Oregon town changes name to 'dotcom'

The small hamlet of Halfway agrees to change its name to Half.com for a year as part of a marketing stunt.
Written by Margaret Kane, Contributor
Hoping to make a marketing splash, an online retailing startup has convinced an Oregon town to change its name to Half.com.

The town council of Halfway, Ore., Wednesday night unanimously approved a proclamation changing its name to Half.com for a year. In return Half.com, the company, based in the more prosaic Conshohocken, Pa., will donate money and equipment to the town.

"When we were putting together the marketing plan, we said we wanted to do something to put us on the map. And our head of marketing said, 'Why not get on the map itself?' " said Joshua Kopelman, CEO of Half.com.

"We did a search for towns with Half in the name, and found Halfway, Ore. We sent some folks out there and fell in love with the place." The town is 350 miles from Portland, Ore.

The love was not immediately returned by the roughly 345 citizens of Halfway, which was originally named to commemorate a stopping point for watering horses. (The name Midway was already taken.)

'Scared of tourism'
"People were scared of tourism, and how much tourism it would bring, but the committee and council put that on the bottom of the list. They were looking at economic stability and quality of life. That's what our goal is," said Cissy Hinkle, deputy recorder for the city.

Half.com will donate between $100,000 and $200,000 worth of computer equipment to the town and its schools, as well as money for economic development. The company is also developing a Web site for Halfway.

Hinkle said that after a few meetings, public sentiment is now running mostly in favor of the deal.

"Three-quarters of the town is pretty much for it," she said.

Kopelman hopes the marketing coup will give his startup, which formally opened its door Wednesday, a publicity push.

The Halfway name won't completely go away for the next year, however. Changing a postal address is a three- to four-year process, so the Halfway name will live on in the mail.

Getting heard above the roar
Half.com allows consumers and merchants to sell used books, CDs, videos and games online for, surprise, half off.

Sellers enter the UPC code or ISBN number of the item they're putting up for sale, and the site displays related product information. Half.com doesn't sell anything, but helps the seller ship the items to the buyer and processes the credit card transaction. In return it takes a 15 percent commission on each sale.

Wacky marketing schemes are nothing new for Internet companies. This past holiday season saw a flurry of unusual pitches from "dotcoms" trying to make their voices heard through the advertising roar.

AskJeeves.com entered a float in the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade. Web-hosting firm C I Host bought space on Evander Holyfield's trunks during a prizefight with Lennox Lewis.

Kopelman said he understands that while stunts can get your company's name into the headlines, that doesn't necessarily translate into more customers.

"What we wanted to do with this was make sure we got a level of visibility. But the long-term success of our company or Web site is based on when (customers) come to the site, that it is something they like and enjoy," he said.

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