‘A critical year for The Hub’: A letter from The Hub’s executive director

Parliamentarians look on as U.S. President Joe Biden addresses Parliament in the House of Commons on March 24, 2023. Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press.

Dear reader,

As The Hub enters its third year you are going to see some exciting changes on our platform. Thanks to the generosity of our foundation funders and the over one thousand individual Hub donors we are investing in new features and content that advance our mission to promote more and better analysis of public policy issues in Canada.

Yesterday we shared with you our new lineup of expert contributors covering the big public policy beats of law and governance, defence and security, culture and media, and economics and fiscal policy. Their regular insights will continue to be complemented by in-depth, original analysis of the public policy issues by Hub staff writers and regular, long-form interviews with some of the world’s sharpest minds and brightest thinkers in politics, economics, culture, and international affairs hosted by Hub editor-at-large Sean Speer. In short, our goal is to provide you with a compelling mix of insight, analysis, and debate that explains and entertains and hopefully leaves you with some genuinely new perspectives on the important issues facing the country.

The coming twelve months will also be a critical year for The Hub in terms of how we fund ourselves. Our foundation partners provided the seed funding to launch The Hub and invest in the digital tools and platforms that have allowed us to host millions of unique users on our websitesocial media feeds, and podcast. Like our foundation funders we believe that market forces should start to play a more prominent role in determining The Hub’s future. Specifically, while reader engagement and kudos are important and greatly appreciated, the single biggest sign that someone cares about The Hub is their willingness to send us a market signal by becoming a donor. That is why this year we will start the necessary transition to become a reader-funded organization. To state the obvious, this will only work if we can convince more of you to become donors.  

To this end, we have launched a new premium donor experience to mark our second anniversary. For the modest amount of twenty-five cents a day ($7.99 a month) Hub donors get access to complimentary events and lectures, a spiffy Hub baseball cap, our flagship daily email (optional), and an annual Canadian charitable tax receipt. In short, some great donor benefits that we think you will actually use and appreciate. We also made donating to The Hub as simple as possible. You don’t have to create a membership account and password, are billed monthly only, and can cancel anytime time hassle-free with a click of a button.  We also now accept small one-time donations (think of it as a tip jar for our writers) and have created a gift subscription where you can give all the benefits of our premium donor experience to friends and family. Every dollar raised from individual donors goes to funding public policy research and analysis by our expert contributors and on-the-ground staff writers in Vancouver, Edmonton, Toronto, and Ottawa.

Another community-building feature we are looking forward to rolling out in the coming year is more live and in-person lectures, seminars, and talks. We have recently been experimenting with small events for Hub Fellows featuring interesting speakers and now want to extend this opportunity to meet up and learn from each other and renowned experts to the entire Hub community. If you have a suggestion for a live event or are interested in helping host a meetup of Hub readers in your city, please send us an email. Your input and involvement is greatly appreciated. Creating a fellowship of ideas offline was one of The Hub’s key goals when we launched Spring of 2021 (great timing we know!). With the pandemic finally waning and people returning to in-person events we look forward to making the Hub fellowship a reality for our supporters.  

You will also soon see in The Hub tasteful advertising by leading industry groups, associations, and Canadian companies. We have thought carefully about how to bring advertising into The Hub in ways that keep to our credo that public policy matters, and the country is better off when we analyze and debate policy ideas with rigor and honesty. This is why our new advertising platform will be exclusively for groups with public-spirited, fact-based policy messages which we broadly support. Our promise to our readers is to be selective and tasteful in how we feature advertising in The Hub. We ask for your understanding that ads are another necessary step in our transition from a foundation-based funding model to one that is reader supported.

If you are a leader of an industry group, association, or Canadian company that has a public policy idea you want to encourage thoughtful, expert-driven discussion about, please reach out to me. We would welcome having a conversation with you about your policy priorities and exploring whether The Hub can help.

Let me end this update on a personal note. Helping lead The Hub over the last two years has been an incredibly rich and rewarding experience. The impact and scale we have achieved in twenty-four short months is hugely motivating. All of this said, there are some worrying trends that we are seeing when it comes to news, information, and public debate. It seems that in the last few years the online business models most likely to be rewarded in our polarized society are ones that misinform, enrage, and divide. Some of the worst offenders are the so-called “news” websites in Canada that seem to spend most days actively reaffirming people’s biases, studiously avoiding facts, and ruthlessly bidding up one group’s supposed grievances versus another. The reality is that most of these organizations are wildly successful in terms of bringing tens of millions of outraged and amped-up readers onto their platforms to shamelessly monetize them through clickbait fundraising appeals and by selling them on to unscrupulous digital advertisers.

The Hub is the antithesis of these platforms. In what we do and how we do it The Hub tries its best to model civil and substantive dialogue and debate. We don’t think this is retrograde. We don’t think it is uncool. We don’t and won’t sell out our principles by becoming an online “anger factory.” What this means for the future of The Hub is the question that often keeps me up at night. Is the absence in Canada of anything like The Hub a sign of market opportunity or is it a market failure waiting to happen? Our transition, now underway, from an organization supported mostly by foundations to one powered by individual donors, will provide the answer to this important question. So, thank you for your time, your attention, and for coming along for the ride the last two years. We hope that we can continue to earn your support as a regular reader, a donor, and member of our growing fellowship of ideas.

Yours sincerely,
Rudyard Griffiths,
Executive Director,
The Hub.

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