Horrific serial title changes

Ever since I started working with serials I haven’t been able to help noting some of the bizarre and seemingly unwise title changes that are all too common. Yesterday I was faced with what was probably the worst case of publisher indecision I’ve ever laid barcodes on.

At some undetermined point in history, Electronic Purchasing changed its title to Electronic Business. Then, one fine September in 1993, the title changed again to become Electronic Business Buyer. The complications involved in changing the title in the middle of a volume didn’t seem to concern anybody (except probably the catalogers who had to deal with it). Either way, that title lasted only for a mere two and a half volumes; it became Electronic Business Today in September 1995. Then (perhaps they were influenced by the fast rate of change in the industry they were covering?) the title changed AGAIN in November 1997….back to where it started: welcome back, Electronic Business! It appears that this title was finally laid to rest – or subsumed by something else – in 2007.

That’s just the most recent example. Here are some others I’ve accumulated on my list of shame:

Working women leave us tongue-tied
Executive Female Digest became The Executive Female which became Working Woman which became Executive Female (again) which then became EF : Executive female – or is it NAFE Magazine? It seems like when things get too crazy the common solution is USE ACRONYMS. Case in point:

Training and Development Journal became Training and Development which became plain ol’ T+D.

Mo’ money mo’ problems
Bulletin for International Fiscal Documentation became Bulletin for International Taxation

National Public Accountant and the PA (!?) became NPA Magazine, which became Tax Magazine. Or maybe it became CPA Magazine? Or maybe NPA and CPA have combined to form Tax Magazine?! Hopefully the next issue will bring a revelation.

Banking Law Journal split into Business Law Journal and Bankers Magazine (1964). The latter became United States Banker. But there’s two other titles that are also listed as becoming United States Banker: FutureBanker and United States Investor/Eastern banker. Now the title appears as USBanker on the cover.

We’re board with our title
Management Record and Conference Board Business Record became Business Management Record. That then became Conference Board Record, which combined with another publication, Focus, to become Across the Board, which eventually became Conference Board Review.

Focus on people
Human Resource Planning became People & Strategy
Sales & Field Force Automation became Sales & Marketing Automation which is now CRM: Customer Relationship Management. Interesting how disciplines change the way they describe themselves over time.

Did you know BusinessWeek (now Bloomberg BusinessWeek) was called System in 1900, and it was published in Muskegon, MI? Wikipedia says Chicago, but whatever. Gotta represent for Michigan, and there has to be some reason the catalogers listed that as the publication locale. Apparently it became Magazine of Business in (1929), but most sources say that’s when “BusinessWeek” started. (“BusinessWeek up for sale.” The Online Reporter (2009:July 17):21.)

I’m not even gonna touch Best’s Insurance News.

The titles on my list can’t even compare to many of those featured during the glorious years of the ALCTS Worst Serial Title Change of the Year Committee. From 1984 to 2003, the Committee gave awards for the worst title changes based on criteria such as:

“a frivolous title change for no apparent reason and producing no advantage; the unnecessary change of an old, respected title; repeated changes, the latest being no better than any earlier ones; and the “Snake in the Grass” or “Et tu, Brute?” category for library publications.” (Serialist archives)

Librarians and catalogers could also suggest their own categories for special awards when submitting titles for consideration. Lest this all be perceived as nitpicky whining, let me highlight a good point made by Mary Curran (writing about e-serials) in the February 2008 issue of The Serials Librarian:

“Publishers should hesitate before significantly changing the title of one of their publications, not only because of the inconveniences it causes librarians and users, which are well enunciated in Louise Cole’s
article entitled “A Journey into E-Resource Administration Hell,” but also because it may temporarily influence the journal’s impact factor. ISI, now Thomson Scientific, notes this affect in reference to the 8,700
periodicals included in its database:

‘A title change affects the impact factor for two years after the change is made. The old and new titles are not unified unless the titles are in the same position alphabetically. In the first year after the title change, the impact is not available for the new title unless the data for old and new can be unified. In the second year, the impact factor is split. The new title may rank lower than expected and the old title may rank higher than expected because only one year of source data is included in its calculation.'”
-Curran, Mary. “The Worst E-Serials Tracking of the Worst Serial Title Change of the Year Award Goes to…” The Serials Librarian 53.4 (February 2008):47-57.

In other words: mo’ titles, less IMPACT FACTOR.

Public domain photos from the National Media Museum and the Powerhouse Museum on Flickr.


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