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People review site Unvarnished gets another controversial review

April 6, 2010 | 12:32 pm

Imagine Travis F. Smith’s surprise Monday when traffic to his blog at spiked 15,000%.

Smith, 37, a Web developer from Vancouver, Canada, (and at one time the deputy editorial director of the Los Angeles Times website), soon realized why. 

Unvarnished A controversial new company that had taken the name Unvarnished but did not own the domain had launched, driving traffic to Smith's site at, which he has owned for nine years.

Smith quickly put up a new welcome page: 

You might be looking for a site called "Unvarnished" which isn't at this domain. Odd, I know.

If you're looking for that site, it's at

Here, I run a blog called "Unvarnished". You can read it. It likes being read.

If you do head over to that other site, ask them why they named their site after a domain they didn't own and then got publicity from the Wall Street Journal, the Today Show, Entertainment Weekly.

In an interview, Smith said he normally gets 600 page views a day. On Monday he netted 77,000. For a while on Monday, the search term “Unvarnished,” was the second most popular on Google as people tried to check out the site that markets itself as a Yelp for reviewing people, Smith noted. 

“I have gotten a ton of comments from people who have ended up reading my blog,” Smith said. “It’s definitely a silver lining. But I don’t know if I would have gone about getting more readers this way.”

People who accidentally landed on his blog were treated to a humorous post.

To celebrate, I will be reviewing everyone on the Internet, starting today. Please leave your name if you’d like me to review you. I may not get to you right away, but unlike that other site, I do promise to say nice things about you. As long as you are, you know, nice or cute or both.

Unvarnished founder Peter Kazanjy said he chose the name because it reflects what his site is trying to achieve: deliver the unvarnished truth. He said he was confident search engines would deliver traffic to the right place.

A person familiar with the situation said Unvarnished made an offer for the domain but Smith turned it down.

Will Kazanjy try again?

“I think it certainly would be a nice thing to have, but right now with the amount of attention and crushing traffic we are getting as a result of the media coverage, it’s a lower priority,” he said.

-- Jessica Guynn