it was the springboard for my whole career.”
Since then, she cuts back on sweets, but she’s eaten more than 200 hamburgers in just two years. And that's not necessarily a one-burger-per-day deal. Jackson often judges hamburger competitions and has to taste several hamburgers in one sitting.
Her blog is hardly a blog anymore, Jackson said. She primarily uses it to link to her work on other sites making it more of a living portfolio. She’s a food writer for Dining Out SD, San Diego Magazine and Serious Eats and has been exploring the diverse and inexpensive wonders of San Diego cuisine. She encourages readers to tap into these delectable resources, many of which are probably right around the corner from you and serve something with a little more oomph than the salad you packed for lunch.
“My main passion is budget eats; hole-in-the-wall places with great food,” she said. “People say ‘I bet you have all these privileges from being a food writer’ and it’s true, I get some media privileges but [writers] don’t make a lot of money, so when I’m paying out of pocket I want a good meal under $10.”
The aesthetics, quality and thoroughness of EJ Eats is what really makes this a stand-out blog. Jackson does everything from tasting the food to taking the photos, while making it look like she has a full staff.
Bill Adams, a local lawyer, has somehow found the time in his schedule to create a successful multi-city urban design blog. We asked for his secret but he doesn’t even know how he does it.
“I tell people I had to give up drinking because I could only handle one vice,” Adams jokes. “Drinking and blogging were too much.”
UrbDezine is a multi-author wordpress site that has seven subdomains each with regional coverage on different cities including San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, New York City, Portland and Boston. UrbDezine started when Adams became interested (maybe even obsessed, he said) with WordPress and the community surrounding it.
“I was impressed with how eloquently architects spoke on subjects I was interested in,” Adams said. “So I got the idea to create this multi-authored blog to generate more content which is when I discovered my own love of writing.”
His biggest fear when starting UrbDezine was falling into typical blog tropes, namely being a rant blog.
“Early on I did a lot of research to recruit leading architects and send them direct invitations to write and a high percentage of [writers] found me…they’ve been core generators of content,” he said.
Unlike larger publications, blogs are often expected to have a single focus or vision but with any topic of interest or debate, other factors and subsequently other focuses come into play.
“It’s kind of an environmental and design blog with an urban angle but it could also be a social justice and equity blog too,” Adams said. “[We’ll cover] just about anything [concerning] the urban environment whether that is design, urban planning, bicycling, transit. I don’t think I’ve ever rejected a suggested subject by one of my authors.”
Adams said both his blog and the journey towards creating it are a confluence of different factors.
3. La Jolla Mom
La Jolla Mom
Katie Dillon isn’t a mommy blogger. Yes, she is a mother to a 7-year-old and she has a blog that flaunts the La Jolla Mom name but pigeonholing her in the mommy blog category just doesn’t quite feel right.
Dillon — who covers family oriented luxury topics fit for a La Jolla audience — started her blog in 2009, just as the buzzword “mommy blog” surfaced. In retrospect, she said she probably wouldn’t choose that name again, but it’s served her well.
“My whole theory is nobody really cares about my personal day-to-day life and that’s where a lot of blogs go wrong — unless your writing is really, really witty,” Dillon said. “I try to stay away from the mom blog moniker because you’re lumped into a group of people that’s way too diverse. I try to keep it as luxury as possible.”
When Dillon was living in Hong Kong in 2009, she opted for creating a blog rather than making long-distance phone calls to keep her family in the states updated on her travels, a trend she noticed among other ex-pats.
“We’re a pretty well traveled family, but I didn’t think anyone cared. I thought readers would want recipes for kids,” she said. “I think at the same time travel writing started to explode, so I started integrating that into the site, and it all happened. It forces me to travel and get out and do stuff. I’m always thinking about stuff I haven’t covered. It's summer and I have a 7-year-old daughter to entertain.”
Although Dillon’s blog holds the La Jolla name, her site has information on all San Diego and beyond, with articles on fashion, hotels, spas, travel and more. Dillon also writes for Four Seasons Magazine and is the author of “Flying with Kids.”
