MSNBC.com Changing Name?

MSNBC.com is contemplating a name change to distinguish their brand from that of a left-leaning cable news channel.

Stories about MSNBC changing its name have been circulating for years.  It makes sense, really since Microsoft pulled out of the cable news operation a long time ago.   Now, though, there’s another issue:

NBC Universal and Microsoft, the parents of MSNBC.com, are holding high-level talks about a name change, something that could be a risky endeavor for the third most popular news Web site in the United States.

The two parents have determined that the brand of MSNBC.com, a strictly objective news Web site, is widely confused with MSNBC, the cable channel that has taken a strongly liberal bent in recent years, according to internal memorandums obtained by The New York Times this week.

Charlie Tillinghast, MSNBC.com’s president, wrote in a memo last March, “Both strategies are fine, but naming them the same thing is brand insanity.” The channel and Web site are already separate companies.

Despite following these things much more closely than most people, I had no idea that they were separate companies.   Distinguishing a hard news site from a polemnical cable channel makes some sense.   But there are major hurdles.

One of the new names under consideration is NBCNews.com, according to the memos and interviews. The companies are testing entirely new names, as well. The question seems to be: should the parents go with a trusted and recognized name like NBCNews.com or try to build a fresh new brand?

To me, NBC News is a much more powerful brand than MSNBC.  But that’s because of what NBC was when I was growing up, not what it is now — much less what it’ll likely be a decade from now.

Giving up a Web address as popular as MSNBC.com is highly unusual; it is akin to a business closing a bustling storefront and posting a sign that asks customers to visit its new location. For a Web site, at least, the new location is only a click away; nonetheless, MSNBC.com may risk sacrificing years of built-up brand loyalty by coining a new name for the news site.

Although it’s not exactly the same thing. Microsoft still own the domain name and has rights to it through 20 June 2015.  They can renew for a decade for $150 or so.   All they have to do is redirect the URL.

FILED UNDER: Economics and Business, Media
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. mpw280 says:

    ATLTV and ATLTV.com Always Turning Left TV mpw

  2. RM says:

    MSNBC cable channel = Chris “tingle up my leg” Matthews. Why would a news outlet want to be associated with such a partisan, non-objective,name?