The Digital Street Paper | Up next
How StreetWise plans to vend a digital publication.
Jim LoBianco knows that the survival of StreetWise as a media entity is inextricably tied to the survival of the 200 homeless and at-risk men and women selling the paper on Chicago’s sidewalks. To that end, the StreetWise executive director is always looking for business opportunities in line with the social agency’s mission of giving those in need “a hand up, not a handout.”
Last we talked, LoBianco was organizing the EatWise produce-vendor program—essentially, StreetWise with fruits and vegetables instead of magazines. (Its rollout to high-traffic corners and food deserts has been stalled, he says, pending the approval of an ordinance that will make it easy for vendors to set up shop.)
The latest initiative aims to retain the vendors while targeting decreasing print readership. LoBianco has volunteered StreetWise to be one of two publications, alongside Manchester, England’s The Big Issue in the North, to test what the U.K.-based International Network of Street Papers (an umbrella org of 122 publications in 40 countries) is calling the Digital Street Paper. Customers will be offered two equally priced options: the regular print pub or a coupon bearing a QR code that can be scanned by mobile devices. Aside from a digital version of StreetWise, readers will get biographical info on their vendor and other tech features. “We’re trying to finish building out the technology so you’ll be able to tap on the picture of the weekly vendor profile and see a short interview with him or her,” LoBianco says.
On Kickstarter, he’s asking for $5,000 to fund the platform’s development. This way, the media product moves with the day’s trends, and the street vendors get to keep their jobs.
Contribute to the Digital Street Paper through June 14 at kck.st/MnDU5d.