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From the CEO: We’re Just Getting Started

San Diego Magazine's owner and CEO writes about her love affair with the city and discusses her vision for the nearly 75-year-old media company

By Claire Johnson

Claire Johnson Headshot

Claire Johnson Headshot

It’s been seven months since Troy and I took over as the new owners of San Diego Magazine. Today, I humbly greet you as our new CEO. A lifelong New Yorker, I moved here from Brooklyn in fall 2018. I got to know the city not through its beaches, but its food. That’s what happens when you marry a food writer.

But it took a pandemic for me to really get to know San Diego. During the lockdown, I started taking long walks with my camera. I saw neighbors improvising entirely new ways to live. I saw people on dates in the back of pickup trucks overlooking the ocean. I saw a family build a makeshift beach in their front yard.

A hair salon popped up in the courtyard of an apartment complex. San Diegans consistently found creative ways to connect with each other and the city. I became enamored with the resilient, creative soul of San Diego. I saw how crucial community is in times of celebration, joy, and tragedy.

And now I’m deeply grateful to be a part of it. Professionally, this is how I got here: After graduating from Loyola University Maryland with a degree in journalism, I landed an entry-level job at NBCUniversal.

My plan was to get my foot in the door, then become a war reporter or a photojournalist. My backup plan was to star on Broadway. Reality, fate, and New York City rent had other plans for me. For the last 14 years I worked in business operations and strategy at one of the largest media companies in the world as it navigated the digital revolution. I saw people change the way they consume content. When I started, YouTube was just a few years old. Instagram launched that year.

In 2014, I led a team responsible for the first fully streamed Winter Olympics. When I resigned to focus on San Diego Magazine, we were using artificial intelligence and machine learning to run ad campaigns.

My job was to anticipate shifts, then build systems and products to maximize the reach and measurement of content. At its core, SDM has and always will be a visual storytelling platform. Content is queen and we’re investing in it. This month we introduce our new digital editor, Nicolle Monico. Nicolle will be in charge of elevating the quality, frequency, and reach of our digital storytelling.

While our national, award-winning Happy Half Hour podcast continues to thrive and evolve, we just launched a second called Not a Parenting Podcast. On it, Alex Ott and I speak with local activists, chefs, entertainers, and community leaders about the joys and struggles of raising little humans. Listen as we learn how much more unites us than divides us.

We’re also relaunching and rebranding our newsletter program. Main Dish will continue to deliver on all things food and drink. The new CharitableSD focuses on the people and orgs creating positive change in the community. In HikeyBikeyBeer, we have some San Diego trail pros giving readers all the insight they’ll need to explore the county on their own two feet, and (bonus) info on the beer scene—because who doesn’t love a good beer after a hike?

Finally, the Best of San Diego newsletter will keep readers in the know on events and happenings around the city. That’s just a taste of what we’ve been working on. Check out the short films our videographer, Jeremy Sazon, produced for Feeding San Diego (bring the tissues) and Stone Brewing (prepare to drool). We’re using our talented creatives to help brands tell their stories.

We’re not just investing in digital. This fall, we’ll unveil a full redesign of San Diego Magazine. The “book” will get a new logo, a new look, a new experience—one that speaks to where we want to go. San Diego Magazine is more than a magazine. It’s a media company. Our mission is to innovate new ways for the community to connect with the city, and evolve SDM so it authentically reflects the community it covers. We can’t wait to show you what we do with every part of it, magazine included.

Before I sign off and give this page back to Troy, I’d like to ask you, the reader, for any feedback, ideas, hopes, or dreams you might have for the media in your city. You can reach me at [email protected].

Thank you for welcoming me to San Diego. Thank you for supporting local media.


Claire Johnson, Chief Executive Officer

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