22 April 2008

CNN tshirts: wear a headline

What is up with CNN shirts?

Herr Eremita, a recovering cable news addict, checks The News several times a day to see if anything Important is going on in The World, and yesterday evening noticed a strange little tshirt icon next to some headlines on CNN.com.

You can buy a tshirt with a headlines on it -- no image, no story, just the headline and, in small print, "I just saw it on CNN.com," with the date/time stamp. For instance, "Pacing man stuck 41 hours in elevator"; or, "Waste food dished up to hungry diners."

The people are speaking, and most find this ridiculous. It's also unbelievably easy to hack, leading Gawker to run an offensive tshirt contest -- which isn't quite as hilarious as the fact that CNN is almost certainly aware about the hacking, and is, right now, gleefully stroking a very furry cat, murmuring "Yesssss, yesss, give us traffic, pretend you're playing us for the fools."

All that aside, this is an interesting move. Obviously, CNN is trying to make their most emailed stories more spreadable -- would it be too ridiculous to tag this "transmedia"? -- and they're making a grab for a younger audience. The FAQ includes, "I took my CNN shirt on vacation and I have great pictures. Where can I send them?"

Yes, do tell us where we can send those awesome photos of the shirts of your own headlines that you generously let us buy from you -- and let us wear, in public!

When I mentioned this to some other CMSers last night, some pointed out the strange new role this gives to headlines. Unintentionally hilarious headlines have always been fun; what does it mean to write an intentionally funny headline? Doesn't that take away from the hilarity? Does this give new status to headline writers, or headlines as a form? What does it say about an article like "Synchronized swimmers faint in unison" gets a tshirt, and "Existing home sales fall" doesn't? What kind of news categories does this introduce, or make more explicit?

And why tshirts?

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