Unlike a lot of the others here, I don't have any personal issues with what Woot wants to do. If they like catering to the pop culture/TeeFury audience, go for it. But I do have an issue with the belief that because something sells better on Woot it is "more popular" than a more original, artistic design. That is unbelievably false. It is more popular with Woot's CURRENT AUDIENCE. If Woot offered fewer pop culture designs and cutesy designs, and instead focused on artistic merit, they would have a larger audience of people that like shirts based on artistic merit and a smaller audience of people that like pop culture/cute. They chose to build this audience for themselves. If they wanted, they could easily choose to build a different one.
I think it was Destroy Destroy Destroy where I first realized how completely warped woot's buying public has become. I didn't expect it to be a bestseller, but when it sold under 400, it made zero sense. I'd obviously seen trends before, but somehow that tee made it clear that people were leaving who at one time would have loved to see something as detailed and original as that up on the site. It's not new for interesting things to sell low: Edgar's first print, Tummy Ache, was under 200, after all. But you can draw a definite peak and valley from the one to the other.
Woot's lowest seller to date is still Skatetown, at 158 or so sold. I can think of numerous sites that would love to see those numbers daily. The fact is, the vast majority of woot's tees sell four to ten times that much, and even more as they approach the former and current sell-out margins. Do you think somewhere like Goodjoe wouldn't kill to sell a Skatetown amount of their new print every week, let alone in a day? Well, maybe not. They're Goodjoe. Killing goes against their mission statement. But there you have it. Woot's minimum daily sale rivals, if not surpasses, the average maximum for many smaller sites. I'd not be shocked if even DBH frequently sells less than skatetown amounts of a tee in its first week. And none of these sites have extra kids and wine and miscellany branches to make extra profit.
It doesn't take a genius to notice that woot not only has lost numerous buyers and artists over the years. Not only does that mean the PM I sent Tanninniver months ago will never get read, but moreover, it means that many once-vocal members of the woot community are gone or marginal. That's artists: I don't need to name them, because that list can easily be made of people whose work was insulted through the far more mediocre work that won. But it's also prolific buyers and supporters. Woot has, in a very real way, ostracized many of its original users by trying to cater its tee market to what it thinks its users are. When you have as many users as woot has, you don't care about this. Customers are numbers. But it's real.
Not to mention that, despite what woot write-ups want you to believe, art is something people have opinions on. Two out of three ECs so far have been absolutely stunning... pieces I'd have printed myself if I worked here, or would have happily picked up to print elsewhere if they hadn't printed now. I bought neither, though if I still bought random bags, I would love to see either in one. But art is a matter of opinion. People who care about it appreciate as they debate it. and that means there could be 8 million art fans on woot to one million pop nerds, but art would sell slower, because people would consistently ask "is this my taste? This is stunning, but is it good enough to purchase? I don't know that I love x topic or y style, but I cannot get over how well this is done". Pop culture, on the other hand, doesn't rely on any opinion past "do I like Mario or Zelda?" Here's the thing, though... the people who like artistic things ALSO have opinions on Mario and Zelda. They just care less about them, and would be more picky about what jokes or references they'd bother wearing. But if you only foster the desu and pop that is so frequently what woot is made of, none of those buyers will step out of the box and buy something they need to think about.
I obviously think it does matter what a site chooses to print, because it may not hurt me directly, but it does hurt the artists. We shouldn't be handing out medals just for participation, but we also shouldn't be handing out medals for anything but the best. And the best is not a measure of popularity or sales. No one who believes that can believe they are truly an artist. I talk to artists. The number one thing I hear, that I'm willing to post out of a sense of decorum (they say some nasty things), is that it is fine to be beaten by good work, or better work, but the most humiliating thing possible is to get beaten by work that is undeniably worse. That is what demoralizes artists. That is what drives them mad. and that is why what woot prints matters.
But the difference of opinions on that bit doesn't change that main reality. Every site has the power to dictate their audience. Woot has chosen to foster one that allows them to insist that quality work isn't wanted here. They've chosen to brush off the people who wanted something better artistically. But woot is also the site best suited to turn things around and make a difference, and guide an audience toward a more educated tee experience. They have the sales power and the financial backing. That they don't do this is something that will always be questioned as to why. Some human beings simply can't understand it when they see a business cater low instead of aiming high, especially when they have the power to take that risk.