Updated: Thursday, 27th April 2017 @ 8:16am

Help the homeless... online: Manchester sellers lead digital revolution as Big Issue launches internet trial

Help the homeless... online: Manchester sellers lead digital revolution as Big Issue launches internet trial

By Pippa Field

Manchester’s Big Issue sellers will lead a digital revolution when they start selling the world’s first online version of the famous street magazine today.

The pilot scheme kicks off this morning and will see street vendors offering both the traditional print form the Big Issue in the North as well a printed card with a unique code offering online access.

The aim is to maintain the link between vendors and their customers while embracing the digital publishing revolution of the last few years.

If successful, the scheme will be rolled out across North West England and Yorkshire.

Explaining why Manchester was chosen as the location for the trial, director of The Big Issue in the North Caroline Price said: “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.”

She also stressed that the magazine format would not be forgotten, instead suggesting it was a way of ensuring an income for the vendors, many of whom are homeless.

“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,” she said.

“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.”

Vendors will sell a token containing a unique redemption code which, when typed into a web browser or scanned with a phone, will download the digital edition.

But Tim Dixon, a 37-year-old vendor in Manchester was not convinced by the scheme aimed at maintaining sales.

“I think it is to vamp it up a little big, but I can’t see it working. They are trying to get rid of the magazine,” he said.

Approximately 250 vendors sell the edition across the North of England, making a £1 profit by buying it for £1 and then selling it for £2.

And homeless Tim, who has sold the magazine in Manchester for the last three years, argued that unless the price was changed, the public would not be interested, regardless of whether it was digital.

He said: “There are not as many people interested in buying it nowadays. The internet one will be the same price. But it is getting too expensive for customers.”

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