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Wanted: One domain, barely used
The Food Section issues a bounty for its own good name
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 readthefoodsection.com forevermore, I’ll give you a free year of The Food Section just for connecting me with Friedland.
My email is email@example.com, because I don’t own thefoodsection.com. Let’s see if we can fix that.
The James Beard Foundation stopped handing out awards for humor in 2019. Nothing is funny anymore.