Metro (British newspaper)
Metro cover (28 July 2017)
|Founded||16 March 1999|
|Headquarters||Northcliffe House, Kensington High Street, London, England|
|Circulation||1,326,213 (as of March 2020)|
Metro is the United Kingdom's highest-circulation print newspaper. It is published in tabloid format by DMG Media. The free newspaper is distributed from Monday to Friday (excluding public holidays and the period between Christmas Eve and New Year's Day inclusive) mornings on trains and buses, and at railway/Underground stations, airports and hospitals across selected urban areas of England, Wales and Scotland. Copies are also handed out to pedestrians.
Metro is owned by Daily Mail and General Trust plc (DMGT), part of the same media group as the Daily Mail and the Mail on Sunday, but in some areas Metro operates as a franchise with a local newspaper publisher, rather than as a wholly owned concern. While being a sister paper to the conservative Daily Mail, the newspaper has never endorsed any political party or candidate, and claims to take a neutral political stance in its reporting.
Origins and London launch
The Metro free newspaper concept originated in Sweden, where a publication of the same name was launched in 1995 by Metro International. British newspaper executives Jonathan Harmsworth and Murdoch MacLennan, from DMGT, were reportedly inspired by the idea and flew to Stockholm on a 'fact-finding mission' with a view to developing their own version. There were also reports in the late 1990s that both Metro International and Rupert Murdoch's News International were considering launching free newspapers in the UK that might prove a commercial threat to DMGT's businesses.
DMGT subsequently launched Metro, using the same name as Metro International's publications but with a different logo, on Tuesday 16 March 1999. This UK version of Metro had no relation to Metro International or its sister newspapers in other countries. Metro was launched initially as a London-only newspaper with an original print run of 85,000 copies, which were distributed via dedicated bins in London Underground stations. The newspaper was produced at DMGT's printworks and office complex at Surrey Quays in southeast London, away from the company's main newspaper office in Kensington, west London.
In the years following its launch, the paper's distribution was gradually expanded to other major UK cities, including Manchester and Birmingham. By February 2003, Metro had become operationally profitable for the first time. Its reach was extended further in 2004, becoming available in more urban areas, including Nottingham, Bristol and Bath.
Metro's circulation continued to rise in the following years, although readership temporarily dipped after the 7 July 2005 London bombings. There was a 1.8% decline - the equivalent of around 9,000 readers - in copies picked up in the weeks following the attacks due to a reduction in the number of people using London's public transport network, coupled with the temporary closure of some London Underground lines where Metro was distributed.
Following several years of national expansion, in 2006 the newspaper's production was moved to DMGT's main newspaper offices at Northcliffe House in Kensington, west London. That same year the newspaper expanded further, launching in Cardiff and Liverpool in joint venture deals with Trinity Mirror.
At the time of its tenth anniversary in 2009, the newspaper was distributed in sixteen "major" UK cities and its circulation had grown to 1.3 million. Despite the increase in readership, that same year, management also closed five regional Metro offices in Manchester, Glasgow, Newcastle, Birmingham, and Bristol, which were responsible for producing regionalised arts, entertainment, and food pages, citing "challenging economic conditions".
By 2011, Metro's distribution network had expanded to more than 50 cities in the UK. That year media commentator Roy Greenslade said the publication was now making "bumper profits" and dubbed it "Britain's most successful national newspaper".
Launch of Irish edition
Metro Ireland was launched in Dublin on 10 October 2005. It followed a legal battle over the title's name with the publishers of the Irish Independent and Dublin's Evening Herald, which launched its own free newspaper called Herald AM. Both titles were loss-making, despite having a combined circulation of 145,000 in the Greater Dublin Area. On 2 July 2009, it was announced that the two freesheets would merge under the Metro banner, an operation completed by 2010. However, the Irish edition was closed down in December 2014.
London 2012 Olympic Games
For the first time in its history, Metro temporarily published seven days a week during the 2012 Summer Olympics and the 2012 Summer Paralympics, providing free copies to spectators at the Games as well as the general public. The newspaper struck a reported £2.25 million deal with sportswear manufacturer Adidas to run cover wrap adverts on each of the 17 days of the Olympics.
After more than a decade in charge, editor Kenny Campbell was replaced as editor by Ted Young in 2014. Young's appointment coincided with a number of changes at the newspaper, including the separation of the print and online editions, along with an expansion of Metro's distribution in the UK.
In 2017, Metro became the most-read newspaper in the UK, according to monthly National Readership Survey figures. In March 2018, Metro officially overtook the Sun in total print circulation, according to ABC (Audit Bureau of Circulations (UK)) figures.
