Choosing a name for a magazine is more difficult than choosing the name for a new baby. Baby names are reusable, i.e. they are not subject to copyright or trademark laws(even if you do want to name your baby North West); there are dozens of baby name reference books with suggestions. The name is not the baby: it just becomes a small part of their identity.
A magazine’s name, however, has to say everything about it from the get-go. The name can mean the difference between success and failure.
The title needs to say everything about your mission and content in less than five syllables. No pressure!
Generic versus Evocative
A lot of older magazines have generic names: Time, People, Parents, Home, Success, Money. A generic name gives an instant indication of what is inside. However, there are things to take into consideration when thinking generic for your online magazine.
There is a shortage of words. The domain name, and its variations, for your generic name idea are probably gone and, let’s face it, generic can be quite boring and limiting. Will you still want to be writing about this topic in five years’ time? Could it become dated? For instance, Good Housekeeping, Lady, CD.
An evocative name doesn’t say what is inside but instead it will rely on its quirkiness or brand development to make it a catchy or a household name. It takes a lot of money to turn a brand into a household name but you can make your online magazine internet famous by being clever and dedicated! Evocative names such as Wallpaper or The Source induce the imagery of attitude and style, not because of their name, but because of their brand development.
So whether you want a generic or evocative name for your online magazine here are my top five tips for getting it right:
1. Use 1–4 Syllables
Most magazines end up as two or four syllables.
Think about it, the word ‘magazine’ is usually slapped onto the end of one-syllable titles turning them into four syllables.
Time is usually referred to in conversation as ‘Time Magazine’. ‘Q Magazine.’ ‘O Magazine’, etc. It just makes it trip off the tongue easier. One of the few that gets away with this is Vogue.
Two to three syllables also work well: Time Out, Newsweek, Hello, Okay, but again two syllable titles are usually referred to with ‘magazine’ adjoined.
However, while they are referred to in conversations like this, the word ‘magazine’ is not included in their masthead and that is what you have to think about. The title of your magazine should fit in the corner or fit neatly across the top of your front cover. So four syllables is usually the maximum that can do this effectively. The exception would be Cosmopolitan, but that is an established brand and started in a much less crowded market place so its masthead is instantly recognisable. It is now usually referred to as ‘Cosmo’! So avoid anything with five or more syllables.
2. The New Acceptables
Misspellings are becoming acceptable now in the online world, such as on Flickr and Digg, as are abbreviations; OMG, YOLO, LOL, and compound words such as Facebook and YouTube. Acceptance of compound words has also been generated from the everyday use of domain names which are a series of compound words. So play with new acceptables for your magazine title.
3. Explore Other Languages
As your magazine is online your audience is instantly international.
Should you decide on a single word title, check the meaning of it in other languages: it may be rude or insulting or unintentionally turn you into a comedy show!
It’s worth exploring words in other languages as a possible name, as they can be melodious and catchy and could make potentially great titles.
4. Design In Mind
Sometimes a name can be dictated by a design you have in mind for the masthead, such as contrasts between consonants and vowels: LaLa, BeBo, GaGa, BoHo, HoHo!
Brainstorm a long list of keywords then use a thesaurus for synonyms for more options.
To Do: Try out this online tool may also help you find a name with an available domain: http://www.namestall.com/magazine-name-ideas
PS. If you want to create your own online magazine fast, check out my Zero to Virtual Shelf Magazine Creation Program.