More stations dump call signs for Web branding

Broadcasting & Cable has a story about the growing trend of television stations using alternative names for their Web sites instead of their call signs.

I’ve written before about my preference to make use of call signs in domain names.

The article highlights Jacksonville station WCWJ-TV’s switch from for and points out that the site has seen significant traffic increases since the change. The article also, however, hints that much of the site’s content has changed, which could be a bigger factor in the growth.

Broadcast group Nexstar also uses alternate naming schemes and treats its Web sites as separate businesses, says B&C. These sites don’t feature station logos or names in prominent places.

As station chiefs speak frequently about not using the Web to regurgitate on-air content, many are similarly trying to avoid repurposing the station’s branding in their domain names,” writes B&C.

That makes a certain amount of sense, but one does have to wonder if these alternative branding methods are just a fad and if there really is merit in creating a new brand.

“One of the strongest arguments for alternative domains is that they help brand the Web site as portal of information that just happens to be associated with your station,” I wrote in my previous column on this subject. “I question, however, why any station would want to create yet another brand and name for consumers to remember in an already crowded marketplace. Besides, what’s wrong with having your station’s call signs associated with broader topics and features? You want viewers to know you’re behind this great source of information and not some mysterious company buried in a corporate conglomerate.”

While the debate over TV station Web branding will likely continue, there is one important thing to remember: Register all the variations of your station call signs, channel numbers, branding and slogans that you can and redirect them to your site. Not only does this protect your station from someone snatching up a domain and starting an unauthorized site but it also helps out viewers who forget the “real” domain.