Great moments in marketing

Great moments in marketing: The Washington Post reports on AOL’s upcoming blogging software & service.

Quote:

AOL has dubbed its service “AOL Journals” because its surveys showed that members found the word “blogs” confusing, said Rick Robinson, AOL’s vice president for community products.

So, let’s get this right. Under a headline that says AOL is releasing blogging software, there’s a quote from an AOL executive saying, in effect, that AOL users will understand what a “Journal” is but not what a “weblog” is.

Sorry AOL, the train has left the station on this one. If it quacks like a blog and walks like a blog, then it’s a rose that smells the same as any other metaphor.

The category is already named. The “space” is already labeled. Save yourself some re-branding expense later and call it a “weblog” service. If you don’t, your “members” will be even more confused. I could go on, but I don’t want to be too helpful to people who believe surveys can defy the laws of common sense. (via Doc Searls)

  • lcreekmo

    Ahem.

    The numbers on PC ownership and high-speed Internet connections have skyrocketed in recent years. But blogging remains a fringe activity. Yes, I’ll defend the use of the word “fringe.”

    And if AOL wants to rename blogging “journaling” because it thinks it’s more user-friendly, I’ll bet they’ll be successful at it.

    You and Doc Searls may continue to blog away and say that you know what defines the medium, but I speculate that when the masses begin to journal, it will be they who’ll decide what it’s called and how it’s done. And what its usefulness will be.

  • Rex Hammock

    Laura. I’m heart-broken.

    But, I still disagree.

    AOL will not create a category called “journaling” with a blogging platform. They can create a wonderful blogging software called AOL Journal and use the “journaling” word to describe what you are doing, but Google owns a product with the brand Blogger and I believe that when they role that out for THE MASSES. the Google owned category name will trump the AOL category name.

    I don’t have time here, but I can demostrate many examples where terms like “e-mail” and “browser” and “IM” and even the URL were viewed by AOL and Microsoft as “confusing” to their customers and they attempted to replace the term with their term or concept.

    Blogging is out of the barn, pulled away from the train station and has the wind at its back and, well, I can’t think of another one right now.

  • lcreekmo

    I’ll go with you this far: Google may in fact, have greater customer loyalty and definitely has a superior overall product to AOL.

    But AOL still has the delivery system to the masses.

    It will be interesting to see who wins.

    The reason I think “journaling” has a significant chance of winning is that it follows the first, most important rule of naming things — make it familiar and easy to understand. If you’re going to create a section on your website for shopping, you should call it “Shop,” not “Indulge” or “Procure” or “Treats.”

    P.S. Isn’t IM a term of AOL origin? Or did they buy it from someone else? I thought Instant Messenger was the AOL Kleenex of messenging…to everyone else’s tissue, if you follow.

  • Hudge

    >I don’t have time here, but I can demostrate many examples where terms like “e-mail” and “browser” and “IM” and even the URL were viewed by AOL and Microsoft as “confusing” to their customers and they attempted to replace the term with their term or concept.<

    Microsoft seemed to think Internet was confusing to its customers for a while, and maybe it was to Bill Gates. But they figured it out, and there went that tissue. AOL seemed to do its best to convince people that Internet was something they didn’t want – or need – to have access to as long as they had AOL (early on, ask people if they had the Internet and they’d look a bit scandalized and sniff, “I have AOL.”)

    I think Rex is right on this one, just as “previously owned vehicles” are still used cars, despite the window dressing.

  • Rex Hammock

    I will be happy to go on record declaring that there’s no way the word “journaling” will replace the word “blogging” to describe what one does when one uses a weblog-type platform to post online multiple messages in a reverse chronological fashion.

  • Lewis Pennock

    just another example: notice the use of the phrase “web diaries” to mean “weblogs” here.

  • Lewis Pennock

    oh, and also, laura is wrong.

  • Rex Hammock

    What? An AP “tech writer” uses the phrase “web diaries” for weblog? Doesn’t he know that the proper term is web journal?

  • Rex Hammock

    It’s a little off topic, but I just saw on Boing-Boing (or, the RSS feed thereof) where a law has passed in Portugal requiring lawmakers there to keep a website or WEBLOG. The word “weblog” is actually in the law, according to the post. So, bottom line, the world weblog may be confusing to English-speaking AOL users, but lawmakers in Portugal seem to understand the word well enough to incorporate the English term into a the legal code.

  • lcreekmo

    A. The AP writer using the term [that he/she must have made up] “web diaries” is just bizarre and a sign of the end of the AP.

    B. People mandating the use of a weblog is, as you should have already pointed out Rex, a sign of the end of blogging.

  • Rex Hammock

    No one is “mandating” the use of the word weblog, just the opposite: “weblog” “blog” and “blogging” are not mandated terms or terms created by brand marketers. They arose organically, in clue trainish fashion. “AOL Journals” is a mandated (and manufactured) term that could have worked beautifully if the company had introduced it three years ago. AOL Journals will be a perfectly wonderful brand for a specific product. I have no doubt that AOL Journals will be a success. But my prediction merely is that those “confused” AOL customers will use the term “weblog” or “blog” or “blogging” more often to describe what they are producing on that product than the term “journal” or “journaling.”

  • Hudge

    >A. The AP writer using the term [that he/she must have made up] “web diaries” is just bizarre and a sign of the end of the AP.

    Inaccurately or not, “diary” has been used as a rough analogy for blog, so I don’t think he made it up. Here’s my suggested scenario: The AP writer was explaining to an overworked, harassed editor who had no idea what a blog was that it was a kind of diary. And the editor thinks “I don’t know, therefore hardly anyone reading this knows what a blog is, but everyone knows what a diary is,” so plops it in there rather than lengthen the story with a graf trying to explain something extraneous to the story.