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November 08, 2005

Blog Indentity-Change

Donald Pittenger writes:

Dear Blowhards --

Many names of blogs strike me as pretty strange, but we can save that as a topic for a future posting.

The subject for today is the matter of changing the name of a blog and (maybe) changing its Internet address (URL).

What inspired this was a post a few days ago on Donald Sensing's blog "One Hand Clapping" in which he announced that he wants to change both the blog name and the URL and invited comments (worth reading). Just in case he goes through with his scheme and the link goes bad, allow me to tell you something about Sensing and summarize the post.

Donald Sensing is a retired Army Artillery Lt. Colonel who now is an ordained Methodist minister living near Nashville. His oldest son enlisted in the Marines following high school and is stationed in Iraq. The blog deals with matters military, political and philosophical for the most part; once a week Sensing usually posts the text of his Sunday sermon.

The peg used in the posting is the 1980s automobile brand name-change from Datsun to Nissan. Nissan was the name of the company and the cars it sold in Japan and elsewhere, but its cars were marketed in the U.S. under the Datsun label; management thought it best to tidy the matter up by dropping the Datsun name. Sensing notes that only recently have sales returned to pre-name-change levels, implying that the effects were horrific. Some commenters suggested that there was more at play than re-branding -- product mix, styling, engineering features and so forth have been known to affect car sales.

My opinion is that the new name probably did affect sales for the first two or three years or so, but not much longer than that. Datsun was a well-established name associated with iconic products such as the 240Z sports car, and it was hard to stop thinking it. Furthermore, I found "Nissan" harder to roll off my tongue than "Datsun"; actually, I still find "Nissan" hard to spit out and tend to refer to their cars by model names, such as Altima or Murano.

After using the Datsun/Nissan example as a downside for name-changes, he goes on to say

This story matters to me not because I hold stock on Nissan (I donít) but because I have been considering changing the name of my blog. I named it One Hand Clapping ... but I am not sure itís a good name for what I want to do in the future.

I have already reserved another domain name that does three things neither the OHC moniker nor the present domain name,, do. One, it more accurately describes what kind of web site it is than either my present domain name or site name. Second, it makes the domain name and the site name the same name. Third, it is friendly to team blogging, which I think is the wave of the future of blogging. Joe Katzman, the ringmaster at Winds of Change , was a real pioneer in team blogging. I am proud to say that I am a member of the WOC team and post there from time to time.

But the potential "loss of customer base" from changing both the site name and the domain name is not something I relish. Any ideas?

Before going further, let me make it clear that the present posting is not a stalking horse for a name-change at 2Blowhards. I like our name: It's unusual (essentially the use of a number as the first character, which makes for interesting alphabetized placement on blogrolls elsewhere), it's descriptive (we do foam at the keyboard from time to time), it indicates that this is a group blog (and a pretty early one at that), and it's simply fun. The only potential weakness is that the name isn't as descriptive as it used to be: note the five names on the masthead on the panel to the left -- but that's not a huge deal in my opinion. In any case, Michael is Da Man in these parts, and any changes are up to him.

Sensing's post raises an interesting set of issues. Sometimes readers tend to think of the blog name and not the writer's name (Instapundit rather than Glenn Reynolds), though I normally think of the name of the writer instead of the blog name (Jeff Goldstein, not Protein Wisdom). Group blogs are another matter: it's easier to think of the blog name than a list of writer names. An exception is About Last Night, technically a group blog, but I always think of it as Terry Teachout's blog. Besides, one means of accessing it is the URL

The alignment of blog name and URL poses another problem for casual users who, like me, don't bother bookmarking. Potentially the name of the writer, the blog and the URL can be three different things, which can make the URL hard to remember. (By the way, I tend to use Instapundit's blogroll as the basis for reaching other blogs directly or indirectly.)

Changing a blog's identity probably becomes hazardous in proportion to its popularity. Sensing's blog has been pretty popular, its site meter is currently approaching three million hits. This suggests that he is on a lot of blogrolls whose links would have to be updated if his URL changed.

