Next Stop: Your Magazine Dream Job

You’ll Never Guess How These Publications Got Their Names

By Kelsey Mulvey

What’s in a name? Well, if you ask anyone in magazines, a lot. Whether print or digital, a name has the power to make or break a publication. Ultimately, you want something succinct, snappy, and easy to remember. But since blogs and outlets already snatched up the most obvious options (don’t even think about name your design blog Dwell or Modern Home), newcomers have to get a little creative.

Finding a good name doesn’t happen overnight. It takes days, weeks, and maybe months of brainstorming until you have that ‘aha’ moment. Whether you’re looking to start your own blog or curious as to how The Onion became The Onion, here are the crazy stories behind six of our favorite publications’ names.

Rolling Stone

No, the iconic music magazine didn’t get its name from Mick Jagger and Keith Richards’ band or Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone.” In 1967, Wenner Media co-founder Jann Wenner cited the phrase “a rolling stone gathers no moss” as the inspo. Well, we didn’t see that one coming…


Refinery29 may be your one-stop site for the latest in fashion, entertainment, and politics, but you gotta admit the name came out of left field. When four friends founded the site in 2005, they wanted to help their readers refine their personal style. Refine…Refinery…get it?

As for 29? While the site joked the double digit was associated with Free Masonry in 2010, founder Philippe von Borries set the record straight in an interview with Inc. “The number 29 came from the number we limited everything to, the 29 best of everything,” he said.


ICYMI: Esquire was almost named Trim, Stag, or Beau! But when founding editor Arnold Gingrich received a letter address to “Arnold Gingrich, Esq.,” all bets were off.

The Onion

In a bind for a good name? Look to your lunch. Legend has it when co-founders Tim Keck and Chris Johnson started the satirical news outlet, they were so strapped for cash that they’d eat onion sandwiches.* One day, Keck’s uncle joked they should call their then-newspaper The Onion. The rest was history.

*Choosing to ignore the fact that an onion sandwich sounds gross.


Very few people can turn a name turn a cringe-worthy word like “goop”  into a covetable website-turned-quarterly magazine. So when it came to picking out the name, it should come as no surprised that founder Gwyneth Paltrow use herself as inspiration. “It is a nickname, like my name is G.P., so that is really where it came from,” she told USA Today. “And I wanted it to be a word that means nothing and could mean anything.”


Of course we couldn’t leave out Ed2010! In 1996, our fearless leader Chandra Turner bought a one-way ticket to intern in New York City. She and some friends eventually coordinated happy hours with other interns to swap industry gossip and share any intern or job leads. Those small happy hours turned into even bigger happy hours, and ultimately the site you read today. Chandra and her friends dreamed of being editors by 2010, so the name pays tribute to their mission.

Kelsey Mulvey is a New York-based writer and commerce reporter at Business Insider. She has written for several publications such as The Wall Street Journal, Time Out New York,, Taste of Home, Check out more of her work at KelseyMulveyWrites.comand follow her on Instagram and Twitter.

Photo: via Goop

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