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
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.