EDITOR’S COMMENT: Four-way Metro battle is bound to end in tears

It’s war! A good old-fashioned newspaper fight has broken out in the UK, with four publishers battling to provide city dwellers with a morning freesheet.

It’s war! A good old-fashioned newspaper fight has broken out in

the UK, with four publishers battling to provide city dwellers with a

morning freesheet.



Swedish publisher Metro International last week announced it is

launching a Metro in Manchester, while Associated and the Guardian Media

Group both launched Metros - Metro News and Metro North West

respectively - in Manchester.



In addition, there are rumours that Trinity Mirror is planning to enter

the fray, probably starting in London, and that Associated and Metro

International are both plotting to target a host of other cities.



What the public makes of this flurry of publishing activity is anyone’s

guess. While some will always be happy to take a freebie regardless of

its quality, others must be wondering if they need yet another newspaper

in this age of information overload. And why on earth do they all have

to be called Metro?



Associated’s London freesheet - the first to make use of the name in the

UK - seems destined for profit early in the next millennium. Last

Monday’s Virgin cover wrap is proof that the agency boycott prompted by

Metro’s serious rate rise is far from universal, and the management at

Associated are pretty sure they can shift 500,000 copies. But whether

this success can be replicated is highly questionable.



It has never been easy to make money out of newspapers in Newcastle, for

example. The geordies are well served by - and loyal to - the Evening

Chronicle and The Journal. It is also questionable whether two new

freesheets can survive in Manchester.



The model for Associated, Trinity Mirror and Metro International will be

based on creating a network of titles across several cities, and

therefore being able to offer advertisers a national package. But you

can’t escape the feeling that this sudden competition is prompting

publishers to rush out their products, without sufficient research into

delivery and demand. There will be casualties in this war.



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