NYT: Street Papers Flourish In Recession

Though one might not say that any street paper—a newspaper produced and sold by homeless people— has cash to burn right now, the recession has bumped up circulation and staff at many across the country. The New York Times examined some street papers across the country to see why.

The barrier to entry for the job is low, and good salespeople can pocket a few hundred dollars of profit a week, which isn’t much, but can prop up a newly homeless person while he or she searches for employment. So the newly needy, many of whom have high school diplomas or even college degrees, flock to the papers. More vendors, especially ones who already know a little about sales and marketing, mean more circulation. The Portland street paper’s circulation has jumped by 5,000 to 16,000 in just a few months.

But many of these newspapers rely on donations, not just single-copy sales, and donations are down. Laura Osuri, executive director of Washington, D.C.’s Street Sense, says that donations have dropped 25 percent below last year’s levels.

The future for street papers, just like the mainstream newspapers, appears to be unknown.