Here's to the geeks.
Here's to the guys who spend hours blogging about their obsessions. The gals who tweet their every thought in 140 hilarious characters or less. The citizen photojournalists who share their Flickr'd images with the world.
The RFT Web Awards are for you!
The Internet is no longer the province of the lonely, if it ever was. These days, we're more likely to make friends online than on a neighboring bar stool – and increasingly, the coolest kid in the room may be the biggest geek.
That's why the RFT is honoring the best of the Web for the first time ever this year. St. Louis' bloggers and vloggers aren't just making the Internet a more interesting place; by sharing their thoughts, their photos and (yes) even their status updates, they're building a real community – and St. Louis is better for it.
We received hundreds of nominations for this year's awards, and our able team of citizen judges spent hours combing through them, developing a list of worthy finalists and finally picking winners in 25 categories.
We encourage you to check out their websites, visit their YouTube pages and become a fan on Facebook. All 100-plus finalists have done amazing, interesting work. And isn't it high time you joined the cool kids' clique?
Best Neighborhood Blog
NOCO St. Louis
The Judges Say: What's true of all the nominees other than north county? They're all hip places to live. North county is not — but thanks to nocostl.com, it does have a hip blog. We enjoyed the vast array of posts: This website has everything from architectural reviews to a contest pitting ma-and-pa pizza joints against each other. And it's not just nicely written; it's laid out nicely, too.
Best Music Blog
I Went to a Show
The Judges Say: We like the clean design — it's easy to read and isn't fatiguing on the eyes when looking at a long post. It's easy to find what you're looking for, too. It's great to see the local-centric content, and it's nice that even though there are five distinct points of view here, there's also a unity to the site. It's a fun read.
Best Sports Blog
The Judges Say: Joshua Bacott and Matt Sebek are the best one-two sports combo in St. Louis since Jack Buck and Harry Caray. They provide entertaining and humorous commentary on all St. Louis sports — sort of like a Deadspin for the local audience. We especially love the new video segments.
Viva El Birdos – http://www.vivaelbirdos.com
Frozen Notes – http://frozennotes.com
Inside STL – http://www.insidestl.com/insideSTLcom/STLSports/SportsBlog
Best Personal Blog
The Judges Say: There's lots of fresh content here; Powers seems to post at least four times each month. And it's great to see him relate social media to an actual topic (higher education) — not just social media for its own sake — and promote organizations and professionals other than himself. This site feels like a St. Louis-based Mashable.
A Small Town Girl's Guide – http://www.smalltowngirlsguide.com
The Cubicle Chick – http://www.thecubiclechick.com
Cupcake Project – http://www.cupcakeproject.com
South City Confidential – http://southcityconfidential.com
Best Arts Blog
2 Buildings 1 Blog
The Judges Say: This is clearly the best of the blogs that cover arts happenings in town. And the site ups the ante by covering not only events that relate to its sponsoring institutions (the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts and the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis), but other arts events in town, too, particularly in the midtown neighborhood. It's laid out well, updated frequently and easy to read — and you can't beat the fact that it's basically two blogs for the price of one.
Saint Louis Art Map – http://www.saintlouisartmap.org
St. Louis Artists' Guild Blogs – http://www.stlouisartistsguild.org/new/blogs-various
Look/Listen – http://www.stlmag.com/Blogs/Look-Listen
Best Food Blog
The Judges Say: There's something about the out-of-this-world recipes featured on Stephanie Tolle's blog that make our mouths start salivating. Whether she's combining bacon and bread pudding or putting Tater Tots on pizza, Iron Stef always keeps things interesting. The ingredients, step-by-step instructions and appetizing photos ensure that even novice cooks can achieve a delicious outcome.
Best Politics Blog
Fired Up! Missouri
The Judges Say: In a state dominated by a Republican legislature and an increasing number of right-wing talk shows and blogs, Fired Up! Missouri often stands as the lone voice of reason, keeping state and federal legislators in check. Sean Nicholson may be the hardest-working blogger in the state, routinely scooping the big dailies on news about Missouri politicians. Moreover, his in-depth reporting has exposed more about campaign finance and billionaire financier Rex Sinquefield than any other news source.
