Freesheet current affairs magazine Raconteur has folded after just seven issues with founder Freddie Ossberg citing a lack of advertising revenue as reason for its decline, costing the business executive his magazine and a number of his contributors overdue payments.
The UK’s first free monthly current affairs magazine launched in March this year, aimed at a millennial audience interested in ‘quality’ news.
“Far from being dead, print is alive, kicking – and earning,” Ossberg wrote at the time.
News of the closure circulated on Twitter yesterday (5 December), when editor Peter Guest wrote “R.I.P. Raconteur Magazine. The final issue printed today”.
R.I.P. Raconteur Magazine. The final issue printed today.
— Peter Guest (@PeterGuest) 5 December 2016
In an email seen by The Drum, Guest announced the closure to contributors of the magazine yesterday evening, telling them the title will be “closed permanently” and the decision was “made suddenly, and without my knowledge”.
“Apparently print media is dead, and someone only just told the CEO,” Guest wrote.
In a statement to The Drum confirming the closure of the magazine, Ossberg said: “We stubbornly kept going all year despite the advertising revenue not being there, but finally had to accept that it's a distraction we can no longer afford. The market is there for London freesheets, we just weren't good enough this time.” The launch of the magazine in March was marred by revelations that the publisher had not paid writers on time, with some back payments dated as far back as nine months, according to one writer.
Dear journalists, be warned that @raconteur do not pay their writers. Nine months later and I am still awaiting payment. #RaconteurDontPay — Lynnette Peck (@lynnettepeck) February 24, 2016
At the time 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.
Now Guest has told writers to “demand your damn money” and advised on processes to win back overdue payments, suggesting that the issue of unpaid writers was not resolved in March.
“If, along with half of the writers in the Western world, you are overdue payment from Raconteur, you can scream and shout to your heart's content at email@example.com.
“The company survives in its pre-existing form as a pamphleteer for the sub-Davos crowd, and they have no excuse not to pay what they owe” the letter reads.
Ossberg said that he is looking into contacting everyone Guest "might have spooked" as a result of the email, saying it is an "internal matter" if one his employees "goes rogue like that". He went on to deny claims that contributors have received late payments since the issue was first raised in March.
"That is his claim. I don't necessarily agree with that," he said.
In a follow-up statement, Guest moved to clarify his original email, arguing that this report had wrongly misinterpreted his comment. It read: "In the immediate aftermath of the decision to close Raconteur Magazine, I sent a private email to contributors telling them that they should cease work and settle their bills with the company. The language in that email was perhaps reflective of the emotion of the moment in which it was sent, and has been misread as being related to remarks made on Twitter by writers that, to my recollection, have never worked for the magazine during my time there. These are two separate issues, and when erroneously combined have caused unnecessary alarm.
"I am deeply saddened by the closure of the magazine, which was the result of a massive effort from a small team within Raconteur and a large number of talented freelancers, but it was killed by market forces, not a shortage of cash in the wider company. "
The rest of the Raconteur business, which includes producing special reports and supplements distributed with The Times and The Sunday Times, and a custom publishing division, is still in operation, Ossberg assures. Despite not being able to make the magazine work commercially, Ossberg said the business is still growing by 20% this year and "the future looks bright".
The full email that Peter Guest sent to contributors of the magazine is posted below:
I am sorry for this anonymous mass email, and I'll try to contact everyone individually over the next few days. I've just been informed that the December issue of Raconteur that was printed today will be the last, and the title will be closed permanently. Apparently print media is dead, and someone only just told the CEO.
This obviously has ramifications for the stories that we have commissioned from you for the next issue. In all frankness, I would down tools on whatever you are working on for Raconteur. If you have incurred costs in reporting those stories, file an invoice to Raconteur, with the original commissioning email to support it, and demand your damn money. I am incredibly sorry for this. The decision was made suddenly, and without my knowledge.
If, along with half of the writers in the Western world, you are overdue payment from Raconteur, you can scream and shout to your heart's content at -. The company survives in its pre-existing form as a pamphleteer for the sub-Davos crowd, and they have no excuse not to pay what they owe.
It is unlikely that I will be responding to emails from this account for long as I am now out of a job too, but you are welcome to reach me on -, and I will be happy to help out in whatever way I can, from explaining the workings of the UK's small claims court system, to spitballing about where you might be able to place the work that Raconteur commissioned.
As sorry as I am to put you all in a tough position, I am incredibly grateful for all of the work that you've done, and for the opportunity to work with you. For its brief life, Raconteur published some brilliant work, which was thanks to your ideas and hard graft.