In this week’s episode of Girls, the show’s star, Hannah, an aspiring writer, is commissioned to write a few articles for a made-up New York website called JazzHate. After the editor suggests, “you could have a threesome with some people you meet on Craigslist. Or do a whole bunch of coke and then just write about it,” Hannah decides to “expose all of [her] vulnerabilities to the entire Internet” and the episode centers around her attempts to do so.
JazzHate.com is fictional, of course — and if you plug the URL into your browser, you won’t find anything. But HBO does own the domain. According to public online domain records, HBO first registered the site on May 29, 2012, to Donna Stalworth, HBO’s VP of Internet Technologies.
Last year, HBO also registered a Twitter account for Hannah, and Lena Dunham, who portrays her, said the team planned to tweet from it. But they never did. People are now calling the blank JazzHate.com another missed opportunity. Stalworth didn’t reply to an email about whether HBO plans to do anything with the site.
Though there’s no JazzHate on which to read articles, the site xoJane has self-identified as the likely basis for the show’s parody. They have a headline today that reads: “UM, DID XOJANE GET PARODIED ON ‘GIRLS’ LAST NIGHT? BECAUSE THAT’S FREAKING AWESOME.”
Perhaps their offices can be a stop on the forthcoming Girls bus tour.
UPDATE: Readers have pointed out that networks almost always buy a fake domain name if it is mentioned on a show. The issue received attention when Conan O’Brien invented a site called www.hornymanatee.com, prompting NBC to buy the domain. The New York Times explained in 2006: “If a viewer were somehow to acquire the license to use that Internet domain name, then put something inappropriate on the site, the network could potentially be held liable for appearing to promote it.”
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I think it is good that HBO hasn’t acted through these mediums yet. Girls is doing wonderfully on its own. These extra marketing tactics should be saved. These character accounts and websites should be saved for later on if the buzz dies down. Interaction with the audience can be capitalized on in order to keep the strong audience, but right now Girls could not be more of a success. I read Lena Dunham’s Twitter and that suffices.
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HBO buying the domain is actually a pretty standard move - a pre-emptive action to keep someone else from buying it and using it for something else (or worse, for something related to the show). While yes, using the domain would definitely be a neat marketing tie-in, HBO doesn’t necessarily need to use it; in fact, it would probably be too time-comsuming and labor-intensive to truly make it what it’s suggested to be on “Girls.” Which may be why the Twitter thing fell flat too.
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