STL Today Political Fix – http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/govt-and-politics/political-fix
John Combest – http://www.johncombest.com
St. Louis Beacon – http://www.stlbeacon.org/issues-politics
Best Local Activism Blog
Urban Review STL
The Judges Say: Steve Patterson works diligently to make St. Louis a better place, whether by addressing the city's lack of curb cuts for the disabled, championing public transit and bicycling options, comparing the city's downtown grocers to those in other major cities or chronicling the bars that are not in compliance with the city's smoking ban. He works hard at gauging the opinions of his readers through polls, and he encourages them to get involved by publishing information about public meetings and urging them to vote.
St. Louis Activist Hub – http://stlactivisthub.blogspot.com
St. Louis Volunteen – http://www.stlouisvolunteen.com
Slow Food St. Louis – http://www.slowfoodstl.org
Preservation Research – http://preservationresearch.com
NextStop STL – http://www.nextstopstl.org
Show Me No Hate – http://showmenohate.blogspot.com
Best Flickr Pool
tjl photography/Tom Lampe
The Judges Say: To see why we picked this one as the winner, just look at his work! It's wonderful. Tom Lampe covers well-known and obscure events alike — and brings his unique perspective to both.
Bob Crowe – http://www.flickr.com/people/bobcrowe
Louis Kwok – http://www.flickr.com/people/lhkwok
Peat Wollaeger – http://www.flickr.com/people/stensoul
Steven Fitzpatrick Smith – http://www.flickr.com/people/12301761@N00
Best Use of Video in Entertainment
Lo-Fi Saint Louis
The Judges Say: Bill Streeter makes the real St. Louisans he profiles seem larger than life; on this site, even the guy parked on the bar stool next to you somehow seems worthy of fame. There's a seamless style to the videos at Lo-Fi Saint Louis that echoes the look and feel of the website. In addition to the fantastic picture quality, the lightboxed videos help keep your place should you watch too many in one sitting.
Best Use of Video in Food Blogging
The Judges Say: When it comes to food, some like it hot — and some like it Scott Roberts hot. If you have a thing for spicy chiles and delicious barbecue, the Weekly Firecast is for you. Roberts' spoonful taste-test reviews provide an honest, real-time reaction to some of the world's hottest sauces. We love the passion he brings to his niche corner of the food world.
Let's Dish – http://www.stlmag.com/St-Louis-Magazine/Food/Lets-Dish
Best Use of Twitter to Promote a Business/ Organization
The Judges Say: With super-quick response time and an empowered customer-service team, Charter goes above and beyond for its social-media savvy customers. The staff monitoring Twitter doesn't just solve problems for anyone whose tweets mention "charter" or "@charter" — they actually follow up afterward to make sure everything has worked out.
Best Use of Twitter to Promote a Personal Brand
The Judges Say: 2010 was a busy year for video blogger/entrepreneur/author David Siteman Garland — yet he's still found the time to amass 27,000 Twitter followers. Even when limited to 140 characters, Garland manages to mix witty banter and industry ideas into a pleasant stream. He calls himself "The #1 Non-Boring Resource For Building Your Business Smarter, Faster, Cheaper." And in his case, that's not even hyperbole.
Best Use of Facebook to Promote a Business
The Judges Say: More than 1,300 people are fans of Cranky Yellow on Facebook, and after reading proprietor David Wolk's witty status updates, it's not hard to see why. There's much to smile at here, and there's so much interaction with the store's fans, you'll actually see them posting pictures on Cranky Yellow's wall. The photo albums, too, are a marvel. If the album "Things We Sell" doesn't make you want to stop by and browse, you clearly lack of an appreciation for Cranky Yellow's special brand of whimsy.
Left Bank Books – http://www.facebook.com/LeftBankBooks.STL
Star Clipper – http://www.facebook.com/pages /Star-Clipper/275545919005
The Royale – http://www.facebook.com/royalestl
Foam Coffee and Beer – http://www.facebook.com/FoamCoffeeandBeer
Best Use of Facebook to Promote a Personal Brand
The Judges Say: The STL Wine Girl does a great job of staying focused on her brand, even while interacting with her fans. There's a good balance of informative posts as well as personal, conversational status updates and a solid collection of photo albums. Ortmann also does a great job linking her Facebook page to her website and other social-media outlets.
