The Internet just won't stand still. A few years ago it was all about Facebook and Twitter. Then Pinterest, then GIFs. Now we're all taking a crash course in something called Vine. Oh, and did you hear MySpace is back — and Yahoo is beating Google?
But as online life continues to evolve, the medium is increasingly less important than the message. Smart, funny and creative, our 2013 Web Award winners would succeed in any platform, and whether they're posting photos on Instagram, uploading videos on YouTube or putting good old-fashioned words on a blog, you'd be wise to stop snapchatting already and check out their awesomeness. —Sarah Fenske
Best Arts Blog
Based on its name and tagline — “celebrating the taco lifestyle in Los Angeles” — it would be easy to mistake L.A. Taco for yet another of this city's countless food blogs. But while there are food-centric regular features like “Bang for Your Burger Buck,” this blog's meatier offerings celebrate the art painted and plastered on public walls from Boyle Heights to Venice Beach. Founded in 2005 by an anonymous collective of bloggers whose love for street art is as great as their love for street food, L.A. Taco not only covers local news — such as the city's ban on murals and the subsequent protests — but also promotes underground art shows and documents L.A.'s constantly changing graffiti landscape.
Our judge writes, “Brian Redban definitely knows how to use the web and social media to push his DeathSquad brand, but when I heard him on the Muff Said podcast talking about accidentally massaging a dolphin's vagina after eating a dose of psychedelic mushrooms I about laughed myself into unconsciousness. That's when I knew I had a winner.” You read it here first.
Meme of the Year
The Laker Bros
Ah, the Laker Bros. A pair of good-looking SoCal dudes in matching Dwight Howard jerseys attend a Lakers game last November. And when Kobe Bryant scores, the left bro whips off his sunglasses in dramatic fashion while the right bro applauds, with perfectly bro-tastic expressions. In the year 2000, this would mean nothing. In the year 2013, this is a meme. It gets turned into a GIF, written up in Deadspin and the Daily Mail and endlessly dissected on Reddit. Brobible.com weighs in with “The 15 Best Things About That Lakers Bro GIF.” Someone even puts the whole sequence in reverse. Now, you could argue that the moment lasted a few seconds, tops, and that neither of these guys should be famous, much less given an L.A. Weekly Web Award. But it's 2013. And that reverse sunglass whip is priceless.
Best TV Blog
Ben Mandelker's B-Side Blog covers “TV, food, drink and everything in between” — which just about covers all of our hobbies, thankyouverymuch. Our judge writes, “B-Side has been the undisputed king of TV blogging for years. Mandelker practically invented TV photocapping.” Funny, perceptive and spectacularly good with the screen grab, B-Side will suck you in for hours on end.
Best Food Instagram
Best Web Series — Comedy
Writer-director Shilpi Roy's delightfully angst-filled series knows exactly how much heart and humor to pack into each episode. Says our judge, “We stick around for the laughs, but we return for the story.”
Best Local Startup App
Where My Dogs At
If you're looking for love, there's OK Cupid. If you're looking for sex, there's Grindr (or Tinder). But what if you're just a dog lover looking for other pups (and their people) to play with — or a nice pet-friendly patio? Where My Dogs At fills that important niche, allowing you to search for “dog people” or “dog places” in the vicinity with just a few clicks of your smartphone. And, of course, you can create a profile for your dog — because if there's one thing dog people like to do, it's share furry baby photos.
Best Fashion Blog
Put This On
The comprehensive approach taken by Jesse Thorn and Adam Lisagor's fashion blog, Put This On, just might blow your mind. One judge writes, “Both newsy (a recent post alerted readers to the possible going-out-of-business sale by a beloved thrift shop) and thoughtful ('reviewing' takes on new meaning here). Men should bookmark this site yesterday.”
Best Gossip Blog
Crazy Days and Nights
For six years, Crazy Days and Nights brought the goods, dropping tasty blind items with a knowing, had-to-be-an-insider tone. Readers ate it up. And then something so deliciously juicy went down that even the mainstream media was forced to pay attention: Some readers became convinced last year that Robert Downey Jr. was leaving comments on the site. Downey's spokesperson took the rare step of issuing a denial, but the resulting furor only seems to have emboldened CDaN (as fans call it). Run by an L.A.-area man who goes by “Enty,” the site remains a fascinating peek into the darker side of Hollywood. Is any of it true? A New York Post story published in the wake of the Downey imbroglio suggests not (it revealed Enty to be a probate attorney, not a connected entertainment lawyer, as he's suggested). But the site is such a good read, you can hardly blame readers for wishing it was.
Funniest YouTube Video
“Shift It,” by Rhett & Link
Best NonProfit Facebook Page
Heal the Bay
Do-gooder Facebook pages can be boring, static places — “like” them and you'll be subjected to a slow but steady entreaty of requests to give money. Not Heal the Bay. The venerable Santa Monica nonprofit shares gorgeous photos, links to relevant news stories and even posts a quiz or two. Once you've liked the page, it's impossible not to feel a kinship to the organization — and more committed to its cause.
