Day 1 round up: staying relevant in a changing world

MC Wim de Preter kicking off Day 1.

Today marked the opening of the 17th annual INSP conference: “INSP-iring street papers in a changing world.”

Serge Lareault (Chairperson of INSP and Executive Director of L’Itinéraire), Lisa Maclean (Executive Director of INSP) and Hildegard Denninger (Managing Director of host street paper, BISS) opened day one of the conference, this year held in Munich, and welcomed delegates from street papers all over the world.

INSP and BISS welcome the delegates.

INSP executive director Lisa Maclean was thrilled that a record number of over 100 delegates attended this year’s conference. “We all have a unified goal: supporting our vendors,” she said.

“I hope you get some new ideas,” Serge Lareault tells the delegates.

Street papers exchange.

The first day of the INSP conference asks the question: how do street papers stay relevant in a changing world? The shift from print to digital media, the economic crisis, and the continuing rise of homelessness are all factors affecting the street paper model and forcing it to adapt. “We are operating in a changing world. Some of our papers are in good shape, others are struggling,” Serge sums up the challenge for street papers in the digital age. “It’s time to review the business model,” he added.


After the introduction and a brief overview of the INSP network, the delegates moved on to the speed networking exercise. Much like its maligned counterpart, speed dating, delegates were paired up into twos and given five minutes to introduce themselves and their street papers before moving on to meet someone new. “It was so fun! It’s a really great way to get in touch with  a lot of people and get people talk to each other,” said Sean Condon from Megaphone, Canada. His colleague, Jessica Hannon, had the chance to meet a person that was doing the same job as her: “I had the opportunity to learn about the way she’s doing her job.”

After a quick break, and another chance to show off papers and campaign materials, the first of the conference’s external speakers, Rolf Pfleiderer of TNS Infratest, presented the findings of a survey of street papers in Germany.

Rolf has worked for TNS Infratest, a leading market research company based in Munich, for over 30 years and is currently Director of Media Research. The findings of the survey, conducted earlier this year over 12 cities, helped to give delegates an insightful overview of the street paper context in Germany.

Panel discussion.

Following this was a panel discussion surrounding the day’s central theme: “how do street papers stay relevant in the 21st century?”

Panellists Steven Persson (The Big Issue Australia), Amy Roe (Real Change, USA), Anlov Mathiesen (=Norge, Norway), Hildegard Denninger (BISS, Germany), and speaker Rolf Pfleiderer, chaired by Editor of The Big issue Australia, Alan Attwood, discussed this question. A selection of street papers that have developed innovative approaches to try to ensure that their street paper stays also featured in the discussion.

Participants of the discussion agreed that street papers will continue being relevant. Hildegard Denninger (BISS) is convinced: “Our work has always been very relevant. I’v worked in the normal economics for about twenty years before – and I’ve never felt doing something more relevant than the street papers.” The role of street papers is quite different from the one of mainstream newspapers. Amy Roe (Real Change, USA) underlined that “street papers cover news, although not breaking news.” Hildegard agreed that the job of street papers is to provide background stories which deepen your understanding.

Over 100 delegates from all over the
world participate at this year’s
INSP conference.

All delegates agreed that they had to work together closer in order to remain sustainable in the digital age. “Street papers may seem small seperately, but as a network we are strong,” Shawn Bourdages of L’Itinéraire said.

The first day of the conference also featured the Annual General Meeting. Along with welcoming new members to the network from 2012-13 the meeting also saw INSP Executive Director, Lisa Maclean, give the annual review of the network and a presentation on the future strategies of INSP, outlining its new business plan for 2013-15.

She said: “With some street papers reaching their 20th birthday in 2012, we have seen a general recognition that it is a time to update our business model; we have to look at ways to be more sustainable, more innovative and enterprising. We need to continue working to engage more with our existing readers and supporters and engage with new groups.”

This year the new award categories for social enterprise and social development reflect the changing street paper model.