INSP Digital

The way we consume media has changed dramatically over the last few years, shifting from print to digital. Many major mainstream publications have experienced a decline in readership. Street papers are yet to be seriously affected by these changes. However, they must be prepared to adapt to ensure their sales remain consistent so that their existing vendors are not affected.

Street papers also face a unique problem: unlike mainstream press that can sell pure digital access via online payments, it is essential for street papers to retain the vendor transaction - i.e. customers buying a physical product from a seller on the street.

Many of our street papers do not have the resources to invest in developing new technologies and have asked us to investigate developments in digital.


Thanks to funding from the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation and crowd funding through Kickstarter, we developed the software and systems for the world’s first digital street paper working with pro bono digital experts from The Herald and Bright Signals (see our kickstarter video above for more information about the project and view a list of backers here).

The model allowed vendors to sell both print and digital copies – the digital versions were sold on a card printed with a unique QR (Quick Response) code, which could be scanned on compatible devices, such as tablets or smartphones. We piloted this model for six months with INSP member The Big Issue in the North (north west England).

At the end of the six-month pilot, we sought feedback from readers, vendors and street paper staff. We also presented our pilot and digital development work at a publishing conference at Condé Nast headquarters in New York and were recently finalists in the European Social Innovation Competition 2013. This has assisted our evaluation of the project and helped us to create a plan for further development. INSP street paper The Big Issue Australia has recently launched a digital version of their street paper replicating this model. We will share all learning with our membership online and at our conference.

To find out more about INSP digital, please contact us.