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Picking a name for your newsletter.

"What's in a name? that which we call a rose / By any other name would smell as sweet," Juliet asks Romeo.

The question "What's in a name?" also arises in selecting a title for your newsletter. Are there secrets to name selection which work favorably for newsletter publishers and marketers?

Maybe not secrets, but here are a few of my reflections on newsletter titles.

1. The name should say it. Tip-of-the-hat to longtime NL/NL publisher Howard Penn Hudson who strongly believed that the name of the newsletter should tell the casual observer what the publication is about.

And, of course, what better example than The Newsletter on Newsletters? This is no doubt the most common form; titles from Beer Marketers Insights to Funeral Service Insider abound and pretty well clue in the reader to the subject.

(And a nod to Howard's wife, Mary, who suggested, when the newsletter association was founded, to make the word "Newsletter" the first one in the name, "So people can find you in directories," she said. The association has had four names, so far, and each has begun with "Newsletter," not "National Association of Newsletter Publishers.")

Apparently, though, this wisdom isn't self-evident to all. Magazines are expensively launched with titles like Jane, George, and Marie Claire.

On that note, Howard Hudson also inveighed against newsletter titles like Hotline and Impact (which at one point Howard counted 20 being published). "Impact on what, or for whom?" he wrote.

2. Who said eponymous? Larry Ragan of The Ragan Report once observed, "If your goal is to establish a newsletter publishing empire, it probably isn't a good idea to name the first one after yourself and write it in your own inimitable style. I always had the feeling that while I was answering letters to the editor, Tom Phillips was busy launching or acquiring another newsletter."

Ken Kovaly took an opposite tack. He called both his company and his flagship newsletter Technical Insights. "My name wasn't a household word in the industry and, I figured, if I ever wanted to sell the newsletter, that name would be more marketable than The Kovaly Report."

It is possible, of course, to combine both one's name and one's subject matter, as in Andrew Harper's Hideaway Report or Fred Goss' What's Working in Direct Marketing (while admitting that evidently we somewhat overestimated my "fame" in the general field of direct marketing).

Best in class? During the years it was the hotest "alternative lifestyle/investment newsletter around, Howard Ruff's The Ruff Times struck a chord.

3. The report on "Report." George Spencer, who has been in the business for nearly 40 years, claims that he had test data to prove that "Report" was not a good title for a newsletter--that Widget Industry Report or Report on Widget Marketing could be beaten by another title.

Believe that? George's staff evidently did. Tod Sedgwick, Frank Joseph, Bruce Levinson, Ed Peskowitz all got their start in the business at George's Observer Publishing. Between them they must have published hundreds of titles over the years, and I've yet to see a single one of them called the Report on anything.

On the other hand, my first newsletter experience came as a part-time reporter for Economic Opportunity Report 37 years ago this month. And not only is EOR, now published by Business Publishers Inc., currently in its 40th year, but it joins 11 other BPI titles with ABC Report or Report on XYZ as their names.

Speaking of getting started in the business, NL/NL editor Paul Swift says his first newsletter job was assistant editor of USA 200: The American Bicentennial Newsletter. He says his opinion that it was a catchy title was underscored, more than ten years later, when the Gannett Company rolled out USA Today.

4. Losers and winners. Worst in show? I still say it's The Poop Sheet. Publisher Dennis Wuycik clung to it for over 20 years ("Poop is what's happening") before changing it to ACC Sports Journal ("Easier when you are calling university offices").

Best ever? Howard Hudson wrote in Publishing Newsletters, "Perhaps my favorite name is from Business Publishers, Washington, D.C., which has a number of environmental newsletters. It is called Sludge. Now, that's impact!"

I myself have a warm spot in my heart for The TAB Report, although it breaks the rules:

* It's called "Report,"

* What the heck is "TAB"? It stands for The Adult Business. My warm spot stems from when the publisher announced his launch by sending a young lady costumed as a Victorian prostitute to the newsletter association office to give me a single rose, the first issue, and a big, wet kiss.

"Now, that's impact!" to quote Howard once again.
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Title Annotation:DM Notebook
Author:Goss, Fred
Publication:The Newsletter on Newsletters
Date:Apr 20, 2005
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