What do web editors actually do? How do they set writers’ fees? What are they looking for in a pitch and an editorial relationship? Scratch invited web editors from Slate, The Atlantic, and The Toast to talk openly about fees, pitching, and other controversial issues in online journalism (including how to pronounce “gif”).

The panel

L to R: Nicole Cliffe (The Toast), Dan Kois (Slate), and Alexis Madrigal (The Atlantic)

  • Nicole Cliffe, a Canadian, co-edits The Toast, a somewhat-indie feminist women’s site. Previous lives included a stint as Books Editor of The Hairpin, “Classic Trash” columnist at The Awl, and writing free things for McSweeney’s and The Morning News.
  • Dan Kois is a senior editor at Slate and a contributing writer at the New York Times Magazine. He was the founding editor of New York magazine’s culture blog, Vulture. He’s the author of Facing Future, a book in Continuum’s 33⅓ series about the Hawaiian singer Israel Kamakawiwo’ole.
  • Alexis Madrigal is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he oversees the Technology channel. He’s the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science website in the 2009 Webby Awards.

We gathered with our panelists in a private video chat in August 2013. The following is a transcription of that conversation, edited for brevity and clarity.

Jane Friedman: How do you decide what to pay freelancers—how much of a role does reporting, length, or relationship play into it? Does expected traffic for the piece matter?