What’s in a name?

In the beginning, there was the Outlook News Aggregator. Not a very imaginative name, but the start to something that would become much more than an Outlook add-in.

About a week later, the name NewsGator was born. I still remember that day…having lunch with a friend, brainstorming about names, and seeing which domains were immediately available. And then ponying up $10 to register the domain, the first expense I can recall that’s attributable to NewsGator. :-)

Later in the year, the questions started about “Gator”. Folks associate this with the evil spyware company now known as Claria, and we started getting questions about whether we were related to them. Of course we are NOT related to them in any way whatsoever, but nevertheless the question comes up constantly.

Last week we had a board meeting, and kicked around the idea (again) of changing our name. There are obviously both advantages and disadvantages to doing so. We’re well known in the space as NewsGator, but on the other hand there are probably sales we’re losing because people assume we’re evil. It’s a tougher decision than one might think, especially at this point in our company life cycle.

So I pose the question to you, my consistently insightful readers. Do you think we should change the company name? Why or why not?

46 thoughts on “What’s in a name?

  1. Mark Madsen

    My opinion is that you should change the name if there’s a good reason to believe that sales would be higher 6-12 months from now with a new name. If so, the temporary pain is justified.

    And as a very happy user, I’ll do my part by continuing to buy your product whatever you decide to call it.

  2. Bill Flitter

    I agree, Greg tough decision. Unfortunately, any download with the word “Gator” in it is associated with spyware in the eyes of thousands of consumers. Gator Corp, who many believe started the first spyware app, even change their name. Now I beleive they are called Claria. I’ve read several times where you had to defend yourself against being spyware because of the word Gator in your name. If I were in your marketing department, I would strongly persuade you to change it. Good luck.

  3. Seth

    No, no and no. Your name is great…plus, gators are cool like your product! We’re all used to the name and you are really beginning to get some brand recognition. Yes, Gator/Claria sucks and before I purchased it I had to make sure you weren’t related to them but that was easy enough. A small blurb on the homepage, a prominent answer in the FAQ and you’re all set. Just my opinion. Of course, if you change the name, I’ll still stick with you guys. Thanks!

  4. Haacked

    An interesting question. Personally, it never even occurred to me that you’d be associated with Gator the evil company.

    Do you have specific metrics to back up the claim that it’s costing you business? It may not be as bad as you think. I’d pay for a small survey at least before you go through the big expense of a name change. And it is a big expense in more ways than one. I’ve gone through this before.

  5. Ivan Vega

    I personally don’t care. I’ve been using your products almost since they were released and I only care that they work, and and that they work well and intuitively.

    You should do a poll or something for non NewsGator users to see what they think.

  6. Bill Flitter

    I agree, Greg tough decision. Unfortunately, any download with the word “Gator” in it is associated with spyware in the eyes of thousands of consumers. Gator Corp, who many believe started the first spyware app, even change their name. Now I beleive they are called Claria. I’ve read several times where you had to defend yourself against being spyware because of the word Gator in your name. If I were in your marketing department, I would strongly persuade you to change it. Good luck.

  7. kip

    I don’t get it. NewsClaria just doesn’t roll off the tongue at all. (just kidding). Seriously, the answer of course is, “it depends on what you change it to”. I’ve never been enamored of the Newsgator name, so I wouldn’t be too sorry to see it go. I would suggest not changing midstream, though, and rather bring out a new name with a new release, and identifying the new name with new as well as existing features. Then it becomes “not Newsgator anymore” for a reason.

    Not that I have any idea what either the name or the features should be….

  8. Søren Lund

    I say yes, you should change the name. Negative stories are bound to make better headlines than the positive ones which means that you will have to fight a neverending uphill battle (is there such a thing as an uphill battle? :)). The result: You will end up spending valuable resources on a battle which will gain you nothing.

    At this point noone is selling a product which comes close to NewsGator so a change of name actually makes snese at this point. You would face much bigger difficulties should you postpone the decision to a time when another company comes around with a product which matches your’s feature by feature – the day will come, sadly it always does.

    Thanks for a great product by the way, it got me started RSS’ing and blogging and it really has changed the way I use the net. Don’t even do much browsing anymore :)

  9. Jason Guinn

    Think about your target markets and then make a decision. I use NewsGator proudly at home. Especially after reading your disclaimers, the NewsGator name sounds great to me on a personal level. But it appears as if your company would like to increase corporate use of the product. It seems as if IT professionals would probably have an easier time rolling out a product that didn’t even ~sound~ as if it might be spyware. My personal recommendation would be to change. The audience that you’ve already captured will follow you regardless of the name.

