When Swedish newspaper publisher Modern Times Group threatened to
launch a free daily morning paper in the UK, Associated Newspapers moved
quickly and aggressively.
First in London, and then in a number of other major UK cities,
Associated launched free morning papers for commuters under the brand
name Metro - the same title used by the Modern Times Group in Sweden
At the same time, other publishers suddenly became desperate to launch a
similar free morning title and all sought to call it Metro.
The Guardian came out on top in Manchester, forcing Associated to change
its title to the North West News. But Associated secured the rights to
the Metro brand in Newcastle (the paper is actually published under
licence from Associated by Trinity Mirror).
What is interesting is the combative ways in which publishers have
sought to secure the free daily morning markets. Battles are being
fought not only over the brand itself, but also over distribution.
The emergence of the Metros shows that publishers whose flagship
regional morning papers are all showing a slow but steady decline in
sales are seeking to hold on to readers and advertisers.
All the top 12 regional paid-for morning papers have recorded a drop in
circulation since 1990. The worst casualties are the Darlington Northern
Echo and the Western Mail. Both have lost almost a quarter of their
circulation since 1990. In Glasgow, where a Metro launched in November,
the Herald’s circulation had fallen by 18 per cent by June 1999.
The Metro brand is well placed to revitalise a flagging morning market.
It provides an add-on to the groups’ local papers with its mix of
national and local news. The emphasis on national headlines and the fact
that it is free means that Metro can perhaps entice new readers without
cannibalising the reader base of the regional morning and evening
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