I know companies need to make money to keep the web free. I know that trying things out is a great way to see if they work. With all that said, what cnn.com is trying now is potentially the stupidest revenue-generating idea I've seen on the web since...well, perhaps forever.
As of this morning, at least, when you load the US edition of cnn.com, there's a new icon on some of the stories in the Latest News section:
Click on one of those little t-shirt icons, and you're taken to a page where you can...you guessed it (or maybe you didn't!)...order a t-shirt showing simply the headline you clicked on, the date and time of the story, and a tag line that reads "I just saw it on cnn.com." In case CNN comes to their senses in the next few minutes, I made a screenshot of the preview/ordering page.
I just don't get it--someone at cnn.com really thinks there's a huge untapped revenue stream for this kind of thing? I can almost imagine the executive-level discussion that occurred over this...
'We need to make more money off our web site. Anyone got any ideas?'
"Hey, I bet there are millions of people out there that are just dying to walk around in a bland black, white, or grey t-shirt showing a headline off our site!"
'Jane, that sounds like an excellent idea! Run with it!'
I don't know about you, but I can think of about, oh, ten million things I'd buy before I got around to ordering a cnn.com headlines t-shirt...but who knows, maybe such things are indeed hip in the world of news geeks?
(AdWeek has the details on this new promo...even after reading that article, though, I still think this is one of the stupidest ideas I've ever seen on the web. Beyond stupidity, there's an entire debate about the ethics of this concept, too--headline writers are now basically tied directly to revenue generation, as CNN will be able to track which headlines generate the most revenue. What I learned in school was that revenue generating activities should always be separate from the editorial activities of a publication, including its web site. I think this holds doubly true if you happen to be a news site, where you should be held to the highest ethical standards.)