4. SD Dialed In
SD Dialed In
San Diego’s music and concert scene is underrated. Venues and geographical location make for an ideal place for lyrical consumption, but there are a lot of people who aren’t completely dialed in to the music scene. Cue SD Dialed In — a music blog run by Rosemary Bystrak — aimed at encouraging San Diegans to participate and enjoy the local music and arts scene.
What started as a website for live show listings and a few concert reviews has gotten Bystrak two new jobs, all of which she does while running her blog and answering interview questions whilst trekking around Costco. To put it simply, she’s a multitasker. Luckily all of her jobs work towards one another. She helps run the websites for the Casbah and North Park Theater — two of San Diego’s premiere concert venues.
“Originally, I was at a job that gave me a lot of time on by hands,” Bystrak said. “I started writing online diary entries [in 2003] about shows I went to and I realized people were actually reading them. That’s when I started SD Dialed In.”
Bystrak is realistic. She understands the market and the needs of her readers and she won’t waste time posting something that her readers don’t care about.
“Everyone can access [information] so easily, but when reading a blog they imagine the person at home in their pajamas,” she said. “You have to work also, [blogging] doesn’t pay. It got me my job that I have, but it in itself was never a job. If you can write a 140 character review, why write 1,000 words? The interest in consumers isn’t there but there’s also the question of the narcissistic pursuit of why would anyone want to read what I wrote?”
Bystrak sticks to her main goal of encouraging people to consume art and music by focusing on concert listings and brief show reviews.
San Diego Food caught our attention and not just because they’re using the .net domain name. The website is run by two cousins, Michael and Darren, who are also food lovers. With the help of other family members and friends, the two are making their way through all the restaurants and food that San Diego has to offer, making recommendations for readers along the way.
But don’t read San Diego Food when you’re hungry, unless you’re prepared to eat out because the photos on this site are beyond tempting. San Diego’s food scene is vast and as fun as making your way through the burritos and ramen may be, you may find a few duds along the away. Darren and Michael have lived in San Diego for more than 15 years and have tried their fair share of local fare. They post reviews daily in order to make sure readers don’t waste time at a restaurant that isn’t up to par.
San Diego Food could not be reached as of press time.
6. SD Urban
SD Urban is a blog, and Paul Jamason is a blogger but he also kept his day job as a software engineer. SD Urban is more of a hobby for him, but the thorough coverage and analysis of San Diego’s growing neighborhoods disguises the Kensington resident’s hobby as a full time publication. When Jamason moved to the area in 2000 he noticed two things: gentrification rapidly overtook the neighborhood, and no one was covering it.
“Adams Avenue was really changing,” he said. “There were suddenly a lot more bars and businesses. It was changing quickly. Younger people were coming it, but it didn’t seem like people were talking about it.”
Jamason said news in Kensington has settled down since he started SD Urban during the millennium, and he now focuses his coverage on areas like Hillcrest and North Park which he said are much more vibrant at this time.
“It’s more of a hobby,” he said. “The biggest challenge is finding the time. I love San Diego and all the changes that are happening. It was never about the money. As a kid, I really wanted to write fiction or be a journalist, but I know the pay can be challenging, so I went in to software engineering. I wish I could have made a career out of writing.”
Jamason devotes a few hours each day to discussing prominent civic issues, posting pictures of other urban areas he finds while traveling, and the trials and tribulations of San Diego’s ever-changing parking availability.
SD Free Press
San Diego Free Press sprouted from OB Rag — a blog that focuses on just one area of our city. But Doug Porter and a few other writers decided the amount of news exceeded the Ocean Beach pocket of the Internet. Taking inspiration from the alternative San Diego press boom of the late 1960s and early 1970s, Porter and other writers formed SDFP in June 2012.
“The original San Diego Free Press, along with the Street Journal, the OB Rag and the Door went beyond advocacy of the counterculture and radical politics of the time; those publications challenged the very essence of local and economic power,” he said.
The online publication is a volunteer organization that isn’t quite a blog or a news publication. Porter said the true purpose of SDFP is to be a forum and platform for progressive ideas, whether that be a standard news article or poetry. (That’s right, you can submit all those haikus you wrote about Del Mar).