  10. Josh Holmes

    I think that it depends on what type of marketing you can get going. I think that with the number of people that use your product and have blogs that if you could get 10-20% of them even to blog about the name change you could get some fantastic Google visibility in a rather short amount of time.

    Another thought on gaining some marketing traction would be to give away a lifetime license to the winner of a naming contest or something like it.

  11. NewsGator News and Name

    NewsGator announced another RSS content relationship yesterday – this time with uclick, the online arm of Universal Press Syndicate (UPS). You can now get Doonesbury, Cathy, FoxTrot, Garfield, Ziggy comics via RSS (god – I loved FoxTrot – I forgot it existed…) Greg Reinacker (NewsGator’s founder) also put up a post discussing his thoughts about changing the NewsGator name. He’s looking for feedback – go to the post and tell him what you think. As a board member, I can assure you that your opinion will count here as we’re currently pondering what to do….[more]

  12. Pat Matthews

    It is good to know someone else went about picking their corporate name in a similar fashion to us… however, I would change the name especially because of the whole gator thing. I’m a relatively educated Internet guy and that is the first thing that came to mind for me too… people are already a bit scared to download stuff to their computers these days… the name Gator just can’t help. With RSS being relatively new (mainstream wise at least), I’m sure you can get a good domain that will support a new name. I’m sure all that recent money you got can help to establish a new brand and I’d act on it quickly before its all gone. ;o)

  13. whit

    I’ll add another voice to the chorus of “change it.” While the negative impact of having “gator” in one’s name will probably decline now that Gator has realized the negaive impact of being named “Gator,” the internet has a long memory. Having someone who’s not familiar with your product search for news gator and find many, many mentions of lawsuits and general badness doesn’t seem like a good thing.

    If you’re going to change it, then, much better to do it now, while it’s still all early adopters who know and like your product who will be affected. Trying to do this sort of name change a year or two from now would (we’ll all hope) be a much bigger deal to accomplish, and could confuse a lot more people.

  14. Dick C.

    As long as you don’t call it FeedBurnerGator. Seriously, I don’t think it’s a huge issue to change the name, so if you have good reasons to do it, then do it. Phone.com changed to openwave (amid countless other examples) as a sign to the market that their software.com acquisition meant a broadened go to market strategy and new product lines, despite clear brand idendity around phone.com. similarly, i think you can do this in such a way that reinforces all the other positive signals to the market around your strategy, product lines, vision, etc. (now that i think of it, phone.com was unwired planet first, going to show that you can change your name early and often).

  15. Anita

    Ok so, Hello Anita is taken *sigh…

    I say don’t change the name. If you make a quality product that people want, and they do… The name will stand for itself. I believe NewsGator will be so big that people will come to first recognize even the abreviation of “gator” with NewsGator. It’s clever and stands out.

  16. Riaan


    I won’t change the name if I were you. I’ve never heard of Gator and subsequently do not associate it with Spyware. I think the name is great and you should stick it out.



  17. Len

    Something to keep in mind when renaming the company – all the time, money, and effort you’ve spent establishing that name you’re going to have to expend to un-name it and then expend it again (and usually some more) to establish a new name. It’s awfully expensive to do.

    That being said, the association with Gator can be troublesome but I’d take a long term view on this. Will this association still be a problem in 12 months? Also, for the customers that you don’t have yet, it this going to be a real problem or is it just a problem for those early adopters in the know? It’s not an easy decision but my gut would say not to rename the company.

  18. ben

    you’ll be throwing away all you’ve invested into brand recognition up to this point. i’d already forgotten about the gator spyware products before this post reminded me of them…

  19. Kevin

    I don’t use NewsGator. I’ve used a few other news aggregators but nothing I’ve found has been good enough to make me keep using it. And before I saw a link to this blog post, my thoughts on the product were “NewsGator? Those bastards at Claria just keep trying to fool unsuspecting newbies.” I know other people who heard about this RSS thing and started trying out aggregators but would never touch something they thought came from Claria. Without a doubt, I would say change the name.

