Metro aims to be entertainment market leader

Metro, the free national morning newspaper, is to ramp up its entertainment section, both online and in print, in a bid to become “a leader” in UK showbiz coverage.

The paper will make gradual changes to the layout and content of its “guilty pleasures” entertainment pages from the end of March and will focus on using social media and user generated content to help increase the numbers reading its entertainment sections.

Metro is hoping its Foursquare presence will build a community of entertainment fans by allowing readers to post reviews of events. The Metro became the first UK newspaper to feature editorial content on Foursquare in September last year.

Managing director Steve Auckland says: “We’re developing entertainment at this time as we see that this links to our web development.

“Our consumers are constantly asking for more information and we’re also attracting interest from other categories, such as telecommunication companies who want to be associated with the entertainment market. We don’t feel there is any main competition for what we are trying to achieve.”

He adds that there will be more cross-fertilisation between the paper and the Metro website, with good online user generated content making it into the print version, which will help drive reader engagement.

Auckland says: “User generated content fits in with our readership, they are heavy Facebook and Twitter users and we want to give them more opportunities to get involved with the paper, using it as a conduit.”

Metro wants to grow its online audience to 5 million by the end of 2011 from the 3.5 million unique UK visitors that visited the site.

In November last year, Metro owner The Daily Mail and General Trust (DMGT) reported a 23% jump in annual profits to £247m in the year to 3 October 2010. Advertising revenues were up 7%, driven by a “strong performance” from Metro.

Although DMGT does not release individual figures for the Metro, the paper suggests it made a record profit of more than £9m in 2010.

The Metro has a circulation of 1.38 million and is distributed in 50 cities and 16 urban areas.

Managing director Steve Auckland says: “2010 was Metro’s best year yet and we’ve started well this year – we’re on very thick ice at the moment.

“We are a success story as the world’s largest circulating free newspaper which is worthy of more note than even we give it.”

Mobile is also an important part of Metro’s 2011 growth strategy and the paper is submitting a plan for a universal iPad and iPhone app this week to Apple, which includes page turning animation and live rolling news from the website.

Metro launched its first iPhone app last year which has achieved 350,000 downloads and its iPad app in June which has been downloaded 50,000 times.

Assistant managing director Rich Mead says: “Fifty-six per cent of our audience has a smartphone and 7% of that audience uses Android so we need to ensure we engrave mobile into everything we do.”

This year, Metro will also explore further brand extensions including Ecovelocity, a low-carbon motor festival set to take place in September which has already attracted eight major manufacturers, reader shopper events to boost its growing style section and gigs to support new and breaking music talent.

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