Street magazines prepare for digital payment

Street magazines are feeling the trend towards digital payment. In Switzerland, they are relying on the Twint payment app and customer loyalty, while German magazines are testing new models.

A look into the archive: The Surprise issues published so far in 2023. (Screenshot:

In German-speaking Switzerland, they are part of the cityscape. They stand at street crossings and in front of supermarket branches, many of them for years: the vendors of the red street magazine Surprise. A loyal clientele regularly stops and thinks about the eight francs in cash. But more and more are walking past them, muttering "no cash". A trend that could pose a threat to the print-based business model.

Because the non-profit association Surprisewhich is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, generates the majority of its income from street sales. Last year, 3.06 million francs of the total income of 5.49 million francs came from booklet sales.

However, this has recently been in decline: in 2022, sales were 6.6 percent down on the previous year. In the last annual report, the publishers of the Swiss street magazine expressed concern about "falling magazine sales" and at the same time "increased and rising production costs".

Cashless payment in vogue

One reason for this is probably the declining importance of cash. This is because Switzerland is undergoing a digital transformation. According to a study by the Swiss National Bank (SNB), cashless payments are gaining in importance. Debit and credit cards as well as payment apps are particularly popular in places where people pay on the spot.

According to the survey, younger people in particular are increasingly using digital payment systems. Also Surprise-customers had expressed a desire for online payment options. According to the non-profit company Surprise-Spokesman Nicolas Fux reacted and has been working with Twint since last year. This is "a solution that is established among customers", Fux emphasized to the news agency AWP.

However, Twint has not yet gained much acceptance among independent sales staff. This is because they need to have an account and an email address or cell phone number. Most sellers, including homeless people and addicts, therefore continue to rely on the "cash in hand" option.

For Surprise this is generally not a problem. "Most customers know their sales clerks, who are always in the same places, and take cash with them," says Fux. The association therefore does not see itself under any immediate pressure to adapt the payment model.

Germany comes up with QR code solution

Meanwhile, neighboring Germany has gone one step further. Since this October, socially engaged people in major German cities have been able to purchase street magazines using a QR code. In addition to an online version of the local street magazine, they also receive digital content and prize draws tailored to Gen Z. The Berlin platform is behind the model Streadwhich is financed by a charitable foundation.

StreadEditor-in-chief Robert Hofmann, who works for the online magazine Vice is convinced by this model. "Many street magazines have so far not been aimed at young people," he said in an interview with AWP. "If people are really keen on a medium, they are also prepared to spend money on it," he believes. His medium-term goal, Stread into a "cool" medium that people would actively seek out on the street.

The new model certainly offers potential: not only can digital distribution save costs and paper, it can also increase circulation as required. "We have set ourselves the goal of doubling the existing Germany-wide print circulation of around 400,000 copies by 2025," says Stread. This means that the street magazines, in cooperation with the online platform, would reach more people than the Image-Newspaper.

Surprise Sticks to model

The offer from Stread to the association Surprise known, says Fux from Surprise. The company maintains contact with other German-language street magazines and is generally open to changes.

Nevertheless Surprise There is currently no reason to replace the print-only model with an online version, such as the Stread offers to complement this. "Sales are a form of social interaction. This exchange takes place more extensively with a printed product," says the Surprise-Speaker.

About the organizations

The independent association Surprise has been providing work opportunities for socially disadvantaged people in Switzerland since 1998. It belongs to the international network for street magazines INSP, which has around 100 members from over 30 countries. The Surprisemagazine is published twice a month and is distributed by around 500 people in German-speaking Switzerland. 501,046 issues were sold in 2022.

Stread is published by the non-profit Dojo Cares Foundation. This was created 10 years ago from the Berlin agency Dojo and is financed by a social tax on agency services. The digital system of Stread is currently used by street magazines in Berlin, Frankfurt, Münster, Leipzig and Osnabrück, among others. There are a total of 22 street magazines in Germany. (Background:AWP/Leah Süss)

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