The Washington Post

Huffington Post, New York Times disarm on parenting

Arianna’s trademark flip-flop. (Photographer: Brendan Smialowski/Bloomberg) (Brendan Smialowski/BLOOMBERG)

The dispute emerged after the Huffington Post hired away “Motherlode” writer Lisa Belkin from the Times. When the Times first challenged the “Parentlode” moniker for Belkin’s HuffPo incarnation, HuffPo showed its pugnacious side. In remarks to New York Magazine, Arianna Huffington vowed, “We’re sticking with the name. I’m not changing it.”

Then, a month later, HuffPo’s institutional take on the name moved a bit. Belkin penned an item saying the site was bagging the name and launching a readers’ contest to come up with a new one. And the name for which HuffPo had been committed to fighting for was all of a sudden unworthy. “Still, we had a choice to make. We could keep fighting the suit, over a name that, frankly, we never really loved.”

A couple of lessons here:

1) Keep Arianna Huffington away from the press, or at least from the press and legal matters.

2) Bag all clever blog titles. They just don’t work anymore. The Internet has ended cleverness. It has made originality in punning almost impossible to achieve — every time you think you may have something special, do the search: It’s been done before, by someone who was smarter and faster than you. Even if you do find something original, how up is the upside? Are web readers — who are bombarded all the time with attempts at punnage — really going to be impressed with what you come up with for your next blog title?

The “Parentlode” situation spells out the perils. Here HuffPo tried to keep Belkin’s brand intact by riffing off of her old platform. The adaptation — “Parentlode” — was clunky and indistinct, raising questions about just who signed off on the coinage in the first place. The notion of putting matters to the people is an inspired choice, though a tour of the HuffPo SEO factory floor scarcely counts as an inducement. Maybe some HuffPo follower will come up with something special. But the gauntlet remains in place — will the new name make it through a trademark search?

Erik Wemple writes the Erik Wemple blog, where he reports and opines on media organizations of all sorts.


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