Scratch magazine launches, lands Jonathan Franzen interview

The new online Scratch magazine focuses on the intersection of writing and money.
(Alex Wong / Getty Images)

Writers have always had a problematic relationship with money, never more so than in this increasingly freelance economy. Jane Friedman and Manjula Martin have launched Scratch magazine -- which defines itself as a site about the intersection of writing and money -- in the context of this financial moment, where digital access has created an influx of creators while ad dollars shrink down to nothing.

“Scratch,” of course, is a term for cash -- everyone’s favorite pocket liner, and also a word we use to describe what writers do. The magazine, which launched Tuesday, is set up to relieve a certain itch. Covering the points where money, art and life intersect, Scratch is a resource for writers looking to navigate the freelance economy and get paid, but based on its first issue, a slightly more general literary readership will find plenty to like between its covers.

Actually, covers might be the wrong word. Scratch is a digital magazine, produced in collaboration with 29th St Publications, a tech company that makes it easy for new publications to digitally publish content and deliver it to subscribers’ devices. The magazine has hosted the first issue on its website, free for anyone to read, but subsequent issues of Scratch will be available through digital subscription on a quarterly basis. After January 2014, subscriptions will cost $20 and revenues will help finance the project and pay its contributors.

Friedman, formerly the publisher of Writer’s Digest, and Martin, a freelance writer and the editor behind the Who Pays Writers Twitter page, founded Scratch together on a principal of transparency. Scratch professes in its mandate a belief that the future of media is “intelligent, flexible, and unapologetically transparent.” The first issue includes a Transparency Index, information on who helped with the venture and how a digital start-up magazine managed to score a long, intimate interview with Jonathan Franzen.

Franzen, who is married to a friend of Martin’s family, was much less damning about the current state of media and money than he appeared to be in the much discussed excerpt of The Krauss Project that ran in the Guardian last month.


“In [‘The Krauss Project’] I don’t hold back what I really think about Twitter, what I really think about Amazon, what I really think about John Updike,” Franzen says. “Earlier in my life I might have been afraid to say some of these things, because I didn’t want to be disliked. But it’s like, boy, is that horse already out of that barn for me.”

The first issue also includes a round table with editors discussing their freelance budgets, an informative article on freelance contract negotiations, a cartoon satirizing New Media ventures, and a piece on living outside of a materialist paradigm from Gawker editor Cord Jefferson.


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