Big Issue
A street vendor sells the Big Issue. Sales of street papers are showing significant growth, according to a new report. Photo: INSP.

The global sales and readership of 'street papers' have both risen by more than 10 per cent in the past year, according to new figures.

Data released by the International Network of Street Papers (INSP), which includes the Big Issue brand and other titles sold by homeless vendors, suggests that combined sales of the group's 115 titles across 40 countries has reached 1.51 million. In September 2009 this figure was 1.37 million, suggesting an increase of 10.2 per cent.

According to the INSP, readership of the titles has also risen by around 10 per cent year-on-year. Ten new titles have been launched since September 2009 and the figures suggest the strongest growth in circulation in North America and Europe.

"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. The reach of these titles is impressive, and their market share is growing even more disproportionately," says Douglas McCabe, media analyst with media research company Enders Analysis, in a release from INSP.

"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."

Vendors at INSP titles buy editions at cost price and sell at cover price, while keeping the profit. The organisation says that more than 200,000 have worked as a vendor of an INSP title since 1994 and the new figures will translate into more homeless people finding a way out of life on the streets.

The network has recently launched an online news service, Street News Service, which involves a team of volunteers translating articles from INSP titles into any of the network's 24 languages.

"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," says Lisa Maclean, executive director of INSP, in the release.

"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."

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