With more than one million copies distributed across eight British urban centres every day, free commuter paper Metro has enjoyed a rapid rise to prominence during its five-year history. Often derided as a vehicle for throwaway and second-hand stories, Metro is nonetheless striking a chord.
'We look like we do, we are where we are and we write what we write about to target urbanites - white-collar, city-dwelling people,' explains executive director Doug Read. 'They are time-poor and cash-rich; we provide them with 20 minutes of great information and entertainment that fits into their morning commuteto work.'
The easy read
For the most part, Metro maintains a light-hearted tone, often fuelled by quirky surveys and bizarre stories from around the globe. 'Our audience plays hard and works hard and this is reflected by the mix of coverage,' says Read. 'They don't want 20 minutes of misery and they don't want to hear how their city is falling apart. If we can inform people and put a smile on their face at the same time, then job done.'
He adds: 'Because the nature of our job is to condense the news, we don't have 14-page exposes of the vicar and the actress.'
Read says that like any national newspaper, news is sourced from many places, including PROs and newswires. He makes no apologies for the apparent brand-led stories that litter the paper, insisting it is not as PR-driven and manufactured 'as some think'.
'If we do more consumerism stories, that's because brands are a part of our audience's lives,' he adds.
Despite the prominence of celebrities in Metro, Henry's House director of talent Jo Milloy says selling-in stories is almost impossible because 'they don't seem to have any features staff' (it admits to a reliance on The Press Association and Reuters).
'It's a quick read but it's almost too quick. I would like to see more features and more unique content,' she says. She adds though that the '60 Second Interview' is a great vehicle for celebrities and is extremely well read.
Consolidated Communications operational board director Zara Brown says PROs need to think laterally when targeting Metro. In a campaign for Kill Bill: Volume 1 that began with actor Gordon Lui appearing in 60 Second, for example, Consolidated sold in a full-page feature about a kung-fu school and temple in Hong Kong. Brown adds that Metro editors are open to developing relationships with PROs.
Consumer-rights stories are prominent. However, despite gaining large amounts of coverage in Metro, anti-smoking group Action on Smoking and Health (Ash) director Deborah Arnott says it is more efficient to target the places where the Metro sources much of its content - news agencies and national newspapers.
The paper is particularly receptive to exclusive giveaways and special offers, boasting a very strong promotions department, according to Lexis PR joint-head of consumer Fiona Jolly: 'It works very well for product giveaways and publicising events. It's good for immediate calls to action.'
While she says Metro is a 'PR-friendly' publication with a diverse editorial policy, its brevity limits its suitability.
'Because it's such a quick read, it's not suitable for more complex stories, such as for healthcare products where you don't want to give people half the message,' says Jolly. 'But sometimes you just want to tell people a product is out there and Metro is perfect for that.'
Judging by the empty distribution bins around the UK's major cities, there is no question that commuters have made Metro the staple of their morning media diet.
MAIN CONTACTS AT METRO
- London 020 7651 5200
Editor: Kenny Campbell
News editor: Mark Dorman - firstname.lastname@example.org
Features editor: Kieran Meeke - 020 7651 5286
Metro Life editor: Elaine Paterson - 020 7651 5369
- Scotland email@example.com
Metro Life editor: Rory Weller - 0141 225 3333
Metro Life regional editor (England): Chris Sharratt - 0161 836 5155
West Midlands: 86,016
East Midlands: 42,089
Source: ABC (30 August-3 October)