    Also remember that most people posting on this blog are already aware that NewsGator is unrelated to Gator. So it’s going to be somewhat of a biased sample. Any internet savvy person who doesn’t know about your product, if you tell them “Hey check out this cool NewsGator program” their first response will be “Whoah – you need to uninstall that thing as soon as possible.” That’s not how you want your word of mouth to spread.

  20. Gary Potter

    Change it. I like the name because I work in the IT industry and I can tell the difference between Gator/Claria and NewsGator. What you don’t know is how many not associated with this industry balk because they thought it might be linked to spyware.

  21. Christian

    I also just found this page one the web — I researched various feed readers before downloading Awasu. I didn’t download NewsGator because I figured it was more spyware from Gator.

  22. Thobias Jones

    I admit, I’ve made the association when I first heard the name NewsGator. Over time the association will fade, but I wouldn’t think it to be wise to have such an association while competing for mindshare in such a young market as RSS. A solution might be as simple as removing the emphasis on Gator, such as “Newsgator.”

  23. Joe Consumer

    I say yes, you should. As someone who is just getting into RSS feeds, the spyware connection was the first thing that occurred to me. I took the extra step of searching a few web sites, but most consumers won’t do that.

    RSS has a ways to go before it goes mainstream. Change it now while you can.

  24. Norman Rasmussen

    When I first saw NewsGator in my referrer logs, it scared the innards out of me. Even now that I know that NewsGator != Gator, I’m still not happy about it. It’s unfortunate but there’s just too much stigma attached to Gator. Yes changing you name would make me feel better :-)

  25. Chaim Krause

    I think you should change your name. I made the mistake and haven’t even been to your website for several months because of that. I only came here today when somebody set me straight and gave me this URL.

  26. Mike

    I say change it. As the head of an IT Dept, I found NewsGator while searching for an RSS reader to deploy to our 150 users. It’s hard enough to educate users on how to avoid malware. So, I don’t think I’ll be introducing software that has a malware-related name.

    Since it has been so long since the question was asked, it seems that you have decided not to change it. Bummer, a mistake, imho. I think that “mistake” is made even worse by not *clearly* stating that NewsGator has noting to do with Claria on the home page. I found this thread because I searched for “NewsGator Claria” after finding the NewsGator site. I was curious about whether Claria was trying to sneak onto PCs as an RSS reader.

  27. Nigel

    I think you should rebrand as NetNewsWire on all platforms – its a good name with a good product on the Mac, and an excellent opportunity to ditch the malware connotations.

    Plus, didn’t I read somewhere that NetNewsWire is actually the most used RSS reader on any platform? Makes sense to stick with the bigger name.

  28. Scott Doughty

    Change it. I’d heard of NewsGator but didn’t even visit the site as the word ‘Gator’ rang alarm bells immediately.

  29. William Crosby

    Your asking the wrong people. Anyone who’s here now, knows NewsGator is not related to Gator/Claria. How many will never see this page? I booted into linux today, if I were on the Win98 partion, I might NEVER have clicked a link to NewsGator.

    P.S. How about a survey on teeny tiny comment windows?

  30. jason m

    Working within the brand identity and strategy world… and reading tons of data an research on this sort of thing, I can say with some confidence, there is no question that if you must ask this question in the first place, then you have a very clear answer. Yes drop the gator and all reference to it.

    Truthfully in 2007 people are in no way brand loyal, and it is very easy for people to move on to a stronger more “safe” name, and your new customers like myself (who looked this issue up when i saw gator) will be more at ease.

  31. Vineet Kumar

    You should totally change it. I was just looking for an online news reader, and my first reaction was exactly what you don’t want your name to do: “Gator? I can’t use that one. Next.” Same as what Scott Doughty describes above. I’d heard of it many times for the past many months, but intentionally avoided it due to association with Gator.

  32. Sohbet

    I’d be interested in an updated GoogleAnalytics chart (may be two with about six weeks coverage), just to see if the effect did wear off after a while and also, did others link to your new name with the same link-text (allinurl:…).

    I hope you will publish a follow up.

  33. ??

    Your asking the wrong people. Anyone who’s here now, knows NewsGator is not related to Gator/Claria. How many will never see this page? I booted into linux today, if I were on the Win98 partion, I might NEVER have clicked a link to NewsGator.

  34. AndaDogg

    My workplace has blocked NewsGator, presumably thinking that it is Gator….

    Sadly, I’m going to have to find another RSS program, as I need to access and sync the feeds at work too.


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