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Raconteur’s freesheet launch marred by backlash over delay in paying writers

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By Jessica Goodfellow, Media Reporter

March 3, 2016 | 5 min read

The launch of the UK’s first free monthly current affairs magazine this month (31 March) has been tainted by a backlash over the publisher Raconteur not paying writers on time.

Bad publicity around the launch stems from accusations of foul play that triggered managing director and founder Freddie Ossberg to explain on Twitter why his business had not paid the writers on time. The first accusation was made on the micro-blogging site last week (24 February), which sparked a debate between publisher and writers that went on for five days.

One user said payment had been withheld for nine months, and was taking legal action against the company. Three other users made similar allegations, while another claimed she recommended writers to Raconteur who "didn’t get paid for months".

Ossberg explained the reason for payment issues was "mostly an administrative error". He then assured complainants in a series of tweets that the business has "no dubious intent, simply growing pains". "Late payers are different from non-payers. We always pay," he added.

The media executive then moved to clarify Raconteur’s financial health in order to support his defence. He claimed the company has grown by 95 per cent over the last two years, but admitted it had experienced a "bad January and February" that in turn limited its ability to keep payment terms with suppliers.

The Drum spoke to Ossberg, who said he had got in touch with everyone who complained and made agreements to pay them by a certain time. The company has settled the invoices for those who did not agree to these terms.

He confirmed those contributors still waiting on payment are "in the region of 20 to 30" but agreements have been made with all these people.

Ossberg said the company's suppliers and creditors were notified on 24 February that payment would be late. He said that the vast majority of long-term contributors to Raconteur agreed to the terms, and the writers who could not wait for payment were prioritised.

He said the company had "no disingenuous intentions", and is still on course for its first quarter budget despite a slow start to the year. He said that overall freelance spend has doubled to £500k in two years, and that the company has created 27 new jobs in publishing/journalism in this time. Ossberg added of the £500k freelance spend in 2015, "about 10 per cent of that didn’t get paid out on time".

The paper will begin distribution on the 31 March and every month thereafter.

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