How to succeed in SF blogging without really trying

So, you’re living in San Francisco. Congratulations! I don’t anymore, but when I did I was one of the writers for The Tender, the Tenderloin’s #1 News Source™. It was both rewarding and frustrating as hell at the same time. I didn’t get paid to write it but it did become popular and was a worthwhile experience. I’d suggest that you write your own local blog, but if you do, there are things to take in to consideration.

First, you need to focus. I don’t mean just geographically, but also topically. Humor is more popular with San Franciscans that serious. Also, hedonism. Writing about food and drink will always get eyeballs. Writing about the Mission will get you eyeballs as the Mission loves talking about the Mission, but it’s a crowded room at this point. Also, toss in a random article about neighborhoods and microhoods. San Franciscans prematurely ejaculate when they get the chance to debate hood politics.

But, even if you can write at the level of a Nobel laureate, if you don’t get links from other sites, no one is probably going to see it. This is of course a double edged sword as in the beginning it will be great but then you’ll realize that how these sites stay in business is to scrape your content and if you have enough of your own momentum and reader base, it will get annoying as you won’t be getting paid (see below).

The Linkers

SFist gets oodles of traffic and they do link roundups daily. The key is to either have an article that is odd (“Naked yoga guy punched in nuts by Willie Brown!”) or a scoop that is immediately topical which will most likely have something to do with SF city government or something about gay life (“Olague bitch slaps Kim at BoS meeting. Weiner: I like to watch”). Of course, until you get on their radar (ie they follow your feed) you’ll need to nudge them with a tip about the article. Keep in mind that Brock, Andrew, Leanne, and Jay are nudged all the time and so you might get ignored in the beginning. Don’t take it personally, just keep at it in a friendly manner.

Laughing Squid also has pornstar amounts of traffic loads. Probably a bit harder to get up on there as they don’t do roundups like SFist, but if you breach their perimeter spam tip defense and get a listing, the masses will arrive. As to the best content to toss at them, again, unique SF things, similar to what you’d send to SFist, although if it’s a bit artsy and creative in nature, they will probably like it better.

SFgate gets no end of traffic, but they will never link off to anything you write. Hell, they can barely even afford to spellcheck articles before they go up. Your best bet there is to create an account or two to comment with and leave a link to your articles in the comments section when they’re related. They have really weird policies though and might delete the link, but it’s fucking scary how much traffic it will toss your way. Scarier still is that they somehow stay in business. One spot that will get your decent traffic though is Inside Scoop if what you have is food-related and my interactions with Paolo were always positive.

Eater SF is where you want your food and drink links to appear. Carolyn is insanely hungry for links and content scraping so if it’s the least bit new, she’ll put it up in a round up or even make a small “article” out of it. One horribly annoying thing is that you’ll always see your content phrased in a form like “As Eater has been following…” or “Based on tips to Eater” in order for them to somewhat “own” your content. Again, in the beginning traffic from Eater can be helpful, but as time goes on, it’s more of a burden than anything else.

Curbed SF is similar to Eater in style and if you write anything related to property news (“Old Victorian burns down”, “Hippie crack den to be torn down for mixed use apartment building”) you can send it there. Curbed has a similar model as Eater as they’re both part of the same company. The downside with Curbed is that it’s very easy for the editor Sally to blacklist you. You’ll never know why and honestly, once you’ve got your own consistent reader base, it’s a blessing in disguise.

Grub Street San Francisco is similar to Eater. You won’t get as many clickthrus though which is unfortunate as I quite like Grub Street. If you email the editor Jay (yeah, same Jay as at SFist) about a new article, he’s a pretty fair dude in how he puts stuff up and cites the source. Again, it’s gotta be food and drink related.

Muni Diaries are the good people of Eugenia and Jeff. If you have an article that’s Muni-related, send them a tip. They’ll likely post it and without any bullshit or drama.

Uptown Almanac is there for when you have something really offbeat. Kevin is a funny dude and he likes funny, rough shit. If you send him a tip about a new ice cream pop up in Hayes Valley, he will probably tell you to fuck off, as would I. Or, you might luck out and he’ll write an article calling you a dumbass.

SF Weekly has a couple of thriving blog sections. Send them tips about your articles and you’ll probably get picked up in round ups, especially for Foodie.

Leave no trace

The sites above are all decent to get links. Not decent are ones like 7×7 which seems to be completely run by blonde intern girls from the Marina. How that piece of shit “publication” is still around blows my mind. Try and stay off their radar as at best, they will see one of your articles, maybe like it, and then write up their own article without citing you as the original source. That’s the way they roll. Also sucky are the likes of San Francisco magazine, SF Appeal (“It’s not a blog, it’s a news source!”), and Tablehopper. Don’t bother with them as they’ve got their own deal going on which won’t help you in the least.

Connectshuns

You can find other like-minded SF blogger folks at Huffington Posts’s list but that’s a little of out date. Kevin at Uptown Almanac tries to round up all the local bloggers for a super secret, super sexy happy hour every now and again, so contact him and let him know how much oral sex you’d love to give him to be invited. He might let you in.

Also, make sure to start up a Twitter account and Facebook page for your blog for branding purposes as well as to publicly deride anyone who rips off your articles or calls you an asshole. After all, everyone knows there’s nothing better than to witness a flame war on Twitter…

Money, money, money

You will not be making any; money that is. No matter how well you write, how fresh your content, and how sexy you might be, you will not make any money from a local blog in San Francisco. You pretty much do it for your own enjoyment, which is something that has its ups and downs.

If you want, from the start put up some Google AdSense on your site in a non-annoying manner. That will probably rake in $15 a year. Don’t bother with sponsored articles as these will be met with scorn and people thinking you’ve sold out despite the fact you don’t get paid to blog. Also, trying to work with local businesses to advertise on your local blog is a lost cause. They’re much happier paying Chronicle ad rates with no way to measure success.

In truth, if you want to look at it this way, it can be something of a resume piece. I got a few paid articles from putting in time at The Tender. The other main writer and one that was short term also got some paid work. But, from the blog directly, you won’t earn a damned thing, so go in to it realizing that and maintain that attitude as it will help when your first “who the fuck to you think you are?” comment from a troll comes rolling in.

Otherwise, good luck. San Francisco needs a new batch of bloggers as a lot of us from the “old guard” have moved on and if people have to depend on “traditional media” for news in that town, then things are gonna get pretty unfresh pretty quick.