Have newspapers sold by the homeless entered a digital age?
It’s common in London to see the homeless touting newspapers including “The Big Issue”, which in itself is not what the general public consider ‘a proper job’ — but rather, a way to give the homeless a leg up on the work ladder.
For those who want to get back into the workplace, being given the opportunity to do anything, including selling a newspaper, not only can give someone a reason to get up in the morning, but for most, it does offer the chance to begin earning a living and make things a bit easier.
There are examples of scams in the UK ran through selling these types of newspapers — such as earning additional benefits by registering as self employed — however, for many without a home or purpose, it is at least something.
The problem is this — will touting local newspapers be consistent with the modern age, where more and more people are accessing news online?
Tablets and mobile phones are popular tools to access media, and nationwide newspapers often offer subscription services instead of only print media. In comparison, local newspapers are generally only found in print.
If the general public is turning towards a digital future in order to access information, how can this be adapted to keep the homeless earning a wage?
The Scotland-based International Network of Street Papers (INSP) has been working with homeless vendors since 1994 in order to offer this temporary work to people. Sold at a 50 percent discount, the homeless can then sell the papers at full cover price — therefore keeping the profits.
“The reason why people buy street papers is slightly different than why consumers buy any other paper. It’s partly because of the connection to the vendor and doing some good as well. It’s a part of the reason why circulation isn’t affected as much as the print media.
Things are changing so quickly with digital innovation. We’d like the model to be around and still be able to provide street papers for vendors to earn an income. It’s a way to stay ahead of the game.”
In order to tackle the problem, the INSP is launching their first “Digital Street Paper Project” this July. For the same price, homeless vendors will be given both print and digital copies — for those who prefer to read the paper on their tablet or phone, they will be given a printed coupon with a QR code instead.
Once the QR code is scanned, the digital edition is accessible. It is hoped that offering this choice to consumers will help preserve the publications, as well as maintain the face-to-face contact the homeless rely on.
The ISNP’s project is currently on Kickstarter, and they hope to raise $5,000 to develop the project — beginning in the north of England.
Image credit: INSP