Wanted: One domain, barely used

TFS issues bounty for its own good name

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When I first started publishing The Food Section on Substack, approximately one out of every 100 people I encountered had heard about the platform. And since that one person was usually another journalist with a Substack account, I decided to quit mentioning Substack when I promoted the newsletter, typically referring to it as a blog.

Substack is much better known these days, with more than 17,000 writers publishing newsletters, and millions of readers paying for them. But the problem with Substack’s mainstreaming is people now have strong associations with the brand: “Substack” is synonymous with unedited musings on esoteric topics and the author’s anxiety over finding something new to say about them. For that reason, I still don’t cite Substack when talking about The Food Section.       

As a result, many prospective subscribers look for the newsletter by Googling its name or pointing their browsers directly to thefoodsection.com.

Unfortunately, that domain doesn’t belong to me.

I chose The Food Section’s name as a nod to both the publication’s newsy orientation, and the American South’s status as the country’s culinary powerhouse. But two decades ago, Josh Friedland settled on the same name for his website, described by Gourmet in 2004 as “the consummate gastronomic blog.” A few years thereafter, he registered @thefoodsection on Twitter.

Friedland—who would later win the first-ever James Beard Award for humor in connection with his “Ruth Bourdain” parody account—stopped tweeting as @thefoodsection around 2009.1 He stopped posting to thefoodsection.com in August 2012.

Since that was an eon ago in Internet time, it didn’t seem crazy to think Friedland would entertain a good offer for his domain registration. So, in the months leading up to The Food Section’s debut (by which I mean The Food Section you’re reading now), I messaged Friedland at every email address and online account I could dig up for him. He never wrote back.

Once The Food Section launched, I got into the habit of reaching out to Friedland once every couple of months. All attempts were equally unsuccessful.

But now, with The Food Section on the brink of expansion, I’m giving it one last try. Except this time around, I’m asking my 8,000-plus readers for help.

According to the “About Me” page of his current website, Friedland graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles. He’s written for the New York Times and the Washington Post. In other words, it’s highly probable that a reader of The Food Section (again, this one) knows the guy—and might be able to put me in touch with him.

If that reader is you, can we talk for a second? Look, I’m in a dealmaking mood. And here’s what I’ve got for you: If you can provide information that leads to me securing thefoodsection.com domain, I will take you to dinner at a restaurant of your choice.

The only caveats are the restaurant must be located in the contiguous U.S., and the beverage portion of the check has to top out at two figures: It would only take one bottle of vintage Montrachet to sink this entire operation.

Of course, it’s out of your hands whether negotiations go as I’d like, so even if I end up using thefoodsection.com forevermore, I’ll give you a free year of The Food Section just for connecting me with Friedland.

My email is readthefoodsection@gmail.com, because I don’t own thefoodsection.com. Let’s see if we can fix that.

1

The James Beard Foundation stopped handing out awards for humor in 2019. Nothing is funny anymore.

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  1. Avatar photoCaroline Saunders says

    What a glorious use of the footnote. Wish I could help one of my very fave publications. Fingers crossed somebody on Substack will know Josh Friedland and come through!

  2. Avatar photoHanna Raskin says

    Unfortunately, this isn’t a reporting problem, as readers with LinkedIn accounts have found out in 30 seconds—it’s a responsiveness issue. Thanks!

  3. Avatar photoPaul Brustowicz says

    Where’s Waldo comes to The Food Section. Maybe he’s playing hard to get and he wants that dinner invitation?

  4. Avatar photoRichard Moore says

    Have you tried http://www.whois.com. Then lookup whatever domain name you are interested in. It tells you all kinds of info. Registration dates etc. Looks like this one has a lot of restricted by owner. Also tells you what is available. Like foodsection.net

    • Avatar photoHanna Raskin says

      Thanks, Richard, but as the post says, this is a problem of responsiveness, not reporting: I know both the address I’m seeking and to whom it belongs. Appreciate it!

      • Avatar photoRichard Moore says

        If you haven’t already, you might want to look the name up at GoDaddy.com, it seems to indicate that there is an owner who might want to sell? Or maybe just someone you can pay to tell you its not available?? I don’t usually trust these kind of things. But its free to look.
        GoDaddy says “When you purchase our Domain Broker Service, you get a dedicated broker who will contact the current domain owner and negotiate a sale price on your behalf. If the seller agrees to sell the domain, you pay the negotiated sale price plus a 20% commission, and we will securely transfer the domain to you.” Its very possible Freidland isn’t the current owner. I’ve run into this with other domain names, that expire and get bought up by domain brokers. You’d think if that were the case he would have responded to you, but has he done anything since COVID?

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