Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Inviting confusion

I recall a rundown motel, reportedly favored by prostitutes, that called itself Holiday Inc. It seems unlikely that any travelers ever thought they were staying at a Holiday Inn, but the motel's name still never seemed quite kosher. Reputable businesses usually select distinct business names and product names that will stand apart from the competition, not lead to possible confusion.

And this brings me to the two major newspapers in the Tampa Bay region of Florida. For years,  the Tampa Tribune and the St. Petersburg Times struggled for dominance, with the Times winning that struggle year after year. Then a year ago, in an apparent attempt to seal the deal, the Times became the Tampa Bay Times. It said it wanted to make it clear that it served, not just St. Petersburg, but the entire Bay area, but as I complained at the time in my previous blog, the change, rather than making anything clear, invited confusion with the Tampa Tribune.

Now the Tribune has struck back. A few days ago it launched an edition distributed on the other side of the Bay called the St. Petersburg Tribune. So now if you want the St. Petersburg paper, you have to look for the one that says Tampa at the top, and if you want the Tampa paper, you have to seek out the one that says St. Petersburg at the top.

This is an area with a great many winter visitors, so I can imagine that a lot of people are buying newspapers without knowing which one they are actually buying.

Holiday Inc. was an amusing name for a motel, but I doubt it ever actually fooled anybody. Fooling people, however, seems to be the whole point of the Tampa Bay Times and the St. Petersburg Tribune.

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