2020 Transparency Report

When we started Passage in February, we were unsure as to whether it would make it or not. Media is a tough business these days. A few weeks after we went live, the pandemic hit and made our chance of survival even less assured. 

But the generosity of our readers, more and more of whom signed up to become members each month, has kept us alive and allowed us to grow. Having decided not to run advertising, reader support is the only way we survive, and we are incredibly grateful for each and every person who has decided to back us.

As an exclusively reader-funded publication, we strongly believe in being transparent about how Passage runs. It’s our members’ money, after all, that keeps us operational. 

To that end, we have prepared this Transparency Report by Managing Editor Davide Mastracci —  the first of what we hope to be many.

Like any young organization, we have had our share of ups and downs this year. But we are confident that as we head into 2021, we have a clear path to financial sustainability and — in the relatively near future — access to the resources needed to invest in growth. 

Our mission as an organization is to expose more Canadians to a broad cross-section of left-wing ideas and perspectives from writers that you won’t see in the corporate media. 

This year we have built solid foundations to carry on that work for many more to come. Next year, with the support of readers like you, we believe we can expand further: publishing more work, expanding into different mediums like podcasting, and — most importantly — winning more people over to left-wing politics.

Please enjoy this Report, and if you’d like to be a part of what we’re building consider becoming a member today.

Taylor Scollon & Geoff Sharpe
Passage Cofounders 

Revenue

Passage is a non-profit funded exclusively by readers like you, which means all revenue is re-invested to grow the publication.

We were able to launch the publication thanks to a December 2019 crowdfunding campaign by North99, which shares its co-founders, Taylor Scollon and Geoff Sharpe, with Passage, but is an entirely separate publication in every other way. That campaign had a fundraising goal of $30,000, and ended up bringing in more than $33,000.

The rest of Passage’s revenue throughout the year has been from readers signing up as members, and donations. Readers are able to donate as much as they want, and/or sign up as either Basic ($6 monthly/$60 annually) or Solidarity ($9 monthly/$90 annually) members. We added the Solidarity member category in August, as we heard from readers that they’d like to provide even greater support to Passage. 

The amount of revenue each month has varied since we launched, with new members coming in and some cancelling. As such, and because this is our launch year, we can’t provide an accurate average monthly revenue. However, as of November 30, the last day included in this report, we had 901 active paying readers at a variety of membership levels, as well as having received $1,022 in donations.

Fundraising Campaigns

We ran two major fundraising campaigns between our launch date and November 30. 

The first, which took place in July, had a goal of 100 new members. We ended up bringing on 114 new members by the end of this fundraiser, which we told readers would be used to pay for a full-time managing editor. I was hired for this position, and remain employed. (I was brought on at launch, and worked on a part-time basis until this point.)

The second, which took place in late October, had a goal of 100 new members, and a stretch goal of 150 new members. We ended up bringing on 160 new members by the end of this fundraiser, which we told readers would mean we’d hire a second columnist. We immediately began searching for someone to fill that role, and will likely announce them later in December.

Our current fundraising campaign was launched on December 7 and will end on December 31. We have a goal of bringing on 300 new members, and have promised to: produce four new courses (50 members); increase writer pay by at least 10 per cent (100 members); give our managing editor a 10 per cent raise (150 members); hire a part-time staff writer (300 members); launch a podcast (400 members).

We will provide updates on this fundraiser and how we met the goals in our next annual report. 

How We Spend Your Money Each Month

We have spent a different amount of money each month, in a variety of ways throughout the year, including on email courses, newsletters, articles and other projects. It’s difficult to find a single month that can accurately represent our spending patterns. As such, recency is probably the best approach, so here is an average of how we spent your money in the past three months.

Audience Numbers

Between our launch date of February 5 and November 30, we published 132 articles. We also published at least 26 Horizons newsletter editions, 50 Passage Daily newsletter editions and three email courses, with a fourth on the way.  

Together, these articles, as well as other pages on our site, brought in more than 584,000 unique page views.

The top five articles by unique page views were the following:

  1. Don’t Blame China For Your Government’s COVID-19 Failures by Davide Mastracci, published on April 7.
  1. Christie Blatchford Doesn’t Deserve Her Eulogy by Davide Mastracci, published on February 24.
  1. I Was Born Wealthy, And Know Rich People Don’t Work Harder Than You by Meghan Bell, published on March 5.
  1. Tim Hortons Is Just Another Exploitative Fast-Food Chain by Nora Loreto, published on February 5.
  1. COVID-19 Hasn’t Stopped Postmedia From Publishing Bullshit by Davide Mastracci, published on March 26.

