Selling out, or just selling well?
Dalai Lama interview nets vendors $1.7 million
Not everyone was thrilled to see the Dalai Lama on the cover of Real Change.
“Apart from the obvious selling value I can’t see any reason for it,” wrote Jim Page, a reader and member of Real Change’s Advisory board. Page said the interviewer was too easy on the Dalai Lama, who, he said, lives a privileged existence.
“It seems like nobody ever challenges him on anything,” Page said of the Dalai Lama.
Real Change was among the
72 publications in 27 countries to publish the exclusive interview and photo shoot, which sold out around the world. Homeless street paper vendors made a combined profit of $1.7 million from a Dalai Lama edition.
The interview, secured by the International Network of Street Papers (INSP), was featured on the cover of its member publications throughout the summer, with the last edition hitting the streets of Montreal, Canada, this month. Real Change published the interview in the July 11, 2012, edition.
A total of 1 million copies of the Dalai Lama edition have been sold by more than 10,000 vendors.
Volunteers with the Glasgow-based charity INSP translated the story into
13 languages, including Portuguese, Slovak and Japanese. Street paper sellers around the world acquired new readers as a result of the interview, according to editors of those publications.
In the interview, the Dalai Lama directly addressed the vendors of the publications he starred in. He advised them on how to deal with loneliness, an emotion shared by many homeless street paper sellers. He also stressed the importance of independent media — including street papers — in today’s society.
Vendors buy their copies for a marked-down price and sell them on the streets for the cover price to make a profit; an attractive cover has a direct impact on their sales and income. Recognizing this, the Dalai Lama posed for a cover shot, holding up a selection of street papers. The iconic image made the front page in hundreds of cities from the USA to Ukraine.
Paddy, vendor of The Big Issue uk in Glasgow, said: “The Dalai Lama edition was the best cover we’ve had for ages. I walked into the Big Issue offices and just thought ‘Wow, they’re gonna sell like hot cakes’. A good cover tells me I’ll have a good week. I sold roughly 70 copies that week — that’s more than usual.”
Hans-Peter, vendor of Hinz&Kunzt in Hamburg, Germany, said: “The cover is brilliant! Customers spot it even from a great distance and recognize the Dalai Lama. You can hear them say: ‘I have to get this’ or even ‘Please give me two copies, I am going to give one to my son.’ My sales numbers are amazing!”
Cynthia, vendor of The Big Issue South Africa in Cape Town, said: “I liked the Dalai Lama edition because it was a simple but good cover. He is so well-known and loved all over the world. I have gained many new customers because of this cover.”
Robert, vendor of Groundcover News in Michigan said the Dalai Lama “does a good job providing a whole world view of poverty. His perspective really conveys some of the emotions of what it means to be homeless.”
Joanne Zuhl, Editor of Street Roots, Portland, Ore., said: “The Dalai Lama edition sold out two days ahead of schedule. It was a rock solid interview, and readers loved it.”
Kristin Pazulski, Managing Editor of Denver VOICE, said: “We sold out of our August issue with the Dalai Lama — 12,000 copies; first sell-out in over a year!”
Danielle Batist, editor of INSP, said: “Famous figures who give us interviews know that this is about more than global exposure to millions of readers. Their picture on our street paper covers directly helps homeless people earn additional income. The Dalai Lama, and others including Prince William and Bob Dylan, realized this, and we are hugely grateful for their support.”
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