The first digital street paper edition went on sale in Manchester Oct. 29 and will roll out across northern England in the coming weeks.
Street vendors for The Big Issue in the North, a sister newspaper of Real Change, began offering customers the choice of print or digital editions, which cost the same. To retain the contact between vendors and buyers on the streets, customers choosing the digital version buy an access card with a qr code, which can be scanned or entered onto smartphones, tablets or desktop computers. The device will then download a digital edition containing all the content from the magazine.
The Big Issue in the North is a member of the International Network of Street Newspapers (INSP), an organization that has been looking for a way to take the concept of street newspapers into the 21st century as media consumption patterns continue to shift from print to digital products.
The digital edition will augment, not replace, the printed edition and is made possible through INSP-developed technology.
Vendors have received special training to sell the edition.
While Newsweek will scrap its print edition in 2013 and the Financial Times said that its digital subscriptions had surpassed print ones, insp believes it has found a model that is unique to street papers.
Following the initial pilot in Manchester, another of insp street papers, Chicago’s StreetWise, will also pilot a digital edition. If successful, the digital technology will be made available to all 122 street papers in the insp network.
insp’s Director Lisa Maclean believes the content of street papers is key to the success of the model.
“Street paper vendors aren’t selling just anything — they’re selling news and information. Street papers, both in print and digital form, can challenge public perceptions of poverty and social injustice,” Maclean said. “With more than 6 million readers globally, they provide a powerful platform for unheard voices. We believe this project has the potential to become not only one of the world’s largest paid digital media platforms, but one of the most important, too.”
Caroline Price, Director of The Big Issue in the North, said Manchester readers are ready for a digital version of the paper, which has been in circulation since 1992.
“Manchester is the right place to trial the world’s first digital street newspaper; we are a digitally savvy city with a vibrant young community who we hope will support this initiative,
Price said. “This is not about replacing our traditional print magazine. It is about moving with the times and giving people a choice in how they read the magazine.”
Price said the primary aim of The Big Issue in the North is to provide homeless people with the opportunity to earn an income.
“In order to continue to do this, we need to ensure we appeal to a broad range of readers, including people who choose to read newspapers and magazines in digital format,” she said.
Street paper vendor Craig currently lives in a hostel in Manchester. Having lost his job and suffering depression, he landed at The Big Issue in the North. He has been selling for eight months and believes the digital move is a good idea.
“The magazine has to be competitive and if people stopped buying it, we’d all be out of work. Hopefully the new digital edition will reach a new audience. It’s also a good move for vendors as the new cards are easier to carry around than the magazine. I hope the cards increase sales. That’ll be good for everybody.”
Street papers exist to help homeless and low-income people earn a dignified income.
From the first-ever street paper in New York in the late 1980s, the concept has grown into a global movement against poverty and social injustice, with over 120 different titles published in 40 countries.
In the past year, according to insp, street newspapers such as The Big Issue in the North and Seattle’s Real Change have helped more than 28,000 homeless vendors to earn an income. insp publications are sold in over 600 cities worldwide.
To take a look at a sample issue of the magazine visit binorthdigital.com and type in the following access code: RC8XPFAG/2352