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Naming a newsletter

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Hello newsletter authors,
this is Mark from Revue with the latest edition of The Week in Newsletters 💌.
How do you like that name? It wasn’t easy to come up with a good name when I started this newsletter. And since several readers have asked questions (keep those coming, please) about naming recently, I wanted to share my thoughts on how to come up with a great name for a newsletter 🏷️.
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Newsletter naming
When looking into newsletter naming, I was surprised how little information is available on that topic.
After all, there is a whole industry built around product naming and branding, with agencies running focus groups on how well certain names promote brand values or align with corporate identity.
But not so much for newsletters. Actually, quite a few people I spoke to felt that the name was not that important.
The thinking is that the newsletter inadvertently will be identified by several elements besides its name. There’s the author, who will be shown prominently in the from field of the inbox. Next to the even more prominent subject line, which in most cases is different from the product name and changes for every issue.
Newsletter names can also be changed easily. In fact, this newsletter started out as “Last Week in Newsletters”. That sounded a bit outdated and I changed it to “The Week in Newsletters”.
It was easy for me to change the name, but even much bigger newsletters can do so quite easily easily. The NY Times just did it with their flagship Morning Briefing newsletter (yes, the one with 17 million subscribers), which is now simply called “The Morning”.
The name changed as part of an entire revamp of the newsletter alongside a new big name author and many design tweaks. And while there were many discussions about the list size, the new author and the overall success story, the name change actually went mostly unnoticed as far as I could tell.
But even when newsletter names are less visible than product names and can be changed with relative ease, newsletters editors should think about them carefully and observe a few important rules.
So here’s a a simple but effective 3 step process to come up with the right newsletter name:
1. Brainstorm potential newsletter names: You want to cast a broad net here. Involve as many people as possible and encourage them to submit any ideas, even the silly ones. Really good names are often hard to find and you never know who comes up with the one genius idea and what inspired it.
Rebecca Zamon shared a great story of finding a really cute name for a newsletter for parents launched by HuffPost Canada. The team recruited lots of brains, gave them the basic parameters of the newsletter like topic, frequency and audience and asked them to submit all ideas into a shared Google doc.
It worked very well for them and I really love the name and branding that came out of it and am sure most parents can relate.
2. Check the names for legal issues and make a short-list with stakeholders: In this step you’ll want to make sure that your future name does not break any written or unwritten rules such as potential trademark issues or names that might be offensive to people.
There are also a few rules to keep in mind:
  • Do not include the author’s name in the newsletter name. The author should figure prominently in the newsletter content to make it personal, but not in the name.
  • Look for consistency of names across your newsletter portfolio. Axios has done a nice job here with Axios AM, Axios PM, Axios Sneak Peek, Axios World, Axios China, Axios Pro Rata, Axios Markets, etc. This will help in cross-promoting newsletters and building reader loyalty.
  • Stay away from unconventional spelling. The newsletter name is competing for attention with the author’s name and subject lines, and should not add confusion.
3. Survey the audience: The last step should be to let the audience decide which of the names on the shortlist is best.
The survey can be short and sweet, or just a few ad hoc emails and phone calls if the audience is small. But it’s important to get feedback from the actual audience because editors, audience managers and other experts are often biased and their personal preference can be misaligned with the majority of the audience.
So what do you think? Should I stick to “The Week in Newsletters”? Or come up with better ideas? And what about your own newsletter? Are you still happy with its name? Or thinking about changing it? Would love to hear from you. Just hit reply and send me your ideas ↩️.
The week in newsletters
Not ready to change the name of your newsletter? Here’s the other newsletter news of the week 🗓️.
Interview with author Sarah Ebner
Agressive opt-in tactics at NY Times
Animated GIFs to Facebook
Stratechery podcast bundle
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