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Street paper sales surge 10 per cent

 INSP 22 November 2019

A global network of papers and magazines aimed at lifting homeless people out of poverty is bucking the overall slump in worldwide print sales, with a collective 10 per cent rise in circulation over the past year. (833 Words) - By Staff Writer



A selection of the 112 street papers that are part of the INSP network. PR

Titles within the International Network of Street Papers (INSP) are all sold by homeless and vulnerably housed vendors. In September this year they had combined sales of 1.51 million, compared to 1.37m a year earlier.

Readership of the 115 titles within the group, spread across 40 countries, has now hit 5.27 million against 4.79m a year ago.

The best results were recorded in North America (+36 per cent) and Europe (+6.4 per cent).

During the year to September, ten new titles were launched; street papers are now read in 24 languages; and weekly bulletins highlighting their content are now sent to 1,200 media outlets, NGOs and government bodies around the world.

"Impressive" figures

Douglas McCabe, press and online analyst with leading media research company Enders Analysis, described the figures as "impressive" in the current market.

"Any increases in paid-for circulation - and certainly on this scale - are counter to current trends in the magazine market, across nearly all mature economies," he said. "The reach of these titles is impressive, and their market share is growing even more disproportionately."

"In the broadest and simplest terms these magazines are not just proving attractive and valued products for a massive audience - but the intimacy of their distribution helps make them more relevant and welcome for crucial parts of the audience."

INSP has strong global industry links, which include Reuters, and the Rome-based development news agency Inter Press Service (IPS).

David Schlesinger, editor-in-chief of Reuters News, and INSP's Honorary President, added: "Compelling and engaging content, presented well, deserves to be a winning formula. When that is combined with a special cause and enterprise, it truly makes a mark."

The concept behind the INSP street paper movement is a simple one. Homeless vendors buy a paper at cost price and sell it for the cover price, keeping the proceeds. The growing sales translate simply into more people being taken off the streets.

Stark contrast

INSP's figures compare starkly with other recent industry findings which showed overall global newspaper circulation is now falling for the first time.

A report from the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers, published in August, revealed data from 233 countries that publish newspapers. Their 'World Press Trends' report showed there was a 0.8 per cent decline in newspaper circulation from 2008 to 2009, to 517m copies sold. Sales in developed markets such as Europe and North America were hit the hardest.

By region, the report showed circulation was up 1 per cent in Asia and 4.8 per cent in Africa, but dropped 3.4 per cent in North America, 4.6 per cent in South America, 5.6 per cent in Europe, and 1.5 per cent in Australia and Oceania. Circulations for non-daily newspapers edged up overall by 2.5 per cent for the same period. In Europe they rose 1.5 per cent, and 3.1 per cent in Asia; but they fell by 6.2 per cent in Africa and by 1.4 per cent in North America.

But within the INSP network, dominated by monthlies and weeklies, North American circulation and total readership soared 36 per cent to 246,350 and 862,225, and in Europe they jumped 6.4 per cent to 1,084,859 and 3,797,007. In Asia, too, they rose 48 per cent, although from a much smaller base or 52,000 copies printed across four titles.

The circulation figures follow on from other INSP research published last month into the economic effects on the homeless people who actually sell the titles, which showed similarly impressive success.

200,000 vendors

Over 200,000 people have now worked as a vendor, with many helped out of homelessness as a result, since the INSP network started in 1994.

They showed that up to last year, 71 per cent of street papers had helped their vendors get off the streets and a quarter of the papers are now being credited with being involved in creating policy change on housing and homelessness in their home city or region.

Like many papers around the world, especially in mature markets, INSP is embracing digital platforms and it is currently working on developing new forms of publishing product and growing its overall product portfolios, audience reach and revenue streams.

INSP has recently launched to the public what it considers a huge step in expanding the services it provides its readers: the Street News Service ( The SNS is a multilingual online news agency, which brings together the best content from the 115 titles. Some 75 volunteers help translate articles in any of the network's 24 languages. The site's content is be targeted at an increasingly diverse readership, including mainstream media, NGOs and governments.

INSP's Executive director Lisa Maclean said: "The street paper concept is becoming a huge news industry success story. It is showing in a tough market, that targeted, local papers and publications are still strong.

"The INSP member titles provide a real service and purpose to many of the people who sell them too, so they are doubly successful at the moment.

"Then of course, through that global network, we provide an international element too - an on-the-ground perspective on key homelessness and poverty issues, which is appealing to a greater audience every year.

"The content mix is potent - from actual vendor stories and first-hand accounts of people affected by poverty and social injustice, to lighter pieces that appeal to just about everyone."




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