Why This is Called Understandably (Not 'The Byliner')

Or, What I already have in common with brands like Apple, Burger King and the WWE.

There are a few “housekeeping” posts I want to write — a new “about me” section and some FAQ, eventually. But this post is about the name.

Why is this called Understandably? (Or: Why did I change the name from The Byliner, which is what it was originally?)

The short answer is that those two names were the finalists after I went through a bunch of ideas. I had to pick one, so I did. But then, a trademark issue made me go back to the other one.

The Byliner

I originally started this site as The Byliner. The name’s appeal is that if you want to unpack why certain things get covered, or why a writer has a particular angle, the very first place I’d look is the byline:

Who wrote this? What else does he or she write about? Where is he from? Where did he work before? What circles does she move in?

I really wanted either The Byline or Byline.com. But, I also wanted the top-level .com domain, and the people who owned them wouldn’t budge. So I added an “R.”

My one hesitation with this name was that it might be too limiting down the road.

I have plans for what I want this site to be about in the short term, but I’ve learned that early plans don’t always match what makes you successful in the long run.


Understandably won in the end. In fairness, it was probably my “close second choice.”

Not because it’s not a good name — I think it’s great. But, I originally bought it for another project. (It cost me about $3,000, in case you’re curious). I hadn’t gotten that one off the ground, so I considered using it for this one.

My hesitation was that Understandably is simply a broader name. You don’t know everything the site is about just by looking at that one word.

However, I do think there’s an opportunity to redefine the word if this were to wind up doing very well — kind of like how if I say “apple,” you probably think of a technology company as quickly as you think of a fruit. (More on that in a minute.)

Not to be confused with…

I weighed both ideas. I was all set to go ahead with The Byliner. I sort of “soft-launched” it.

And then one of my favorite editors at Inc.com asked me if the project I’d been talking about starting was related to this new publication she’d seen, called The Byline.

Oh man. I checked it out. Sure enough, a company called Pico launched its new publication called exactly that.

“The Byline” vs. “The Byliner.” They’re so close.

So, I reached out to Pico, told them what had happened, and said I’d decided to change my site’s name. I really didn’t feel like getting in a trademark fight down the road.

Apple, Burger King, and the WWE

A very smart person once told me: “People love choices but hate decisions.”

That was me in this case. I was relieved.

Also, I knew I wasn’t alone in having run into a possible trademark problem like this. It’s happened to some really big brands. A few examples:

  • WWE: When I was a kid, Hulk Hogan wrestled in the World Wrestling Federation (WWF). But the league wound up in a trademark fight with the World Wildlife Fund (also WWF). In the end, the wrestlers changed their name to World Wrestling Entertainment. My favorite part of this story is that they ran a a marketing campaign around the slogan: “Get the F out.

  • Apple: Long before there was Apple, the tech company, there was Apple Corps, the label under which the Beatles produced their music. Trademark disputes ensued, and the (retrospectively hilarious) agreement they reached was that the Beatles’ Apple would stay out of the computer business, and Steve Jobs’s Apple would stay out of music. Which was great, except: iTunes. Eventually they settled and worked it out.

  • Burger King: I’m told that if you want a Whopper hamburger in Australia, you don’t go to Burger King. You go to a fast food chain called Hungry Jack’s. The reason is that by the time the U.S.-based Burger King decided to try to conquer the Australian market, there already was a chain called Burger King there. So the Canadian entrepreneur who obtained franchise rights in Australia came up with a new name for the market. Everything else is apparently quite similar.

So, I have a different name. We’re underway, and I’m excited. If you’ve come across here and you’re not a subscriber yet, I hope you’ll sign up and check it out.