Domain Industry News, Generic vs. Brandable August 30th, 2007
The made-up company name trend continues… In March 2007, News Corp. and NBC Universal announced that the two giants were teaming up to bring prime-time TV programming to the web. They had no name yet for the web service they would create, and they did not specifically state what shows it would feature, or when it might make its debut. Just that it would be exciting.
Five months later, the companies just revealed that the new website’s name is Hulu.com. They are now accepting requests for an invitation-only test, to begin in October.
Enough media affairs. Let’s talk domain names.
The Domain Name
Hulu is a made-up word of course, at least in English.
Regarding their choice of the name Hulu.com, News Corp says:
“Why Hulu? Objectively, Hulu is short, easy to spell, easy to pronounce, and rhymes with itself. Subjectively, Hulu strikes us as an inherently fun name, one that captures the spirit of the service we’re building. Our hope is that Hulu will embody our (admittedly ambitious) never-ending mission, which is to help you find and enjoy the world’s premier content when, where and how you want it.”
The Radio Test
Sahar Sarid asks if hulu passes the “radio test.” In other words, if the average person heard an ad for this website on the radio, would he/she know how to spell it? Sahar wonders if people would hear hooloo.
I think they might also hear wholu, wholoo, wholew, or hulew, or more likely hula, since that is a Hawaiian dance that everyone has heard of, or maybe just hello. We Americans can barely spell real words, so made up words have little chance unless they are plainly phonetic.
I do not register or buy typo domain names anymore, but if I did I’d be checking hooloo.com right now, and a few others.
Hulu in Other Languages
Regarding the word hulu, Michael Arrington on Tech Crunch checked the meaning of the word in different languages and came up with a pretty funny list:
So if you find yourself in Indonesia, don’t go around telling people that you’re into hulu. I can just see the discussion now:
“Are you enjoying your stay in Indonesia, sir?”
“Yes, but I’ve been busy looking at hulu.”
“Yeah, I love that hulu. Gotta get some hulu every day.”
Arrington suggests that News Corp. and NBC should demand a refund from the pricey consultants who came up with this name.
Enough Made-Up Words!
It would have been better to spend some money and acquire a real word. I know the made up word strategy worked for Yahoo and Google (though a yahoo is actually a crude or brutish person, and google is most likely a misspelling of googol, a massively large number), but there are just too many of these invented names now. (can you say Orkut, Kijiji, Mahalo, Jaja, Skype…) I’ve visited some of these sites multiple times and I still can’t remember how to spell them without looking them up!
To be effective an invented word must be clearly, plainly phonetic. The spelling should be obvious. Examples: Alexa, Firefox, Mozilla.
That’s not to say that these short, made-up words don’t represent good investment value for domainers. They do, for exactly the reason that News Corp chose this Hulu. Short, CVCV domains often have a catchy sound to them and are quite brandable. If you can’t afford to invest in generic dictionary dot coms, then these represent a good alternative.