Writing that this change "has been a long time coming," Tash notes that three-fourths of Times readers live outside the 'burg, and that "with that success, our name no longer fits the newspaper or the audience we serve."
Obviously, this is about branding, and to the the extent that it sends "a welcoming signal" to readers in say, Wesley Chapel, well, that's what they pay branding experts for.
Preparing for a negative reaction from their St. Pete readers, the Times accompanies Tash's letter with testimonials from seven different community leaders, none of which say a discouraging word about the name change. (Wouldn't it have been nice to get a quote from current St. Pete Mayor Bill Foster, rather than Tampa's former Mayor Pam Iorio?) The paper does have a response from Chris Steinocher, the president & CEO of the St. Pete Chamber of Commerce, who gushes that "no other organization has made as much of an impact on our community as those who have built, guided and worked at the St. Petersburg Times."
What does Foster, or Rick Baker, or member of the City Council think? We'll learn soon enough, but it would be surprising if it's favorable.
A Facebook page has been created to maintain the St. Pete Times moniker.
This was obviously not a rash decision. For years the Times has been publishing their free daily tabloid called *tbt or Tampa Bay Times, and when you type "Sptimes" into your browser, the URL you get is tampabay.com. The Times has been positioning themselves for this for awhile.
But it does come as a loss of identify for St. Petersburg residents, who are already chafing at the idea that the city's most famous product — the Tampa Bay Rays — don't include their hometown in their title, and baseball announcers still refer to the Rays as from Tampa (though not as much anymore after appropriate scolding), a big slap in the face to the community. Florida's most popular paper dumping "St. Petersburg" from its name is a blow to the area. That can't be argued.
But let's face it — this region is more famously known as "Tampa Bay," and "Tampa" for short. That's what's in front of the title for the Bucs and Lightning. There are other regions of similar size in the country that deal with this. In my hometown of San Francisco and the Bay Area, the NBA franchise eschews referring to itself as coming from Oakland and instead goes by the "Golden State Warriors." The former hockey franchise in Oakland also used the state name. You also have the Twin Cities (Minneapolis & St. Paul) whose teams are just known as from Minnesota.
As somebody who's not from this region, can I just say that because of this emphasis on Tampa Bay, you shouldn't be angry at people from out of town who don't know that Tampa Bay is a body of water, not an actual city.
So what's it all mean? Well, the Times is no different than any other newspaper these days (including CL). It's got to fight for for every advertising dollar. It has to try to monetize its success on the Internet to combat the loss of advertising in the print edition. Just last month, the Times laid off several employees, and announced in September a 5-percent pay cut for the entire staff. But it is the state's most popular newspaper (as well as one of the 20 best in the country). If this re-branding allows the paper to maintain its high level of journalism, then all we can say is: good luck.