Media: Lifeline - Metro

Associated Newspapers' successful freesheet has joined forces with Trinity Mirror.

1999: Reacting to speculation that Metro International (the Stockholm-based publisher that had already launched commuter freesheets in many cities around the world) had now targeted London, Associated Newspapers prepares its own version in order to protect the Evening Standard. It is an instant hit with commuters.

2000: The Daily Mail & General Trust chairman, Lord Rothermere, confesses that the impact of Metro's undoubted success on group fortunes is debatable. Its success is perhaps hurting revenues on paid-for titles such as the Daily Mail, while plans for expansion into Edinburgh, Glasgow, Birmingham and Manchester may not bring immediate returns on investment.

2003: Despite the departure of its managing director, Mike Anderson (pictured), to run the Evening Standard, Metro is performing soundly, with launches in Leeds and Newcastle. The Daily Express publisher, Richard Desmond, seemingly halts plans for a me-too title.

2004: Bristol, Bath, Leicester, Derby and Nottingham launches push circulation above one million. Annual profits top £2 million for the second time. Metro's managing director, Steve Auckland (pictured), says sceptics such as Rupert Murdoch will eat their words.

2006: Associated Newspapers joins forces with Trinity Mirror (whose print plants will produce the titles) to launch two new editions of Metro - one in Liverpool and the other in Cardiff, starting in March. Editorial will be produced in London by the centralised Metro team. Associated will sell space to clients nationally, while Trinity Mirror will handle local advertising.

Fast forward ...

2008: With Metro titles now covering every urban centre worth noting and its combined circulation climbing well above the two million mark, there are now serious question-marks about the viability of paid-for nationals - whose circulation continues to decline. News International now looks at switching The Sun to a freesheet overnight.