As a pro-gun, anti-campaign finance reform libertarian, I was actually excited to see the National Rifle Assocation debut its NRA News web site. But the actual implementation of the site just plain sucks.
In case you haven’t followed the story around NRA News, the latest campaign finance reform bill places additional restrictions on the ability of groups like the National Rifle Association to take out advertisements, etc. against candidates. So the NRA is routing around the damage of the Supreme Court’s gutting of the First Amendment by essentially establishing itself as a news media organization. It’s started web broadcasts of a talk show and is looking to buy a radio station to carry its message as well.
Great intentions, but the website is horrible on a number of counts.
First, it requires you to give your name, e-mail address and zip code every time you want to visit the site. This isn’t a “register and the login” system, this is a “give us your personal details” everytime you visit the site. This from a group that has fought vigorously and successfully to prevent the creation of any sort of national database or registration system for guns.
Second, it requires Flash. The PSAs and the video of the talk show are broadcast in Flash media player. Ugh. Sure Flash is common, but I hate it being required (and it’s not currently installed in my main browser).
Third, because of this, it isn’t obvious how to save the video to my hard drive. An advocacy group like the NRA should both a) make it easy to download video to the users hard drive and b) encourage users to redistribute said video. After all, the point here isn’t to make a profit but to get the NRA’s message out. Building barriers to that makes no sense.
Consider a group that I personally detest but that has an excellent web strategy — People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
Unlike the NRA, there’s no registration or request for personal details. Unlike the NRA, the site uses HTML and doesn’t require Flash except for some interactive applications. And unlike the NRA, PETA makes almost 300 videos — all its PSAs and quite a bit of other video — available for viewing in three different formats and offers a high bandwidth download of all of its video. Moreover, PETA encourages people to distribute and share the video files which widens their audience and saves on bandwidth costs. I have hundreds of megabytes of video from PETA on my web site at the moment. If the NRA were smart, it would make it easy for me to do the same thing with their video.