The majority of the newspaper's content is produced at Northcliffe House in Kensington, west London. There are no regional editions within England and Wales, except for occasional differences in sports and arts content catered to specific local audiences. A separate, small team produces a Scottish edition of Metro; however, often the only substantial difference between the two versions is the front page.
The newspaper is divided into three main sections—news, features and sport. The news section includes Guilty Pleasures, which typically contains two or four pages of showbiz and entertainment news, a letters page, and a page dedicated for business news. A popular feature of the letters page is Rush Hour Crush, in which readers send in anonymous messages to fellow users of public transport who they consider attractive. The daily column has led to at least one marriage. The news section also features occasional feature columns from political pundits such as Sophy Ridge of Sky News. However, while offering analysis, these columns do not typically express endorsements of political positions or candidates, thus not being considered as op-ed columns as in other newspapers.
The features section contains a mix of articles on travel, homes, style, and health, science, as well as arts coverage and entertainment listings. The puzzles page currently features a crossword and Sudoku.
Metro launched a website version of the newspaper in July 2001. Between 2001 and 2014 most print edition articles were published on this website, along with additional online-only content such as blogs and opinion columns.
In 2014 production of the newspaper and the website were separated. As a result, Metro newspaper and Metro Online are now produced by separate organisations and written independently by different editorial teams while remaining part of the same parent company.
The newspaper's content is now published online on a separate website.
In the run-up to the 2015 United Kingdom general election, the then UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage refused to be interviewed by Metro after accusing the newspaper of being biased against his party. This was denied by the newspaper's editor. All other national party leaders agreed to be interviewed, including Conservative prime minister David Cameron and Labour leader Ed Miliband.
Prior to the 2016 United Kingdom European Union membership referendum, Metro published a front-page cover-wrap advert on behalf of the Leave campaign, paid for by the Democratic Unionist Party. The following day the newspaper published another cover-wrap advert, this time from the Remain campaign. Editor Ted Young said both adverts, which each cost more than £250,000 to place, generated around 300 complaints each, accusing the newspaper of both pro and anti Brexit bias. Questions were subsequently raised as to why the Democratic Unionist Party placed an advert in Metro, because the newspaper does not publish in Northern Ireland.
In May 2019, the paper was condemned by the National Union of Journalists and the Public and Commercial Services Union after an internal document leaked to the Guardian showed evidence that Amber Rudd, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, had authorised the use of at least a quarter of a million pounds of public money for a ten-week run of advertorials to be placed in Metro newspapers to "challenge the myths" around the government's controversial Universal Credit programme. The Trussell Trust also ran a countercampaign called "Universal Credit Uncovered". In June 2019, the Daily Mirror reported that 80 UK charities had filed a complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority over "misleading Universal Credit adverts in Metro". In July 2019, the Advertising Standards Authority announced it was launching an investigation into the DWP ads. The move came after the Morning Star revealed that the Metro had not run the controversial ads in its 3 July 2019 print edition. On 5 November 2019, the Advertising Standards Authority ruled that the campaign was misleading, branding the ads "exaggerated" and in some cases "unsubstantiated". The Advertising Standards Authority upheld three complaint points whilst partially upholding a fourth.
Metro has faced competition in parts of the UK from other free newspapers, along with rivalry from paid-for national titles. Current editor Ted Young has said his 'mantra' is to produce a newspaper that its readers would be willing to pay for.
Metro International attempted to launch its own UK edition in 1999, being distributed in Newcastle upon Tyne's Tyne & Wear Metro system competing with DMGT's Metro. After battling alongside each other with the same name, Metro International's Metro changed its name to Morning News. This attempt was short-lived however, and Morning News was discontinued shortly afterwards.
In 2005, Rupert Murdoch said he was worried by competition from Metro and that it had damaged the circulation of his own newspaper the Sun. He told a press conference he was watching the free newspaper market "keenly and apprehensively". Murdoch's News International subsequently launched a London-based evening freesheet in 2006 called The London Paper. This was closed on 18 September 2009.
London Lite was another free, evening newspaper published in central London only from 2006 to 2009, at the time owned by the same parent company as Metro, and was seen as a "spoiler" to protect against the commercial threat from the London Paper.
App products 11versus11 and Guilty Pleasures
Metro launched two new mobile app products in 2016: 11versus11, which is a football news app, and Guilty Pleasures, a celebrity news app. Both apps offer personalised content based on a user's interest profile. 11versus11 won the Best Lifestyle, Sports & Entertainment App award at the 2017 European Digital Media Awards.
- This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (February 2019)
- 1999: Ian MacGregor
- 2001: Kenny Campbell
- 2014: Ted Young
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- "Ruling on DWP's misleading universal credit ads 'is vindication for direct action". Disability News Service. 7 November 2019.
- Desmond in Swedish talks over London freesheet The Guardian 3 April 2003
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