An Open Letter to Stephanie Lord, Who is Gutted About KildareStreet.com
As you are aware, for the past six years, my other half has run KildareStreet.com, a website that re-publishes the official record of the Houses of the Oireachtas with additional services layered on top. These services include a legible layout, TD and Senator profiles, custom alerts and a search feature.
(By the way, I agree with you: it’s madness that the official parliamentary record for the Irish State , which taxpayers fund, is not searchable.)
For six years, Kildare Street has been run for free as a public service. It has delivered 5,433,465 pages to 1,246,354 people. 84% of these visitors are within Ireland, meaning the site serves around 29% of the population aged 15+.
About 16,500 of those page requests come from inside Leinster House each month. As a Kildare Street user and political party staffer, you pointed out yesterday that it’s an invaluable website to you and your colleagues:
But now, as you’ve discovered, Kildare Street has launched a geo-based subscription service. This means that anyone physically standing in Leinster House will need a paid account to access KildareStreet.com. That’s about 3% of all Kildare Street users, who are are being asked to pay a maximum of €33 per month each. For everyone else, Kildare Street will continue to be free.
I’m sorry you’ve taken this news so badly. But I’m even more sorry that you chose to become personal about this. Because now, Stephanie, you and I have a problem.
“Line Your Pockets”
The idea that anyone is lining their sartorial accoutrements with Kildare Street funds would be laughable were the reality that nobody in this house can afford sartorial anything not quite so painful. In its six year history, Kildare Street has raised a total of €13,948 in donations. €5,800 was raised to build and launch the site in 2009; €8,148 was raised in 2013 to re-build the site when the Houses of the Oireachtas made fundamental changes to their data structure and caused Kildare Street to stop working.
The rest of the time and costs for Kildare Street have been covered by me, working full-time as the primary earner for my household.
(I have not, apparently, been doing a very good job of this, as the Office of Statistics tells me that the income earned by my household is less than half that of the averaged mean household in Ireland.)
“The Goal Profit…”
Since we are a household that excels in unpaid labour, allow me to don my professional digital marketing hat and explain to you how the Internet works.
While the total audience for Kildare Street subscriptions is indeed +/-600 parliamentarians and staffers, aggregated ecommerce metrics tell us that the median conversion rate is 2.35%. In other words, of these 600 potential customers, Kildare Street can expect to sign up a grand total of around 14 users. At €33 per user per month, that’s €462 per month.
€462 per month is:
- Quite a ways off from €19,000 per month;
- Quite a bit less than minimum wage on a per-hour basis;
- Quite a bit less than you yourself earn.
While I would obviously like to see Kildare Street generate more money, €462 is just about enough to plug the household shortfall here every month.
“Like, you could give someone a job with that.”
Yes Stephanie, YOU COULD. One of the people you could give this paid job to at the bargain-basement rate of €462 a month is the person who has single-handedly built, run, and updated a service parliamentarians and staffers consider “essential.”
To be clear, nobody is expecting staffers like you (who I'm sure are overworked and underpaid, and I've nothing but empathy for that) to reach into your own, un-lined pockets. Subscriptions to Kildare Street are a legitimate expense under the Parliamentary Standard Allowance, against which TDs are claiming an average of €147,000 in expenses each. Alternatively, TDs on a salary of €87,258 per year and Senators on a salary of €65,000 per year can probably reach into their pockets and scrounge up a couple of subscriptions for a service their staffers use every single day.
The bottom line is that TDs, Senators and staffers who use Kildare Street to perform essential parts of their salaried job functions need to pay for it.
We’d love it if your bosses would voluntarily do their part through donations. But remember that €8,148 that came from the good and generous donors of Ireland back in 2013?
Three TDs and three Senators donated. That’s 6 out of 226.
This is the case despite the fact that you and your colleagues are Kildare Street’s heaviest users. Just 3.2% of users are inside Leinster House, but you folks generate 16% of the website’s total traffic.
“Some will subscribe but most won’t…”
Lo, the struggle is real. Setting aside the part where you inadvertently acknowledge that €19,000 per month is not a thing that is going to happen, the bottom line is that this is true: parliamentarians and staffers in Leinster House who do not subscribe will not be able to access KildareStreet.com from inside the building.
Inventive solutions to this vexing problem might include:
- Leaving the building;
Frankly, all of the above would have been fine until you opted to call my partner a “tech bro,” at which point this became a very personal attack. No description of John could possibly be more inaccurate or more egregiously offensive, or have done a better job of diminishing your own credibility.
UPDATE: The support for this open letter over the last 24 hours has been overwhelming and heartening. Thank you. For people who have asked how to donate to Kildare Street, donations are now open: