Once the unwanted child of the local public television station, San
Francisco magazine has become the Bay Area's choice reading on
everything from love to politics. Julia Hood reports.
San Francisco magazine could appear to be just another monthly urban
lifestyle magazine, especially for those readers with urban lifestyles
that cost big bucks. But this city magazine takes its content - and
readership - very seriously, with in-depth articles on political and
social issues in the community.
Consider the most recent cover story, "Where to find love in the city,"
which explains, in part, "why our driven lifestyles often leave love
behind." Other stories include everything from "10 really cool people
who aren't seeing anyone right now," and an investigation of the role of
neurons in the love-match game.
Then consider one of editor-in-chief Bruce Kelley's proudest
achievements: A recent issue included an investigative profile of the
man who ran the Presidio National Park. The freelance journalist who
wrote the piece uncovered unsavory details about the man that had not
been known to the public.
"Three weeks after it ran, he was forced to resign," Kelley says. He
adds that stories like that, which change people's perceptions about
things going on locally, are what he is after.
The magazine clearly targets affluent San Franciscans, with a readership
of 334,000 and circulation of 130,000. The coverage area includes 12 Bay
Area counties, "from Sonoma down to Monterey."
According to its own demographic information, one third of the
magazine's readers have a net worth in the million-plus category, 82%
are homeowners, and average household income is $161,000. San
Francisco readers are apparently 400 times more likely to do
post-graduate study than the average US adult.
These readers sound like a fun bunch, too, with 99% engaged in dining
out or entertaining in restaurants, 75% traveling overseas, and 70%
attending musical performances.
None of these characteristics are particularly surprising when you
consider the magazine, originally known as San Francisco Focus, was
started by the local public television station KQED. When the station
hit on hard times four years ago, a group of local businesspeople came
in and bought the title, then changed it to its current name. "We get
the benefit that a lot of readers are still members of KQED," says
Kelley. "They are a very smart, educated, affluent readership that we
get through their membership process."
Kelley took his job a year and a half ago, following a redesign of the
magazine that signaled the publication's new era. Everything from the
logo to the layout and sections were changed. Previously, San Francisco
was laid out in sections with such titles as Ideas, Food, and
Now the magazine includes features in the middle of the book, with its
Food and Arts departments in the back.
The format change, which went into effect in April 2000, signaled
recognition of the Bay Area's evolution. "We felt that our logo
represented an older, more traditional kind of "sourdough bread, crab,
and fog" image of San Francisco," explains publisher Steven Dinkelspiel,
"at a time when the city was evolving into the forefront of new
technology, new media, finance, and culture."
And while San Francisco is still full of lifestyle tidbits one expects
from a cosmopolitan city's local cheerleader, it is also keen to report
on local political and social issues.
The magazine's best-selling issue is its annual food issue, which this
year included a profile of the San Francisco Chronicle's powerful food
critic, Michael Bauer. Another issue in June examined how the gay and
lesbian community has influenced the city.
Pitches are welcome in virtually any format, and Kelley says that snail
mail probably gets addressed as quickly as any other format. The main
thing to understand about the magazine's needs is that San Francisco is
truly local. "We are biased toward products made here over those sold
everywhere, and if it's people, it's the same thing," Kelley
"This is our beat, and we don't want things that have been
One good issue to keep in mind for pitches is the annual Best of the Bay
Area edition in July. "It's the one place where there is a kind of
grab-bag feel to it," Kelley says. "We are often reading press releases,
looking for that hook."
Address: 243 Vallejo Street, San Francisco, CA 94111
Tel/Fax: (415) 398-2800/398-6777
Editor-in-chief: Bruce Kelley
Executive editor: Kevin Berger
Managing editor: Lisa Trottier
Associate editor: Jennifer Aaronson
Senior editors: Maile Carpenter, Pamela Feinsilber, Jan Newberry, Anne