Author, screenwriter and blogger Kelly Oxford has earned 543,000-plus Twitter followers for her nastily hilarious musings. Writes our judge, “I love cerebral-funny and sunny, adorkable-funny, but I also appreciate the kind of funny that sucker punches you in the gut and takes names. And for that, I chose Kelly Oxford.”
Best Food Blog
KCET's food blog doesn't have a catchy name (it goes, simply, by “food”). But it makes up for the lack of clever branding with a reader-friendly mix of recipes, lists and essays. Videos show how to make various dishes, while reported pieces (often by the site's Living editor, Katherine Spiers) explain L.A.'s food scene. A consistently enjoyable read.
Best Original YouTube Song
Rachel Bloom, “You Can Touch My Boobies”
Best Political Blog
The site founded, published and edited by veteran journalist Kevin Roderick consistently wins honors in this category, and not by any failure of imagination on the part of our judges. It's simply the best. If there's something the city's power brokers will find interesting, Roderick is on it — aggregating, providing generous links or simply breaking the news himself. It's a cliché to call any publication a must-read, but there's simply no better way to describe L.A. Observed.
Best City App
Time Out Los Angeles
In a city as happening as L.A., it's hard to keep track of all the … well, happenings. Enter Time Out Los Angeles. Its app lets you peruse the coolest events and hot spots in truly useful ways: It uses geolocation to find fun stuff nearby, has ever-updating Top 10 lists steering you toward the best comedy, shopping, nightlife and more, and lets you favorite all the stuff you love so you can go back for more good times. It even has an “Inspire Me” button with curated suggestions for those moments you're feeling extra adventurous. For a calendar app, that's inspired, indeed.
Alie Ward takes beautiful photos. The self-described “redheaded half of the Cooking Channel's Tripping Out With Alie and Georgia” (BFF Georgia Hardstark is the brunette), Ward travels around the country looking for cool places — with an emphasis on the ones that serve awesome cocktails. (Tough job, but someone's got to do it.) The pictures she posts along the way are breathtaking glimpses of an America far more glorious than any burned-out cube dweller's wildest imaginings.
The Thrilling Adventure Hour
The Thrilling Adventure Hour has one of the best retro conceits going: quirky podcasts done in the style of old-school radio serials. Co-creators Ben Acker and Ben Blacker (seriously) attract top voice talent — Paul F. Tompkins, John DiMaggio and James Urbaniak among them — with scripts that are snappy, retro fun.
Best Gay Blog
The brains behind the nation's best gay blog, Towleroad.com, no longer lives in Los Angeles, having departed for New York City a few years ago. But since Andy Towle started Towleroad here, what the hell: We're going to claim it. Besides, this 10-year-old website really is the best — a mix of serious news, goofy stuff and arts coverage, brought together with an editor's eye. One judge admits, “I've been reading Towleroad for years. I always appreciate his point of view and timely news.”
Best Facebook Presence
How does an older character actor who hasn't had a hit movie in years rack up 4.4 million Facebook likes? By being funnier than everyone else, of course. Star Trek veteran George Takei has proven himself remarkably adept at social media even in his 70s. His fans on Facebook don't just “like” the page — they comment and share, to the point that his memes dominate your news feed whether you like it or not. Lately Takei has been using his star power to blast Russia's civil rights abuses, ginning up outrage among his followers. We can't conceive of a better use of an army of
Best Web Series — Drama
Best Vine Presence
Garrett Watts and Colleen Evanson
Garrett Watts is a filmmaker, and Colleen Evanson is a writer. As a team, they're goofy good fun — and experts in the art of Vine, the newish, Twitter-owned mobile app that allows users to create short video clips (six seconds or less). One judge writes, “I think all the nominees are fantastic, but Garrett and Colleen are underfollowed. They make some pretty clever Vines.” They're also community builders: The pair organized an L.A. Vine picnic — a meetup at the Griffith Park Observatory.
Best Neighborhood Blog
The Eastsider L.A.
The Eastsider L.A. aggregates everything happening from Atwater Village to Lincoln Heights — and when something's afoot that no one else is properly covering, it jumps right in there and breaks news. Witness its reporting on the Silver Lake fight between neighbors and a would-be hotelier, which drew 103 passionate comments, or the ongoing controversy over an Echo Park swap meet. The tone is professional, the photography excellent and the connection to the community organic. The Eastsider L.A. is the smart, intensely local website that AOL only wishes it could duplicate.
Best Music Blog
Passion of the Weiss
We tried — oh so terribly hard! — not to give ourselves at the L.A. Weekly any Web Awards. Still, we had to make an exception when it comes to Best Music Blog. And while Passion of the Weiss is written by Weekly music columnist Jeff Weiss, it features great writing outside the stuff we publish. It's also the clear favorite of our judges and readers. One writes, “What sets Passion of the Weiss apart is that it offers both sharp analyses and quick, funny bites delivered in a variety of voices. There's very little filler of show announcements and promo that bogs down many music blogs.” How could anyone argue with that?