Beth Bombara – http://www.facebook.com/pages/Beth-Bombara/191891043114
David Sheets – http://www.facebook.com/david.sheets
Steve Ewing – http://www.facebook.com /profile.php?id=502626235
Bill Chott – http://www.facebook.com/theimprovtrick
Best Locally Built iPhone App
The Judges Say: Part of a popular trend in photo apps, PocketBooth helps users to create stylized retro images, with strips of four sequential shots. It's a fun app that's both well designed and well built, making it easy to share photos on Twitter, Flickr and Facebook.
Metro STL – http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/metro-stl/id385156722
Aisle411 – http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/aisle411/id394218369
Schlafly Beer – http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/schlafly-beer/id366578488
Best Local Celebrity Site
The Judges Say: This is the only nominee that has daily updates and includes "celebrities" with some kind of tie to St. Louis. Its post about KMOV-TV (Channel 4) morning news anchor Virginia Kerr tweeting her birth was one of the funniest reads of the year. Author Mike Flynn has a deliciously cynical sense of humor. He's a truly prolific and creative blogger who does it all, amazingly, in his spare time.
ReviewSTL Celebrity Gossip – http://www.reviewstl.com/category/off-the-wall/celebrity-gossip
ToastedRav – http://www.toastedrav.com
Best Sex Blog
The Beautiful Kind
The Judges Say: St. Louis mom Kendra Holliday "came out of the closet" last year, revealing herself as the sex blogger the Beautiful Kind. And while she's suffered for her revelation — her ex is now trying to change their child-custody agreement — her blog is better than ever. Holliday has a huge, devoted readership, and we can't help but admire how hilariously blunt she is. She got us feeling all hot and bothered, even as she provided an always-useful reminder that women who love sex aren't whores.
Sex Positive St. Louis – http://sexstl.com
Saint Louis Coworking
The Judges Say: The guys behind Saint Louis Coworking have done a lot in just five months: They've rented out tons of coworking space, hosted their own events and enlisted a virtual army of ambassadors to help promote their brand. We love their frequent Twitter posts, too.
Best Club Site
The Judges Say: The Luminary Arts has one of the most functional venue websites in St. Louis. While it's not the flashiest site, it works well, which from a reader's perspective is the most important thing. It's readable, clean and frequently updated. What more do you want?
Best Restaurant Site
Crave the Cup
The Judges Say: From the moment you hit the Cup's website, you're bombarded with beautiful images of delicious cupcakes. The warm feelings continue as you notice the site's friendly usability. The Cup offers an amazing wealth of information, from the cupcake alert banner to the detailed availability calendar for each cupcake. Top it off with a sturdy social-media presence, and you have hands-down the best restaurant website in St. Louis.
The Judges Say: Seriously, does this guy ever work? He's always tweeting! But 47,000 followers can't be wrong — and Chris Reimer is, in fact, funny as hell. His tweets mix marketing with the personal; he also does a great job of promoting other local entrepreneurs and making sure his followers feel appreciated.
Tweet of the Year
The Judges Say: This campaign embodies the power of Twitter. It's a perfect example of how to harness new media to get people excited, develop media buzz and make something happen — in this case, getting a Presidential Medal of Freedom awarded to Cardinals great Stan Musial. It goes without saying, of course, that Twitter couldn't have found a more worthy man to celebrate.
@LadyGaga – Lady Gaga vs. the Westboro Baptist Church: "Tonight love and hate met in St. Louis. And love outnumbered the hate, in poetic thousands. Hate left. But love stayed. + Together, we sang."
@doctorfollowill – Kings of Leon and the infamous pigeon shit: "So sorry St. Louis. We had to bail, pigeons shitting in jareds mouth. Too unsanitary to continue."
@RobRains – Globe-Democrat story breaks online: "Important announcement: The sports staff at Globe-Democrat.com has resigned, effective July 21, to pursue other opportunities(more)"
Video of the Year
Aquabats Stage-diving Kids
The Judges Say: This is a perfect example of a video destined for YouTube stardom — you're at a public event, and something awesome goes down, something that people would never believe if you didn't have the video to prove it. In this case, it was little kids getting hurled into the crowd at an Aquabats concert for a lesson in stage diving. It sounds irresponsible at best, but when you watch the video, mostly what you see is the great sense of community here: Everyone in the St. Louis crowd comes together like a big family. The video is both simple and outlandish at the same time — and it will absolutely make you wish you were at that concert.