Things We’re Especially Proud Of

One of the reasons we launched Passage was to provide an outlet for the sort of views you won’t find in corporate media. We’ve felt happy with the progress we’ve made on this front, so here are 10 articles in particular that we think are representative of what we’ve done:

Up until August of this year, we had some stories behind a paywall. After hearing from our readers, we decided to take it down, and make all our articles accessible to everyone. It was a risky decision at the time, given that we’re a new publication, but the response has been overwhelmingly positive. We’re proud that we took this important step to help share leftist ideas with the broadest possible audience. 

We’re also proud of the email courses we’ve launched. As far as we know, no other media outlet in Canada has done something like this yet. Beyond being just a publication, we hope to see Passage become a community where leftists can share their skills and knowledge. We think the courses are a good step toward this. Here they are, with more to come in 2021:

As part of our mission to expose more Canadians to leftist ideas, we’re especially proud of helping to sponsor and launch Harbinger Media, a community of progressive podcasts. We plan on working more closely in 2021 to build on our shared mission.

Finally, we’re also happy to note that our work has been translated by other people into several languages, including Spanish, Portuguese, Mandarin, Greek, German and Arabic. This is a sign our work is of interest to audiences across the world, including in the Global South.

Diversity

Passage was launched, in part, to help correct the lack of ideological diversity in Canadian media. This remains one of our primary goals. However, demographic diversity is also an important factor to consider, as the corporate media landscape has been, and remains, disproportionately white, male and cisgender.

For the past couple years, I’ve been part of a project working to establish an annual demographic survey of staff at Canadian newsrooms. With that in mind, it would be hypocritical to not aim to achieve something similar at Passage. However, I (white, cis man) am the only employee, so we don’t have staff diversity to provide.

We can provide you with a rough and broad estimate of the demographics of our freelance writers throughout the year. We didn’t ask our writers to provide this info, but I was able to put an estimate together using a similar method as the one I employed on the previously mentioned project, relying on self-identification.

In order to protect the privacy of our relatively low number of writers, and considering we haven’t actually surveyed any of them, I will keep the demographic stats very general. We recognize that this makes the data less useful, but it is necessary at this point. 

In 2020, 63 per cent of our writers were white, compared to nearly 73 per cent of all Canadians, according to the most recent StatsCan census. This means racialized and Indigenous people were (as a whole) overrepresented by 10 percentage points in comparison to the general Canadian population. This doesn’t mean that every racialized or Indigenous group was overrepresented, or even adequately represented, however. 

In 2020, 58 per cent of our writers were cis men. This means we know that women are underrepresented as writers at our publication. We don’t know how the number of non-binary and trans writers we’ve published compares to the broader Canadian population, as StatsCan doesn’t record this data in their official census. 

Corrections

We edit and fact check every article, newsletter and email course before publication. Regardless, due in part to only having one staffer, we have made errors throughout this year. 

When we realize we’ve made an error, often because readers like you bring them to our attention, we update the relevant article to correct it as quickly as possible. Then we include a correction notice at the bottom of the article explaining what we did, for full transparency. Here is a list of corrections for all errors of which we’ve been made aware. 

Article: Where Is Canada’s Bernie Sanders? (February 4)
Correction: “This article has been updated to correct the spelling of Martin Lukacs. Passage regrets this error.”

Article: Canada Has Never Been A Peacekeeping Nation (February 4)
Correction: “This article has been updated to note that the Oka Crisis took place in 1990. Passage regrets this error.”

Article: COVID-19 Hasn’t Stopped Postmedia From Publishing Bullshit (March 26)
Correction: “This article has been updated to note the correct publication date of Lorrie Goldstein’s Toronto Sun article. Passage regrets this error.”

Article: How Did We Get Stuck With Jon And Barbara Kay? (July 14)
Correction: “This article has been updated to note that Jon has a bachelor and master’s degree in engineering, not a B.A. and M.A. in engineering. Passage regrets this error.”

2021 Goals

  1. We need to reach and exceed financial sustainability in 2021. This is so that we can ensure Passage is here to stay long into the future, and reinvest profits into the publication to make it even better. 
  1. We would like to increase pay for employees and freelance writers to market levels. This will ensure all our writers are better compensated, and enable us to publish a broader range of writers as well. 
  1. We believe that leftist media needs to exist in all formats, and so we’d like to bring our work into a new medium in 2021, such as through a podcast, video or even print. 

We will report back on what we’ve done to meet these goals in our 2021 transparency report.

If you’d like to send us any feedback, please email us at hello@readpassage.com with “Transparency Report” in the subject line.