Although a few people behind SDFP have journalism backgrounds, their business model is not based on the rigidity of contemporary journalism. That’s a nice way of saying they don’t want to follow the rules, and they make that clear.
SDFP receives weekly emails concerned about their lack of objectivity.To that they reply “We’re not objective, whatever that is. We don’t believe that it is even possible to write about anything without referencing ones values and worldview. We do, however, try to be honest.”
8. SD Rostra
SD Rostra took their name from the Ancient Roman forums of the classical ages. Every post reflects the ideas and opinions of an individual author — not the entire website. Although there is no all-encompassing SD Rostra opinion or political party, contributors, which include Congressional candidate Carl DeMaio, San Diego City Council member, Mark Kersey and other local politicians and players, primarily lean to the right or have conservative, Republican stances on local issues.
So you won’t find liberal headlines like “Dude, is it legal yet?” on SD rostra as you would on San Diego Free Press, but contentious issues such as the legalization of marijuana and minimum wage and are also discussed at length on this politically charged blog with lively debates taking place in the comments section. The array of contributors create for a diverse conversation and a good read.
SD Rostra could not be reached as of press time.
SD Sports Domination
David Frerker is still a student but you wouldn’t know it from his blog — well, aside from the unrelenting support for Aztec sports, that is. The San Diego State University senior’s blog, San Diego Sports Domination, stems from Frerker’s personal obsession with local sports and a sense of school spirit typical of SDSU students.
“A lot of people in San Diego follow us for our football and basketball posts because I try to make them the most in-depth articles out there,” he said. “I have full statistical breakdowns, exclusive interviews and even weather reports.”
He’s been blogging for four years now and has a staff of seven writers he found while blogging for FanSided, a company that mass produces high quality regional sports blogs. FanSided let Frerker go after six months.
“I’d gotten enough recognition from that website that I was able to get seven really good writers,” he said. “I’ve been working with them ever since. When FanSided said they were letting me go, I said, ‘Fine, I’ll start my own [blog].’”
Seasonal changes in web traffic is a caveat unique to sports blogging. Sometimes Frerker’s numbers are way up, especially during SDSU’s basketball season. But they also go down during off seasons. Frerker uses Twitter to bring in traffic (his 11k person following doesn’t hurt) but he also said twitter has served as an invaluable networking tool.
But even when his blog isn’t that busy, he is. Frerker works as a social media manager for a local public relations firm while completing his degree in Journalism Media Studies.
Frerker has already been a guest on ESPN radio segments and it probably won’t be long before he’s working for a big sports journalism company or who knows, maybe he’ll start one himself.
10. Local Wally
Besides the endearing name that makes you feel as if you have a quirky tour guide right there with you, Local Wally is an informative tourism blog focused on providing readers with the most relevant and honest tourism information for those visiting America’s finest city.
Local Wally got it’s start in 1996, back when Gary Ng (Wally was actually his cat’s name and the name of five more cats after the original) pitched a website to his employers and they snubbed him with “The internet isn’t going to be big” argument. Whose kicking themselves, now?
He answers all the questions you’re begging to ask. Should I go to Tijuana? Wally doesn’t recommend it. What’s with the seals of La Jolla? Wally loves them. Can I golf at Torrey Pines? Sure, but it’ll cost you. He offers alternative recommendations and a full run-down on the weather, the attractions and the places to stay.
“I’ve read tourist guides that send people to El Cajon and San Ysidro or even the Wild Animal Park, which are not my first picks for tourists,” he said. “I was there the other day and it was hotter than hell. The animals were so hot, they were hiding and I thought, ‘Why am I here?’”
There’s something charming about the site — it’s named after a cat, for one. Although Local Wally has surely stepped into the 21st century, his site has a sense of pre-Y2K internet innocence that feels honest and accessible. Ng says he's keeping the Wally name, but rebranding the site to his new domain site www.sdtouristguide.com which will be launched shortly.
We just wish his name were really Wally.
Other independent San Diego blogs we like:
Affiliated San Diego Blogs we like: