Big changes are coming to a Nashville newspaper that aims to help the homeless. The sales price for The Contributor is about to double, and it is set to become a weekly publication.
On some street corners, vendors like Shawn Lesley have become a staple, $1 at a time. He's been able to work his way off the streets, and starting in April, vendors like him will get $2 for each paper sold.
"The price change is going to help us raise our earned income. It's also going to help our vendors raise their earned income, because they're selling the product for more as well," said Tom Wills, director of vending for The Contributor.
On the surface, it seems like a win-win situation, but if you ask Lesley, he's not so sure.
He said he likes the idea of having fresh content each week, rather than every-other week.
"That I'm excited about," he said.
But he can't help but wonder if making $1.25 per paper instead of 75-cents will really translate into a pay increase. He wonders what happens if the current buyers don't want to pay $2.
"Raising the price could be a good thing. Raising the price could be a bad thing. I'm hoping it's a good thing. I'm praying it's a good thing. You know, but I don't know if it's good or bad. It depends on the people who buy The Contributor," Lesley said.
In September, the non-profit nearly folded altogether when it found itself with only enough cash on hand to print one more edition. That's a place board members didn't want to revisit.
"This will allow us to ensure the viability of the paper long-term, the sustainability," Wills said. "To continue to provide the services that we do for our vendors, to print this paper and give them the opportunity to go out there and have their own small businesses."
Anything collected above $2, the vendors can keep. So only time will tell whether the price hike will put more money in Lesley's pocket, or less.
Regardless of how many papers are sold, vendors will get a smaller piece of the pie. Right now, they pay The Contributor 25-cents for each paper that's sold, giving them a 75 percent profit margin.
Starting in April, they'll pay 75-cents for each paper, giving them a profit margin of about 64 percent.
They could also lose out on the tips people now give them.
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