Report Back from 2018 INSP Summit in Glasgow, Scotland

by Justin Gaudian


When I met Two Way Street Founder, Jeff Hertz at my first editorial meeting for the paper, I remember asking him about his inspiration to start a street paper in Albuquerque.  He told me he had written his Senior Thesis on the street paper movement for his major at UNM and shortly after, attended the International Network of Street Papers (INSP) summit in Seattle, Washington in 2015.  He said the conference left him feeling invigorated to bring the movement back to Albuquerque. I remember being inspired by the vision, mission, and goals he had outlined for Two Way Street – to unite the housed and unhoused in Albuquerque through grassroots, hyper-local journalism, while also providing micro-entrepreneurial opportunities for low- and moderate-income burquenos; but, I underestimated the size, scope, and efficiency of the global street paper movement spearheaded by the INSP.


In July, Two Way Street invited me to represent them at this year’s INSP summit in Glasgow, Scotland.  I arrived in Glasgow on August 20th and was met by a group of journalists, editors, board members and representatives from about 40 of the 120 papers and magazines from around the world.  This was Two Way Street’s first time represented at the summit and I was ecstatic to have the opportunity to be their initiating ambassador. The following three days were packed with workshops, educational talks, roundtable discussions, and meetings focusing on streamlining and expanding the movement.  


The INSP led classes over the three day summit on several topics including: the available resources the INSP provides the network, how they collect data via their yearly survey, and how papers can stay involved with the INSP throughout the year.  I was able to get together with the other papers based in North America to discuss various issues specific to our side of the world. We traded networking information and hope to collaborate more with our neighbors in the future.


The program also featured a special showcase of innovative papers who have branched out beyond street paper production to help meet the needs of their local populations.  They included: a paper in Oslo, Norway who funded the start-up of a coffee shop that employs recovering drug addicts, a paper based in Athens, Greece that began recycling extra-copies of their magazine into sellable art providing extra working hours for their vendors, and even a social enterprise investment company started by the street paper Goliath – The Big Issue based out of The United Kingdom!  


In return for all of the information and wisdom that I gathered for Two Way Street during the conference, Two Way Street’s Research and Development Committee provided me with the new Neighborhood Development Template to share with other street papers.  Representatives from other papers found Two Way Street’s new format – which emphasizes integration of Street Vendor Development, Street Paper Production, and Event Coordination as a means of building capacity within a neighborhood – to be an innovative and resourceful means of growth and development for such a young paper.  Two Way Street will soon be uploading the Neighborhood Development Template to INSP’s Guides and Resources repository to share with other street papers wanting to implement this model in their own communities.


Throughout the four days of my attendance, I felt I could truly understand the passion that inspired Jeff to deliver our local slice of this great movement! Thank you Two Way Street and INSP for this special experience!


Two Way Street and Free the Future’s Questions for INSP Summit



  • How do street papers in other parts of the country and world determine who they reach out to for recruiting more street vendors?


      1. Most of the papers here are well established and have been around for 5 plus years. For them, vendors now recruit themselves via referral initiatives etc. This doesn’t help us very much. . . Some of the smaller papers (especially US based) still building their vendor force say that they have done a lot of footwork. New recruitment seems to always be an initial struggle while building your paper. They talk to people at shelters, in parks, and known transient hangouts sometimes as many as 250 people a day with very little initial recruitment. The best way to recruit vendors seems to be by using the existing vendors peer network as trust of people outside of transient networks is low. Papers seem to say that there is a tipping point, where once you reach a certain level of success in vendor recruitment the vendor stability follows.
      2. Big issue uses a franchisee recruitment strategy. They hire veteran vendors to recruit new vendors and sell them new issues in bulk.


  • How have street papers approached applying for grants? Ex. Focus on journalism, economic development,etc.


      1. I was very surprised that most of the papers dont use many grants or governement funding. It seems like they are either self sufficent, do their own grassroots funding, or are suplied by a parent company.  During a talk Street Sense was asked about government funding and they responded in this way: “governement funding would compromise the integrity of the paper.”


  • What kinds of data are street papers collecting to help them leverage further funding?  What types of data can all street papers collect? Can INSP also be a clearinghouse on data?


      1. INSP currently conducts a yearly survey that it asks all of its members to participate in! They are acting as a clearinghouse currently as well. They have an infographic stored in the hub for all members to use that shows the street paper movements in=mpact wroldwide. Im sure youve seen in but ill send it to you again! They ask for simple data, just things like: reach, number of vendors, average vendor income, how many papers are sold, and how many readers we have.
      2. Perhaps a way to gain more funding from governments is offer the use of ad space to promote PSA’s using reach data? . . .Just a random thought.


  • What kinds of data are street papers collecting to help them gauge their audiences for content development and community engagement?


      1. I’ve talked to two different papers who have mentioned their use of focus groups to get audience feedback on what they would like to see, the contributor from Nashville and real change from Seattle. Both separately mantioned that their are 2 types of purchasers of street papers – those who buy to contribute to the vendor and generally dont read or care about the paper (this is generally the older population) – and those who first and foremost want to read the content. Founder from Real change said he found people wanted something hip, bright, and lively. Nashville group said they also used a survey to compare and contrast with the focus group.


  • How have street papers connected their vendors with other employment opportunities in their communities?


      1. Most of the vendors at larger papers are actually selling enough and making enough to provide for themselves! They seem to be larger magazine style publications and can sell for more and give vendors more profit from each sale. A lot of these larger papers actually employ full time journos to crank out content as well as using insp resources to include articles from other international papers.


  • How are street papers holding events that not only raise funds, but also develop community capacity, education, and rapport?


      1. I havent heard about many papers holding too many events. We’re unique in that way.


  • How do street papers determine their street paper prices, print circulation, and other logistics surrounding product development?


