Mark Burgess was and is a pioneer in the online business. That’s why he owned the domain name SANDIEGO.COM. The one and only.
In the 1990s, when he was busy helping such institutions as KPBS, the San Diego Convention and Visitors Bureau, Legoland and others into the Digital Age, his idea was to make the site a portal from the rest of the world into all things San Diego. Working a prodigious schedule, he eventually had the form in place. Then he set out seeking content.
About this time, Welton Jones retired from the SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE newspaper after 35 years as a writer, editor, columnist and critic. The two old friends sat down to discuss Mark’s idea: Jones would write online reviews and commentary on entertainment and the arts in San Diego and Burgess would provide an attractive, easily accessible platform for stories that would be filed away in a searchable archive. Mark would try to sell some ads and the two would split the take.
In those pre-blog days, there were few models for such an operation but Burgess got it close to right. Jones concentrated on reviewing locally-produced shows, since movies, television and recorded music reviews were in plentiful supply elsewhere on the net.
Very soon, an active audience materialized, enthusiastically using the site’s Comment access. And, within two years, Burgess informed Jones he could now be paid in modest fashion: $50 per review. Jones immediately congratulated Burgess as the new third-best employer of reviewers in town.
With a modest paycheck available, the partners began recruiting additional writers. David Gregson, a free-lance reviewer with a specialty of opera, took over the classical music. Jennifer Chung was recommended as a back-up theatre reviewer for Jones. After Janice Steinberg found that her freelance dance reviewing at the UNION-TRIBUNE kept her from regular work at SANDIEGO.COM, she introduced Kris Eitland as a dance reviewer. With the addition of Ken Herman and Christian Hertzog, major music reviewers each having their own following, the roster was complete. Eventually, George Weinberg-Harter, Christopher Schneider, Frankie Moran, Don Braunagel, Bill Eadie and David Codden also wrote theatre reviews. Brian Schaefer did some dance reviews, Robert Laurence wrote a television column and Kraig Cavanaugh became art critic.
Through the seasons, as the fortunes of SANDIEGO.com waxed and waned, a core audience remained interested. And the payroll was always met. Burgess even granted blanket raises to all. But, seeking to expand and follow the blossoming industry, he brought in new investors. Ultimately, he lost control of the company.
Amazingly, the local reviewing component remained viable through shifting managements. Restrictions were placed on monthly totals of reviews, but these still allowed SANDIEGO.COM to post regularly an entertaining, responsible, complete and dependable slate of local reviews.
Then, in March, 2012, the management changed again. The new owners made it clear that they had no interesting in the reviewing content.
Four of the reviewers were not ready to give up, though – Welton Jones, Kris Eitland, Ken Herman and Bill Eadie. Discussions of a replacement site inevitably led to Burgess. His enthusiasm and skill made it possible to launch SANDIEGOSTORY.COM.
1 July 2012