Megaphone (originally known as Spare Change) is a non-for-profit newspaper that has been providing economic opportunities and employment for the homeless and less affluent residents of Vancouver since 2002. Their business platform is structured by having vendors purchase the magazines for $0.75 and then selling it in the streets for $2.00. More recently, to help with the issues around awareness and marketing, the leaders of Megaphone have launched an ‘app’ that helps Megaphone readers locate a vendor.
Sean Condon, Executive Direct with Megaphone, states “…to many, our vendors are still invisible – people walk by them without really seeing them or understanding what they’re doing. That’s part of what we hope to accomplish with the app – to help people understand not only where Megaphone vendors are located, but what they are doing”.
Media has dramatically changed with the evolution of social media and online apps that can provide up-to-date news instantly from a touch of a finger. This growing trend has changed the way consumers access information and local news. Marketers and businesses find new ways to reach their target market, either via traditional channels or via experiential methods like brand tours, pop up shop,s and glass trucks. “Street papers like Megaphone have an old school model – this is how newspapers were sold from the start” states Condon. “…Megaphone needs to maintain this model because the social interaction within the urban landscape between people of different classes is an important as the transaction itself…”
Using technology to encourage face-to-face interactions with the Megaphone vendors is an important feature that illustrates how the urban landscape can provide a forum for communities of varying social classes to connect and share information with one another.
The impact that Megaphone has on the urban form of Vancouver, both physical and social, made me think of a quote from Jane Jacobs in her book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961):
“Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.”
While the business model of Megaphone may be outdated when compared to the new digital age of media, the paper occupies something greater than the shifting borders of technological development. Not only do Megaphone vendors recreate the personality and character that media used to possess, but also they connect different social classes through non-traditional perspective and developing a more ‘bodily’ side of an impersonal ‘app world’ .
Megaphone vendors connect a community through words. Words that bring society together. Words that bring hope to our communities. Words that dissolve the apparent stigma of homelessness and mental and physical illness.
Curtis Scott is a graduate from Concordia University with a specialized degree in urban planning. His passions lie in real estate, economics, policy design, and regional & community planning. Curtis is also an avid fan of the works by Roy Henry Vickers and enjoys visiting Tofino, BC to view his gallery, as well as surf!