Best Concert Instagrammer
Our judges call music/lifestyle website Grimy Goods “terrific” and “informed.” Editor-in-chief Sandra Burciaga and her team of writers/photographers expertly capture the coolest Angelenos enjoying the city's hottest shows. They're everywhere you wish you could be, capturing the fun being had by people much more stylish than you. Jealous? Don't be. Just like a photo or two and be inspired.
Best Sex Blog
Smut for Smarties
This was the hands-down favorite among voters, and the judges could see why, noting, “Some of the other nominees straddled categories and wandered off the beaten path into dating-blog territory. Visit Smut for Smarties and you'll get a unadulterated dose of anything you could possibly want: erotica, sex ed, sex tips, toy reviews, etc. This choice was clear.”
Best Sports Blog
Land O' Lakers
Our judge writes, “This is still a Laker town, even if the Clippers have taken over in the win column. Land O' Lakers never lets us forget, and keeps the team honest with real breakdowns and analysis.” The site's founders, Andy and Brian Kamenetzky, also do a popular podcast.
Best Media Outlet Twitter
The Twitter arm of Southern California Public Radio breaks news all day long, and expertly engages with its followers. “Nobody understands the Southland better, or has more of a sense of what matters to Angelenos,” one judge concludes.
“Great artists have flocked to Tumblr to share their work for the digital world to see,” our judge writes. “Unfortunately, those creative minds usually forget about Tumblr within a few weeks after creating it. That's why Melissa Richardson Banks' online anthology of downtown Los Angeles' Art District, Downtown Muse, is such a treat. Banks shares her fly-on-the-wall view of street scenes and local stories a couple times a day. Every day. And if you want to get the offline experience of her Tumblr, she offers free neighborhood tours weekly.”
Best Parody Twitter
Best Celebrity Instagrammer
Tyler, the Creator
The leader of rap collective Odd Future has been described by the group's manager as “one of the most creative kids alive,” and his Instagram bears out the boast. Tyler has posted more than 1,300 photos in the persona of “feliciathegoat” — supposedly “Tyler's auntie” — giving his 800,000-plus followers a glimpse into the life of Los Angeles' irreverent, goofy Next Big Thing.
Best Community Watchdog Twitter
The 23,000-plus people who follow this police-scanner Twitter would tell you it isn't just informative — it's also laugh-out-loud funny. To wit: When @ABC7 recently tweeted, “Plans to move as many as 5 tigers into Malibu prompt concern/protests from neighbors,” @LAScanner added, “Who'll notice 5 tigers amidst all the cougars?” Or there's this tweet from last week: “BEVERLY HILLS: Blue Mustang & white taxi racing w/b Sunset Bl from Rexford. Doesn't sound like much of a race.” The man behind @LAScanner prefers not to be identified, although Los Angeles magazine has reported that he lives in the Miracle Mile and that, reportedly, only three people in his life know about his online alter ego. We're not among them, but you can definitely count us as fans.
Savviest Online Presence
Ben Welsh, L.A. Times
Best Celebrity Twitter
Comedian Patton Oswalt was a clear winner in this category. Writes one judge, “I like to celebrate intelligence, I like to celebrate earnestness and I like to celebrate a little ballsy audacity. Patton Oswalt nails all three categories. Plus, it's refreshing to see an intensely nerdy persona with a little street cred.” Hear, hear.
Best Web Series — Reality
Stories From the Street
Our judge writes, “In an honest, effective three minutes, filmmaker Justin Baldoni's Stories From the Street will change the way you walk around L.A. and the emotions and actions you take toward those who call its streets home. This beautifully crafted micro-documentary series gives its audience the gift of the conversations we never stop to have and the courage and knowledge to change that.”
Best Nightlife Blog
If you need the skinny on the beating gay heart of L.A., look no farther than WeHo Confidential. Gleefully NSFW, the site isn't afraid to show some skin while simultaneously slinging the hottest gossip about the hottest sports in West Hollywood. Run by an assortment of gay men who value their anonymity, WeHo Confidential will tell you Where 2 Be in the gayborhood on a given night, reveal the leaked cast list for RuPaul's Drag Race, and even throw horny gays a bone with some free porn. Yet just two posts away, readers will find an impassioned post about boycotting the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. But what really separates WeHo Confidential from its competitors is the administrators' fearlessness. The guys aren't afraid to name names, call out the worst in the community and talk about what happens underneath WeHo's shiny surface. Yes, some of it is unsubstantiated rumor, and some of it is pure shade-throwing. But on a nightlife site about West Hollywood, what else could you expect?
Editor's note: A previous version of this story referred incorrectly to Colleen Evanson's relationship with Garrett Watts. They are not actually married — they are instead good friends in what Evanson calls a “creative marriage” who live across the street from each other. We regret the error.