Associated Newspapers is launching freesheet London Metro in the next few weeks. But will the new daily succeed? Given that Metro will be distributed free at London Underground stations through an exclusive deal, it will be wholly reliant on advertising revenue. Will it offer an audience and environment that is attractive to marketers?
The dummy issue looks nice in an easy-to-consume, almost review-style, cappuccino kind of way. This is enhanced by the abundance of colour (it will have an impressive 100 per cent capacity two months after launching) and by its stapled pages, a function of Tube safety requirements.
Interestingly, Associated is quick to highlight that the paper will be free of editorial bias. Which is strange, as I thought that this was why people read newspapers, and there is a danger that it could lack personality as a result.
Perhaps readers will want to make up their own minds. According to the media and lifestyle survey Target Group Index (TGI), London Underground regulars are young (83 per cent aged 15 to 44), upmarket (77 per cent ABC1) and well-off (13 per cent earn more than 30,000 a year).
The highest indexing lifestyle statement for this group is “I like to stand out in a crowd”. This might sound like a moronic statement, but nevertheless an affluent, fashionable and extrovert audience is usually an advantage.
TGI says there are more than 620,000 people who use the tube more than five times a week, with a further 830,000 who use it less regularly, between one and four times. Associated is guaranteeing a circulation of at least 350,000 which should be achievable, but it needs to make sure enough of this figure fits its target profile.
I would be a little careful about where in the issue I booked though. Some people make relatively short journeys and might not get around to reading all 40-odd pages. Booking early sites would be sensible.
So why has Associated done it? Its view is that the launch is an opportunity and a defensive move at the same time. Similar products have historically been successful in Europe so it was only a matter of time before someone did it here, and Associated wants to protect its London market where it has the Evening Standard. Perhaps this explains Metro’s rather cosmopolitan name and flavour.
Will the new title affect other newspapers? Provided the content is of sufficient quality, you bet it will. No doubt the nationals will fight back with exclusive London promotions and, perhaps, London-specific editorial. The Evening Standard too could be affected, although in advertising terms rather than circulation, given that the two titles will not be available at the same time of day.
So back to will it succeed? We have seen casualties in the London market before, but the exclusive distribution, lack of cover price and modern, if not highbrow, content should see it right.
However, Metro does need to build a rapport with its readership swiftly. A similar News International offering is rumoured to be just around the corner.