Wednesday, May 7, 2008

CNN takes on Busted Tees, Onion with headline t-shirts

In an unexpected development, infotainment monolith CNN has moved into t-shirt sales. I can only guess the kitsch apparel market, dominated by snark purveyor BustedTees, was unprepared for the bold move by the media outlet. News agencies have typically sought to monetize their information assets through publication and broadcast, not through a wearable medium popular with hipsters, homeless and bumper-sticker activists.

CNN readers are now able to click a t-shirt icon next to selected headlines, enabling them to purchase a t-shirt featuring the headline for $19.99 with the tag, "*I just saw it on". It's like buying a transcript, only you wear it on your chest.

Selected headlines apparently cater to the coveted 18-35 demographic, focusing on soft news such as, "Another 'Idol' forgets they lyrics", or, "Suspect leads cops on golf cart chase". Other, newsy headlines like "D.C. sniper: 'Murder this innocent black man'" have not been included for apparelization. Hmmm, curious. I can't help but think what a conversation starter "Young mom dies; wedding rings vanish" would be if I wore it everywhere.

By grabbing only the featury headlines, CNN seems to be aligning their brand more with, say, The Onion than with the NY Times, the CS Monitor, or other serious news resources. Ironically, The Onion's tees don't feature headlines, but trade on the same brand of snark as BustedTees. CNN's tees really just signify which of their actual headlines are fluff. They won't be turning real news into kitsch memes, because I can't help but think somebody would object to me wearing a t-shirt about their kid: "Boy, hit by Prius, says he couldn't hear it".

...though it sounds more like an Onion headline to me. I don't foresee great success for CNN's t-shirt venture. The audience they're targeting likes crappy, ironic t-shirts because they seem more authentic than the canned culture we get from the mass media. They recall untainted youth with bad puns and schoolbook illustrations, and that's what we're going for. The off-kilter news that CNN is pitching as t-shirt fodder misses the mark because it's real. It's news of the weird, not fashion of the disillusioned. The corporate design job underscores this — they look more like something a CNN employee would wear tucked into jeans on biz-cas-Fri than anything you'd see in Williamsburg.

In summary, let's do a quick visual comparison. Which would you brand yourself with?

Fashion aside, they pretty much say the same thing.


Ben Westhoff said...

This is a pretty good idea, actually. Maybe eventually they'll start selling jeans with actual news trackers running across the crotch.

rob getzschman said...

The buzz is that they'll buy out Cafe Press so that they can quietly get into undergarments.

Get it? It's a double entendre! Or triple, depending on how long you want to think about it.