The Democrats Lose: Comparing the Convention Web Sites
Ian Lurie Aug 26 2008
I’ve been fighting this sinking feeling that we’re headed for another four years (or eight) of a Republican President. Not that I have anything against John McCain except that I’ll never vote for him. But I’m a pretty staunch Democrat, and it’d be nice to blame my own party for the world’s problems for a change.
In the last presidential election, I formulated a theory that the most social media-savvy party would win. John Kerry and the DNC pretty much screwed the pooch every chance they got. Bush, on the other hand, had some remarkably media-savvy folks doing everything from real-time blogging and spin of debates to carrying their Swift Boat campaign to YouTube.
Kerry, of course, went on to lose by 3 million popular votes and a lot more states.
Could John Kerry have reached another 3 million people online? Dunno. But surely a few smart moves online could’ve helped when his image started to crumble.
Fast forward. It’s 2008. The Democratic National Convention is going on now, and the Republicans start theirs in a week or so. So I decided to compare their respective convention sites based on simple stuff.
I may just have to change my party affiliation.
Broken Links: Democrats Lose
I checked the Republican National Convention site using Integrity. 1000 pages, no broken links. A few timeouts, but that was it.
I checked the Democratic Convention site. 2000 pages, 200+ broken links. Ouch.
Social Media Hooks
Then I checked each site for social media ‘hooks’: Ways to easily follow each party on Digg, Twitter, etc.
The Republicans seem to have their act together:
The Democrats don’t. They opted for ‘gavel to gavel’ hidef video. Which is neato, but not quite as helpful. Plus they made a totally unexplainable technology choice. But I’ll get there in a second.
The Democrats have billed their convention as open to all. Their home page, though, looks more like a Nike commercial:
It’s pretty. It’s also utterly devoid of any updates, any text, or any call to action for me, a long-suffering Democrat. Oh, yeah, and given how many e-mails and phone calls I’ve gotten from the party asking for unity, don’t you think the home page should, I dunno, ask for unity?!
Oh, yeah, and the DNC home page still shows ‘one hour to go’ as one of the blog headlines, 24 hours later. Way to stay up to date, guys.
The Republicans’ home page, on the other hand, is kind of folksy, like you’re going to a county fair:
Not my style, but I’m not their audience. And their page has several calls to action: Form a local ‘watch party’ (which somehow makes me think of the McCarthy era, but no one’s perfect) or sign up for e-mail updates. The DNC site has the e-mail signup too. But I could actually find it on the Republican site.
I’m old, so I’m not sure I used ‘Phail’ right. But the Democratic National Convention site uses Silverlight for all video:
Why on earth wouldn’t you use YouTube, or another video streaming service, or at least use Flash on your own server?
So, playing video on the DNC site required that I download not one, but two plugins. Not a major hardship for me. But kind of dumb if you’re trying to spread the word to as many people as possible.
Oh, did I mention the dire warning message I got when I tried to install the plugins:
In 2012, when you’re running to unseat John McCain, try using Flash, which has a ridiculously large user base. Or at least get up-to-date certificates for your plugins.
I know, Microsoft probably wrote them a big honking check to use Silverlight. But isn’t “we’re for sale” kind of the wrong message to send when you’re trying to elect a President? Even if it’s true?
To Be Fair
The Republican National Convention site has its problems, too: Two conflicting e-mail signup forms, a writing style that makes me cringe and a candidate that can’t remember how many houses he owns.
It’s About the Effort, Stupid
It cost about $15 million to prepare the Pepsi Center for the Democratic National Convention. Plus a whole lotta money for security.
I’d cheerfully have built their web site for, oh I dunno, $250,000. My therapy bills would probably top that by the time we were done.
For this tiny slice of the pie:
I would have cheerfully made the effort run a link checker on the damned site. I would’ve thrown in a few social media links for good measure, made sure their plugins worked properly, and hit them with furniture when they mentioned using Silverlight as their video platform.
I hope I’m wrong. At least a President from my party will take my money and give it to the poor, instead of taking it and giving it to Iraq. But if not, you guys know where to find me in 2012.
Ian Lurie is CEO and founder of Portent Inc. He's recorded training for Lynda.com, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Forbes.com and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, SIC and ad:Tech. Follow him on Twitter at portentint. He also just published a book about strategy for services businesses: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle. Read More