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What's in a name change?
by Linda Ruth

 

If it ain't broke, don't fix it. This old rule, as it applies to life, also applies to publishing, and more specifically your publication cover. But there are often good reasons to make a change; here they are:

You've changed, but your name has not. If you walk like a duck and quack like a duck, but are calling yourself a pig, the life of your publication is likely to be (as Hobbes said of life itself) "nasty, brutish, and short." Change the name

 

Your market has changed and you need to change with it. Loss of market share could be an indication that you need to catch up with the times.

 

No one understands what your name means. A few lucky publishers, like The Utne Reader, get away with it; the majority do not. If you're in the latter group, a name change may be in order

 

Case study

 

As an example of what a publisher can do right when it comes to a name change, let's look at PC Games, which used to be PC Entertainment.

 

Perhaps the single most important thing the PC Games' publisher did was to test the name change first. It was already clear in-house that PC Entertainment was ready for a change; testing proved that its readers were ready too.

 

The title now has greater clarity. "PC Games" is more specific than "PC Entertainment"; the name more accurately represents what's in the publication. the more newsstand browsers understand what is in

the publication, the more likely they are to buy the publication.

 

The addition of a new tag line beneath the logo -- The Complete Guide to Computer Gaming -- was also smart. The old tag (Computer Games - Multimedia - CD-Rom - Online) was limiting, and was incorrectly placed. The space above the logo is much better used to identify the unique features of that individual issue, for example, to let readers know that this month they'll get info on The Game of the Month or Win 95 Games.

 

One last thought about tag lines: although the tag seems to repeat what the logo says, don't let that stop you. It never hurts to clarify.

 

Clearly, the testing process allowed the publisher to correctly determine what needed changing, but it also allowed her to understand that there were certain elements of the cover that needed to remain the same.

 

By maintaining a similar logo and keeping many of the cover design elements (and their placement) constant, readers are still able to recognize "their" magazine. This well-conceived decision surely headed off significant reader confusion and a flood of cancelled subscriptions.

 

The decision to preserve a reference to the number of reviews in each issue was also a correct one. Letting readers know that they can expect "18 Reviews!" or "14 Mac Reviews" or "52 More Reviews" is a terrific selling point.

 

There are, of course, no guarantees that this new title and cover format are the be-all-end-all. You must continue to test, update, study, and tweak. my best advice is not to tinker just for the sake of tinkering. Make sure you learn something from it.

 

In conclusion

The whole idea is to preserve what is good, change what is not, and construct enough continuity to maintain the audience you do have while attracting readers you previously did not.

 

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