The Big Issue in the North is piloting the world's first digital street magazine in Manchester - a move that is one of the magazine's biggest developments in the last 20 years.
The Big Issue in the North will be available from street vendors both in its traditional print format and as a printed card featuring a unique code which, when typed into a web browser or scanned with a mobile phone, will download the digital edition of the magazine.
The digital edition - which is backed by the International Network of Street Papers (INSP), a charity which supports street papers throughout the world - is designed to give people a choice in the way that they read the magazine. The Big Issue in the North hopes that it will help them to engage with a new audience, many of who prefer to read content on mobile phones and tablets.
And, crucially, the card allows The Big Issue in the North to join the digital publishing revolution while ensuring that the all-important link between vendors and their customers is maintained.
– Caroline Price, Director, The Big Issue in the North
"It is hoped that the digital edition will help the magazine, which has been in circulation in Manchester since 1992, continue to be a success.
"Manchester is the right place to trial the world's first digital street newspaper; we are a digitally savvy city with a vibrant young community who we hope will support this initiative.
"This is not about replacing our traditional print magazine; it is about moving with the times and giving people a choice in how they read the magazine. The Big Issue in the North's primary aim is to provide homeless people with the opportunity to earn an income. In order to continue to do this, we need to ensure we appeal to a broad range of readers, including people who choose to read newspapers and magazines online."
In a recent survey, more than 70% of vendors indicated they would like something new to sell and discuss with their customers. There are approximately 250 vendors in the North, many of who are reliant on the income that it generates but also on the opportunity to interact with the public which helps to build self-esteem and confidence.
If the pilot is a success, the digital edition will be rolled out across the North West and Yorkshire and to all 122 street papers in the INSP network.