Evolution of U.S. Daily Newspaper Brand Names into Internet URLs. (Research in Brief)

Article excerpt

The vast majority of today's daily newspapers feature descriptive brand names that are traditional holdovers from the 19th Century. Many include hyphenated names of acquired competitors and merged morning and evening editions, such as The San Diego Union-Tribune and the Moberly Monitor-Index & Democrat.

In the mid- to late-1990s, newspapers faced the challenge of branding their online products. This study examined one dimension in the migration of U.S. daily newspapers to the Internet through a census and content analysis of URLs (Uniform Resource Locators).

Because branding on the Web is so difficult, Kirsner advises that "newspapers ought to leverage the power of their long-established brands." (1) Furthermore, brand names are considered somewhat synonymous with URLs. (2) However, as they evolve their brand names into Internet URLs, the resulting problems are analogous with the problem of a company that "is burdened with the surnames of long-departed founders or with a descriptive technical name that no longer fits its product line." (3)

Through an initial examination, the following typology of existing newspaper URL types was proposed:

Static Brand URL:

This URL type is essentially the same as the newspaper name. Spaces have simply been removed. Examples: lansingstatejournal.com and gadsentimes.com.

Evolved Brand URL:

This URL comprises a brand name that has evolved to become more Internet friendly with the name collapsed or shortened and "online" added. Examples: detnews.com and timesonline.com.

Location Brand URL:

This URL's principal component is a location, city, region or state, with all references to a "newspaper" dropped. Examples: mlive.com (Michigan), Ohio.com and Aloha.net (Hawaii).

New Brand URL:

This URL type abandons any reference to the original newspaper name or location, but refers to some new type of news service. Example: Newchoice.com.

Other:

This type seemed to comprise a small newspaper company's main URL or a small newspaper housed at an ISP. Examples: pioneergroup.com and cnhi.com.

With these URL types in mind, the following research questions were posed:

RQ1: In what proportions are the above URL types being used?

RQ2: What traditional newspaper name components, such as "Chronicle" or "Tribune" are being dropped or collapsed the most?

RQ3:What Internet terms, such as "online" or "live," are being used or added most frequently?

RQ4: Is there a relationship between circulation size (availability of resources) and the URL type being used?

Method

A census and content analysis of daily newspaper URLs was conducted using a 1999 directory database from Editor & Publisher. (4) The database included names, URLs, average M-F circulation. Before coding, the file was cross-referenced and merged with a listing of links (2,000) maintained by the Newspaper Association of America. (5) National, special interest and business newspapers were excluded. The resulting list comprised 1,461 papers, 1,151 of which had URLs.

Using detailed definitions and instructions, the URL type was coded by the author. Reliability of the coding process was ensured through a second individual coding a random sample of 112 (10%). A reliability index score of .962 was attained using the formula outlined by Perreault and Leigh. (6) The reliability of the coding process was judged to be high ([I.sub.r] > .90). The number of popular brand name and URL components was calculated through alphabetical sorting, as well as text string counts of the various terms.

Findings

RQ1: Newspapers with web sites (N = 1,151) comprised 79 percent of the total population of U.S. daily newspapers. The most popular URL type is the evolved brand URL (38 percent, N = 442) followed by static brand URL (32 percent, N = 366) and location brand URLs (23 percent, N = 263). …