FYI: How did the International Network of Street Papers come about? They are sold by various misfits, drawn from various nationalities, across various parts of the planet - from Odessa on the Black Sea to Malmo on the Baltic, from Rio de Janeiro to Windhoek. They come with weird titles, such as The Big Issue and The Depths (Siberia edition), Trott-War (Stuttgart) and Flaszter (Budapest), Spare Change News (Boston) and L'itineraire (Montreal). Despite the pick 'n' mix mastheads, they all have one thing in common: to varying extents they involve news about the homeless; are often written and produced by the homeless; and are sold by the homeless. Funnily enough, they are rarely bought by the homeless (they have more pressing concerns), but by those with a nice roof over their heads. Street papers are one of the few newspaper publishing successes of the internet age. In fact, there are now more street-paper titles than ever before. Indeed, there are so many they have spawned their own trade association: the International Network of Street Newspapers (INSP). As far as trade lobbies go, members of INSP aren't exactly first off the Lear jet at Davos for the World Economic Forum, nor do they have a cushioned seat reserved around the International Monetary Fund table. The organisation is mainly comprised of volunteers and activists, but their network, designed to help the homeless off the streets, is growing fast. INSP has a footing on most continents, with 90 affiliated titles, and therefore 90 members under its umbrella, an apt term considering the network's core ideal is to shield society's less fortunate types from the elements. The network gets the homeless off the streets, principally by giving them newspapers to sell. Vendors keep a high percentage of the revenue, earning cash to eventually put a deposit down for a roof over their heads and gaining respect, an identity and an address (very important for job hunting - how else can you receive rejection letters?) to help claw themselves back into society. The network and affiliate North American Street Newspaper Association have spawned an annual 'networking' conference, a website and even a news-wire service. Although it's not quite AFP or Reuters, its various bureaux bank stories about the street experience worldwide, selling and syndicating stories and photographs to interested paying publishers, or offering them gratis, usually to member publications. The Big Issue, a publication that is now common on the streets of every major city in Britain and whose franchise is rolled out from its birthplace, London (it was founded by John Bird and Dave Bulldog in 1991), to fields as far flung as Namibia and Melbourne, is perhaps the most glowing example of this growing phenomenon. And the phenomenon is growing, no mean feat considering that even traditional, well-funded newspaper titles are haemorrhaging sales due to dwindling human attention spans, increasingly limited reading time and interest in internet and rolling television news. So what's their secret? No one is sure, but traditional newspapers aren't sold by unfortunate, social misfits sat outside busy metro entrances or on bustling street corners, come rain, wind or shine, representing daily, living, breathing physical reminders of how lucky the rest of us are to be on the buying end of street papers, rather than the selling end.