      1. In “Planning for Growth” talk the Big Issue Australia discussed their success with raising the price of thier mag every few years. They started around 2$ in like the late 90s and recently just made the jump to 7$. Their talk discussed the impact with their reader base and how they respond to the public. The say after every price raise they anticipate about a 13% decline in purchases, but because of the price raise both vendors and paper are still making more money. Slowly their sales begin to recover over the next few years before they raise the price again. They are anticipating a jump to 9$ at some point this year. Mind you, this is the australian dollar so its actually like half of an american dollar. many papers have switched to magazine format and have raised their price accordingly after the transition.
      2. Print circulation generally comes from collecting data. In the begining it can be difficult to iron out the logistics of how many papers you will sell or need to give out or use especially when we are handing out full bundles to businesses who buy ads and not just relying on vendor sales. I think generally though unsold papers are brought back to be recycled for a discount to mitigate costs.
      3. There were a few papers who talked about havingathreshold to aim for: I.E. calculating the barrier amount of papers you must sell in order to break even/begin profiting on sales and make the the begining goal then raise it incrementally as you start gathering more data.


  • How do street papers connect their street vendors with brick and mortar businesses to ensure that both are thriving?


      1. So many of these papers were so well established in their communities that they didnt have much relevent advice for a fresh paper. Many businesses welcome the paper in their area because they are all familiar with the benefits. A few papers mentioned the relationship they make by soliciting ads helps to break down barriers between them and vendors. As the papers gains popularity in the community more relationships open up as well.


  • What is the geographic scale of the content you cover? (Ex. Neighborhood based, district based, city based, state based, etc.)


      1. I think TWS was really the only explicitly “hyper local” news source that I talked to. Most of the paper use the INSP hub to collect stories and fill in the gaps in their local journalism when they need more content. No one else I talked to used aneighborhood focus to delegate content for each issue. I think its a unique idea i wish i had tlaked tomore people about that and gotten feedback and thoughts.


  • What are street papers’ target population for recruiting street vendors?  


      1. It cool how each papers vendors had unique identities. For exaple Biss in Munich Germany find that most of thier vendors are transient Romanians. Other papers, like the one in Oslo, Norway, Norge found that most of their vendors were people struggling with addiction.


  • Do any street papers’ mission statement focus on issues other than homelessness, poverty, etc.?  Areas like micro-enterprise development in which the paper provides opportunities for other types of street vendors selling art, doing street performance, or having a mobile food cart?


      1. Homelessness, poverty, and addiction were pretty central to the overall theme and mission of the Street papers movement. It seems like the point behind the whole movement. Some of the papers were branching out into other micro entrerenuerial pursuits to help their vendors make more money.
      2. Shedia in Greece started a really cool campaign teaching vendors to make art out of recylcled magazines! they are making bowls, baskets, lampshades, or really simple things like pencils too! they range in price from like 2 euro to like 250 euro! Norge in Norway funded the startup of a coffee shop and now hires and trains vendors and other impoverished or drug addicted persons to work there. The coffee shop was featured in a tv documentary and is now doing extremely well!


  • How many other papers are establishing contracts with their local governments?  What value are they contributing to their local governments in return for funding?


      1. This just wasnt much of a theme for talks. I couldnt really find much info abut government funding from anyone. the occasional grant seemed to be helping but i think most papers were self sufficient or used more grassroots or private funding.
      2. Like i said in another answer maybe you could offer the opportunity to run a PSA in extra ad space?


  • Have any other street papers taken on event coordination (beyond their typical annual fundraisers and other capacity building events)?


    1. Not anyone that I talked to! And everyone I did talk to said they though the idea was brilliant! including the ED from the contributor in Nashville and the ED from Real Change! So lots of wonderful feedback on that level!


Other points, themes and questions to think about:


  • One of the main themes discussed by American papers is that the model that works in Europe seems to be slowly failing in America.  Differences in social enterprise in U.K. and europe help to incubate the street paper movement. There are distinct qualities of homelessness and the way people view homelessness in North America that dont exist in Europe i.e. boot strap theory, homeless individuals further isolated from society because of lack of health care and lack of resources that europe has.  North American paper are discussing the possibility of creating a North American Bureau of Street Papers Under the INSP to help create a new model to meet specific North American issues.
  • Is physical reading material dying out in a digital world?  
  • People dont carry cash is a global issue for street paper movement worldwide.  
  • INSP provides an infographic that would be great to feature in one or all of our issues also they provide a logo to use in our paper to help us show our readers we are connected to a larger movement despite being a hyper local new source.
  • I noticed a lot of papers put a disclaimer on their cover that tells the reader exactly how much of the cover price goes in to the vendors pockets.  I thought this is a cool idea because it help validate the vendors and the purpose of the paper. For example, Big Issue Australia sells their paper for $7 right underneath the cover price it says; “HELPING PEOPLE HELP THEMSELVES $3.50 of the cover price goes right to your vendor.”
  • Many papers have made the switch to a magazine layout and found it to be a positive transition.
  • Does street paper movement make it difficult for women to become vendors? Women who suffered from domestic abuse may not want to stand on street corner selling paper, how can we accomodate them?


Takeaway Notes: Hope you can use some of this info!  The conference was a ton of fun and again I am really thrilled I had the opportunity to go!  Sarah wants to collaborate more with us as well as Emily from Street Sense. Both have offered resources and told us theywant to help us in any way possible!

It has been almost 2 years since I first caught wind of the street paper movement while studying City Planning at the University of New Mexico. After attending the 2015 International Network of Street Paper Summit in Seattle, I knew that Albuquerque’s original street paper launched in 1990 had to be revived.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here