I could continue, but I know that 2Blowhards readers are blog-savvy and seldom lack opinions. Furthermore, many of you are bloggers too. What do you think about the sorts of massive changes Sensing is pondering? What would you do?



posted by Donald at November 8, 2005


It's easy to redirect both HTML and RSS URLs to a new address. So long as you've got the redirection in place beforehand, and that all goes smoothly, you shouldn't have any difficulty changing your name and URL. I'm someone who started using Yahoo when it was at, and who started using the IMDB when it was at I'm very happy they changed their URLs to something more memorable.

Posted by: Felix on November 8, 2005 7:18 PM

I have had several blog friends who changed their blog name and/or their URL. It was no big deal, although it did feel strange the first time or two I visited. We are creatures of habit.

I think more at stake in regards to readership retention is whether content and attitude also reflect a change. If I clicked onto 2blowhards and it had become a "how-to" site on philosophical car repair, I doubt I would be returning very often.

On second thought, "Tuning Your Engine With Zen", might just catch my eye...

Posted by: Cowtown Pattie on November 8, 2005 7:50 PM

I can give you a practical reason to change a blog name. Living in China, I cannot get any blog that has "blog" in its address. For example, Blogspot is unavailable to me.

Posted by: Andis Kaulins on November 8, 2005 8:49 PM

As Felix notes, it's very easy to set up redirects to new URLs and so on.

Just as an example of one simple and seamless URL change: Jeff Goldstein's blog, Protein Wisdom ( used to be at I didn't even notice the change until a few days ago when I was looking through some old bookmarks.

A blog name-change probably won't lose you any regular readers you've already got, either. Just make clear your site hasn't been hacked and taken over. It's new to everyone else, who hasn't been reading your blog pre-rebranding... Which is actually good as far as exposure goes.

Posted by: . on November 9, 2005 3:01 AM

If the content stays strong, the writing stays lively, the core of readers stays the same (maintaining a high level of quality commenting), sufficient warning is given of the name change, and no coattails are being (excessively) ridden on, I think a name change is a good thing for the sensible reasons Sensing spoke of.

However, if any of these items are lacking, I'd think the blog would disappear and justifiably so.

I was thinking of changing my blog's name to "This blog's so popular that no one reads it anymore", but I think Yogi would be on me fairly quickly. Besides, popularity means populace and populace is not where the interesting blogs are aiming for.

Posted by: DarkoV on November 9, 2005 7:32 AM

Don't fix what isn't broken.

OTOH, if you really want to stir things up, why stop at a mere name change? Why not arrange to exchange names with other blogs, perhaps on a rotating basis. For example, this week 2Blowhards could swap names with Juan Cole. Then next week with one of those blogs where everyone posts pictures of his cat. And so forth. Blog swapping! It's such a fresh and innovative concept, the readers would surely love it.

Posted by: Jonathan on November 9, 2005 7:39 AM

By the way, I haven't seen either Francis Morrone or Fenster posting here recently. I have been pleased to see Friedrich (from what I can see), making more appearances. And where did Vanessa go?

Posted by: . on November 9, 2005 7:45 AM

Felix and "." -- Nice to know. Seems it wasn't long ago that blogrolls had dead links or else you had to reach your target via a redirect page. Both were/are annoying.

Pattie -- I don't know about that Zen thing. Maybe if you switch it from "Zen" to "Yoga" Michael might buy it.

Andis -- And I shudder to think what might happen if the UN actually takes over the Blogosphere.

Darko -- Hmm. So maybe the best stragegy might be to slowly change the content and then do the name-change.

Jonathan -- "Heh."

"." -- Michael just had a slight home page remake done and Francis and Fenster are still on the Masthead so their return is possible. Vanessa's name has been off for some time which means she's not very likely to reappear.

Note that the home page has neither tip-jar nor advertising. 2Blowhards writers are in this for the fun of writing and kicking ideas around -- not for money or glory. Francis and Fenster apparently have commitments that have precluded blogging for a while. Michael might let all of us know when things change or else they simply might reappear as Friedrich has.

Posted by: Donald Pittenger on November 9, 2005 9:19 PM

As an aside, they sold cars in Australia under the Datsun name as well (with the first syllable rhyming with hat rather than the US pronunciation). I suspect they might have sold under the same name in the UK, but don't know.

Posted by: Richard Sharpe on November 11, 2005 5:52 PM

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