MEDIA: METRO - Commuter papers find morning glory. The Metro phenomenon is due to reach more UK cities next year, creating editorial opportunities for regional PROs

Associated Newspapers' success in securing a contract to distribute its Metro free morning newspaper (Monday to Friday) through London Underground stations is one of the publishing coups of the last five years.

Associated Newspapers' success in securing a contract to distribute its Metro free morning newspaper (Monday to Friday) through London Underground stations is one of the publishing coups of the last five years.

After its launch in March 1999, the title was profitable within a year - at once protecting the monopoly Associated already had with the Evening Standard and creating a new one in the morning.

Since then, the company has sought to leverage additional value with launches in a selection of major cities across the country.

Besides London, the same paper (more or less) runs in Newcastle, Manchester, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Birmingham. There are now plans for a West Yorkshire edition (Leeds and Sheffield), and possibly Liverpool and Bristol.

The aim is to provide an easy-to-read national newspaper suitable for those on their way to work on public transport. Only a handful of the 40 pages are regionalised and these are mostly entertainment listings and sport.

Aside from the obvious appeal to advertisers of an audience that is active and in work, its success has been to find a younger reader that may not otherwise have read a newspaper at all.

Hence the editorial has become targeted at this younger market and tends towards slightly more sophisticated urban content than both local papers and national tabloids with, for example, new technology stories alongside more traditional news.

In engaging this audience, Associated can probably lay claim to the considerable achievement of having enlarged the newspaper-reading population.

The current expansion involves, in most cases, deals with local newspapers in each city whose management believes the paper's editorial policy (national news for a time-pressured young reader) renders it unthreatening to its core product.

Only in one case - Manchester - has the local publisher (the Guardian Media Group) refused the Associated cash with a competition resulting.

In Newcastle there is also competition with another free local morning newspaper, the Modern Times Group's Morning News, running against the Associated/Trinity Mirror Group's Metro North East.

Despite having over 100 journalists, almost all Metro's news is provided by the Press Association. Opportunities for PROs to place material are confined to the features and listings sections.



METRO

Tim Jotischky

Position: editor

Publisher: Associated Newspapers

'The reason Metro worked was that it was the first time there was a quality free paper.

'We are a digest of national news with a strong arts and entertainment guide and a sports section which we editiorialise from city to city.

'The concept is different to local papers - we do not cover local news and the editions across the country are essentially the same in terms of news.

'We are also doing something different from the Daily Mail. Metro is bite-sized news that is suitable to commuters that is accessible and instant digest - the Mail is more complete, we don't have any opinion, we are not a paper with attitude.

'We also recognise that our readers are into music, gadgets, the internet, exotic travel, etc, and we tailor the paper to them.

'The key is that we have identified a new niche in the market - a new type of reader.

'Research shows that 78 per cent of them are less than 44-years-old, and they are affluent working commuters, with money to spend. They are in many cases people who were not newspaper readers before.

'We use things from PROs for the feature pages which are very lifestyle orientated so the features writers have an important relationship with agencies.'



NEWCASTLE EVENING CHRONICLE

Alison Hastings

Position: editor

Publisher: Trinity Mirror Group

'Our Metro paper (published by AN in association with TMG) is in a different situation to others in the country as it is up against the Swedish Modern Times Group with its Morning News.

'Because of that, we have run a marketing campaign to underline the fact that we are part of a north-east stable of newspapers which employs 1,000 people locally.

'Their paper has a very European feel, they use the same template to publish in cities like Amsterdam and Stockholm all over Europe.

'It looks a bit like a tabloid version of USA Today, which I do not think British readers feel very comfortable with.

'The content between the two is pretty similar as both come from the Press Association, although the story choice might be a little different.

'They have chosen to come to a market with strong paid-for titles, we (Newcastle Evening Chronicle) had strong November circulations and are not feeling the competition.

'TMG does not really see the free papers as in competition with our Chronicle in the evening and Journal in the morning as they are very much regional papers with business news.

'We see Metro as complementary - it is a quick, snappy national read for people commuting.'



YORKSHIRE POST

Steve Auckland

Position: managing director

Publisher: Regional Independent Media

'We have a franchise agreement between ourselves and Associated Newspapers for the new paper.

'We think there is a market for it among the high proportion of people using the train to commute within Leeds and Sheffield.

'Leeds is a younger city than it used to be, so it will suit Metro, which is aimed at younger readers. Our view is that it will not compete with the Yorkshire Post which is broadsheet and is strong on business, agriculture and sport and is very much a regional paper. The YP is for an ABC1 market, the Metro is much more geared towards a young, vibrant market with national news. Metro only has six change pages out of 40 each issue, and three or four of these will be entertainment.

'Distribution is really important. It will go in railway and bus stations. We are expecting that all the copies will be off the streets by 10:30am so it should not compete with our Evening Post, which is very much centered on Leeds.

'We will not be changing our other newspapers at all as a result of Metro's launch.

'I should say Metro would clash far more with the redtops - there may be some defections in our readers initially but I do not think they will stick to it in the long term as they want local news.'



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