Star Clipper's Walking Dead Commercial – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sS0nHX0VECE
Corle 2 Da's So St. Louis – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0jBhcH-LS64
The Other Guys Premiere Poll Winner Announced – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f1AH1Jq7At0
Downtown St. Louis
The Judges Say: Natives may complain that St. Louis isn't an "exciting" city. But this site makes St. Louis look like it's bursting with culture, arts and music — with a bustling downtown packed with cool local businesses and great places to live. We love the clean navigation and engaging content, with a color scheme that echoes the look of printed materials from the Downtown St. Louis Partnership and the Gateway Mall. Even the haters would have a hard time not being impressed with this site.
Meet the Judges
An award-winning producer, Web designer, graphic artist and photographer, Bill Streeter is also an occasional contributor to Riverfront Times. He created the music/culture podcast Lo-Fi Saint Louis, which won a Vloggie, was nominated for a Streamy and (full disclosure) is taking first place for Best Use of Video in Entertainment at this year's Point & Clique Awards. A Chicago native who moved here in the wake of the 2001 dot-com crash and has yet to look back, Streeter is currently producing a feature-length film, Brick by Chance and Fortune. You can find him at www.billstreeter.net or follow him on Twitter @billstreeter.
Josh Kocurek lives his life as a 100 percent digital dude. Geek cred on his sleeve, Kocurek works as an associate brand manager at the experiential marketing agency Switch. (He describes his job as a mix of "lurking on social networks and putting new ideas in motion.") A lover of indie rock and electronica, Kocurek spends his free time playing video games, honing his tennis skills and belting out '90s pop at karaoke nights. He has a weakness for sushi and exotic teas and is currently trying to kick a nasty Angry Birds addiction. You can check out Kocurek's personal website, www.JoshKocurek.com, or find him on Twitter @joshkocurek.
In the past decade alone, Michael Tomko has programmed and promoted a college radio station, managed recording studios in both St. Louis and New Orleans, wrote for national publications and blogs, toured the country as a musician, managed channel-partner programs for some of the world's largest software companies and produced music festivals and events. You can find him on Twitter @michaeltomko or check out his blog, DoYouReallyWantToHurt.Me. Disclosure: Tomko has been chief technology officer at the social-media firm Scorch, which works with clients including Rizzo Tees, Whiz-Tech Technology Café and Latitude 26. He is also the founder of Saint Louis Coworking.
Elizabeth Liebel is the marketing director for Auctori, "a multilingual, global content management system." Prior to that gig, she was social-media coordinator at a large marketing firm in St. Louis. She lists Seth Godin, Jay Baer, Amber Naslund and Scott Stratten as her current marketing-celebrity crushes/creepy obsessions. You can find Liebel via her website, www.stl-socialmedia.com/Personal; her Twitter feed, @STLScialMedia; or, on weekends, tearing up the dance floor.
As the RFT's Web editor, Will Melton produces and promotes content for our website — which he assures us is infinitely more amusing than his previous job working on viral-marketing campaigns for the Will Ferrell-owned FunnyorDie.com. Melton is a long-time blogger and podcaster who's written most recently for www.fusedfilm.com. He lectures about social media at local universities and has spoken to the World Affairs Council. You can follow him on Twitter @riverfronttimes.com (for his work-related tweets) or @projectmelton (for his real-life obsessions).
After four years as a Riverfront Times staff writer, Chad Garrison took over the paper's news blog, Daily RFT, in 2009 and currently leads a team of journalists as it breaks news, files reports on local crime and even publishes the occasional bit of snark. Garrison has been a staff writer at the St. Louis Business Journal and a freelance arts-and-entertainment writer for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, as well as a copy editor for the Warsaw Business Journal in Poland. You can follow him on Twitter @chadgarrison or become a fan of Daily RFT on Facebook.
Point & Clique Disclosure: The social-media gurus who agreed to serve as this year's judges are, in some cases, associated with projects or companies receiving awards. They recused themselves from judging the categories in question.