Metro Celebrates A Decade Of Delivering The Morning Snooze

Dean Nicholas
By Dean Nicholas Last edited 109 months ago
Metro Celebrates A Decade Of Delivering The Morning Snooze

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Image by J_I_M__D
Ten years ago today, Metro UK was launched on an unsuspecting London public by the Daily Mail & General Trust (DMGT). Though widely expected to be a failure, and a hard sell initially for advertisers unconvinced that a free rag would command the time and attention of those wily, wealthy consumers, a decade on the paper, with an original print run of just 85,000 copies, has radically changed the London media landscape and is a major part of the daily commute for millions.

Though Londonist's interests are clearly digital in nature, we can remember with misty-eyed fondness seeing Metro for the first time. An inchoate collection of news both local and international, heavy on factoids and anemic in terms of comment or political bias, the paper quickly established its selling point: why bother paying for a paper that you'll barely read when you can get all the news that's fit to print in a freebie that's light on content and won't discombobulate your morning with an overflow of opinion? A canny approach, and one that soon found success.

The Metro was at the vanguard of charge-free media, a form that's since become the bane and boom of the industry. Wired editor-in-chief Chris Anderson, he of the Long Tail, argues in a forthcoming book that charging for content of any kind simply doesn't work in the post-Web 2.0 world. The name of his book? Simply, "Free" (naturally the book itself won't be). Jump on an Underground train at 7pm on a weekday and you can see the legacy of this business model: hundreds of abandoned freesheets, the bulk of them latter-day afternoon titles whose dearth of quality and indifference to serious journalism makes the Metro seem Pulitzer-worthy.

Metro's morning monopoly is under threat: News International intends to bid for the London Underground distribution contract, which despite DMGT's successful regional expansion, remains the key market. Should they lose, it'll hit them hard. But for now they can celebrate a successful decade in existence, and we can wonder if, ten years from now, we'll all be waiting to board our Crossrail train and browsing our ubiquitous Kindle for a story on the long-forgotten London freesheet wars.

Last Updated 16 March 2009