Street press sales have increased across the world for the second year running, lifting tens of thousands of people out of poverty. The increase bucks a downward sales trend that has seen many mainstream newspapers suffer heavy circulation losses.
Figures released today by the International Network of Street Papers (INSP) – to coincide with the launch of its new ‘Vote for Dignity’ campaign – show that the 100+ publications sold by homeless people in 40 countries now have a combined readership per edition of 6.2 million people, up some 160 000 from 2010.
This remarkable media success story highlights the winning formula of the street press concept which embraces independent journalism and social support to aid some of the world’s poorest people. INSP research shows that more than 200 000 people across the world have already been helped out of homelessness by selling street press.
David Schlesinger, chairman of Thomson Reuters China, is honorary president of INSP. He said: “Go around the world and buy a street newspaper and you are not just doing good, you are really getting something good. There’s a true exchange and creation of value, using real journalism as the medium. As someone who has always believed passionately in the revelatory and transformative powers of journalism, I am really proud to be associated with this movement. It shows how the published form can help people change their own lives and also have an impact on the society around them.”
INSP – the Scottish-based umbrella organisation for the world’s 118 homeless publications – says that at a time when consumers are becoming increasingly disillusioned with media conglomerates, street press offers high quality journalism free from political and corporate interference.
Vitally, street publications save lives by offering employment to people living on the margins of society. Vendors buy copies at 50% of the cover price and sell them on to their customers, thereby generating an income. The street press concept offers vendors a way to change their lives and escape poverty – the key message of INSP’s ‘Vote for Dignity’ campaign, launched to coincide with the UN’s International Day for the Eradication of Poverty on 17th October 2011.
Lisa Maclean, executive director of INSP, said: “Street press offers dignified employment and social support to tens of thousands of people experiencing homeless and poverty in 40 countries. It is also a wonderful source of quality, independent journalism.
“Street press is in a unique position to uncover untold stories and share the perspectives of people and issues not typically discussed in the mainstream press. And it reaches out to an incredible 6 million people across the globe every edition. In the coming year, we will stay ahead of the game by exploring a range of exciting new initiatives, including a global digital project.”
One of INSP’s main objectives is to strengthen the editorial content of its titles. Its news agency, the Street News Service (SNS), allows editors to reprint each other’s content and access material from global news agencies Reuters and Inter Press Service. The SNS is supported by Jon Snow (Channel 4 News) as patron, and Tom Thomson (Herald and Times group) as honorary editor.
Street publications are well established in North America and the UK and have been making their mark in countries such as Brazil, Argentina, Philippines, Zambia and Malawi. New publications have been launched recently in Taiwan and South Korea and INSP says expansion plans will continue across the world over the next 12 months, starting with a new street magazine soon to launch in Nigeria.
David Burnett, world-renowned American photojournalist and TIME Magazine photographer, has been closely involved with INSP and attended its annual conference in Glasgow recently with his NGO, Photographers for Hope.
He said: “In a world increasingly ‘connected’ by modern technology, but which suffers from the lack of a human touch, this is one of the rare movements which combines enthusiasm, vision, and pure humanity, to provide what the technology alone cannot do: a wonderful source for keeping us truly connected.”