The New York Times
has uncovered a memo
from MSNBC management, which argues that perhaps the firm's website, MSNBC.com, should have a different name from the cable channel. The Times
reports that the MSNBC cable network is now considered liberal programming, while the website markets itself as objective.
MSNBC has two parents -- Microsoft (MSFT
), which owned the MSN portal, and NBC Universal, which owns NBC News.
The decision would be a simple one, if not for the value of brands. MSNBC.com has been an online destination for 14 years, since Microsoft and NBCU formed it as part of their joint venture. One new name under consideration is NBCNews.com. But network news shows generally appeal to an older demographic, and the NBC name may not play with Web users who tend to be younger.
It may be that Fox News and CNN face similar problems with their Web properties. Any change in the MSNBC.com name could be an opportunity for its competitors to use the confusion over a changed brand, however brief, to seek an audience advantage.
Now that TV news is considered more commentary than actual news by many viewers, the issue of website content identity is more acute. But a brand built over a 14-year period is hard, and risky, to abandon.