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The Big Issue Magazine Case Study

Rob Miller | Tuesday January 22, 2013

Categories: GCSE, Eduqas (WJEC) GCSE, WJEC GCSE Media Studies, Key Concepts, Audience, Genre, Ideology, Institutions, Media Language, Narrative, Representation & Stereotyping, Hot Entries, Magazines, Intro to Magazines, Street Magazines, New Media, Digital Media

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Institutional Factors and Marketing

First published in 1991 The Big Issue has gone from strength to strength to become the world’s most widely circulated street newspaper. It officially belongs to the hybrid genre of entertainment and social business and as such, runs regular reviews on films, book releases, theatre, music and art but no television listings – the entertainment aspect attracts advertising revenue while the editorial content is often critical of big business, banking and commerce and champions the political cause and role of the individual within society. David v Goliath narratives are common as downtrodden groups and disparate individuals fight corporate giants but the magazine has come under some criticism for its ‘flashy style’ as a street newspaper and as being overly commercial.

When John Bird and Gordon Roddick founded the magazine their aim was to offer homeless people, or people at risk of homelessness the opportunity to earn a legitimate income by selling the magazine – the cost of the magazine is £2-50 with £1-25 going to the trader. This was the primary objective of the magazine as an independent publication to offer a public service and to try and improve a social problem which they saw as endemic – John Bird MBE remains the Editor-in-Chief and still writes a regular column at the back of the magazine. Recently (January 2013) he appeared on BBC1’s discussion panel show Question Time surprising some viewers with his admission that he is a ‘working class Tory’. Other writers in the magazine Bird works with include professional journalists and new and established writers.

Bird’s own background was pivotal to launching The Big Issue – he was homeless at the age of 5, residing in an orphanage between 7 and 10 and had a spell in prison as a teenager. After leaving prison he slept rough on the streets of London before returning to prison in his late 20s. Four...


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