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Om Malik also reports on the quickly consolidating telecom landscape and the corresponding branding game being played. It seems now that AT&T-owned Cingular could soon change its name to, well, AT&T.

Many questioned the name change from SBC to AT&T, with the notion that the latter is an old-guard icon of a past era in telecommunications. The difference between old and new is even starker when talking about Cingular. Maybe AT&T is jealous of the brand legacy bestowed upon the wireless divisions of its rivals Sprint and Verizon "[:D]". More likely, it has to do with bundling, which will be a key source of competitive advantage for telecoms and cable companies, as we keep saying. Still, it’s a questionable move and we’ll have to wait and see how it shakes out.

The same concept faces many companies in the local media space — newspapers, for example. When there are secondary channels or assets owned by a media or communications company ( i.e., cellular service, a newspaper Web site, an Internet Yellow Pages), is it better to establish a new brand that more effectively suits its unique marketing message and demographic targeting or to go with the trusted and established name of the parent? We like to call it the great brand baggage debate.

It’s different in every medium, but in most cases I believe a new "off brand" is generally smarter. Examples of this are Verizon’s SuperPages, AT&T’s YellowPages.com, The Boston Globe’s Boston.com and the San Francisco Chronicle’s SFGate.com. This was also recently attempted with Readexpress.com, the online footprint of the Washington Post’s daily metro Express, for which the Post partnered with classified aggreagator Oodle to host and provide listings.

Oodle CEO Craig Donato weighed in on this topic when we spoke to him recently:

"One of the things holding newspapers back in online strategies is the cannibalization of existing revenue. So how do they soften the blow? The idea of using an off brand is I think a great strategy and I expect we're going to see a lot more of this."

During a classifieds panel at our Drilling Down on Local conference in March, this seemed to be the general sentiment. These comments and further analysis of the issue will be examined in a forthcoming White Paper. It’s an important issue that AT&T, and any company in this situation, will have to consider and we’ll be watching eagerly.

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