Metro is looking for new partners in the regions now that it will be able to prove to potential franchise holders that publishing a free morning paper for commuters is profitable.
Managing director Steve Auckland would not name the cities where Associated Newspapers is hoping to roll out its national urban paper in the next calendar year, but Bristol, Cardiff and Liverpool are bound to be top of its must-have list.
These were cities named by former managing director Mike Anderson in 2000 as targets for expansion. That development went on to the back burner in 2001 during the slump in advertising.
But now that Auckland is able to report that four out of the five franchise partners in Newcastle, Man-chester, Birmingham, Glasgow and Leeds are experiencing months when Metro is profitable for them by several thousand pounds, he is preparing proposals to take to possible new partners.
His news on profits this week is a vindication of Anderson’s argument that current partners, who were growing restive last year over the cost of producing Metro (Press Gazette, 15 March, 2002), should be patient because the paper would grow and produce good results.
Auckland told Press Gazette: “It was important that we got ourselves into profit and that we were getting profitable months from the partners as well. They are not in profit all the time but some of them will be on target to get profit for a full year this year.
“We are now able to demonstrate the franchise module works. You can say to potential franchisees ‘this is the three-year plan for Metro and this is where we can put you on the path to profit’.”
Auckland has identified cities where Metro can pick up the young (under 44), urban, ABC1 readers that are its core catchment and where the transport system is right.
In London and Newcastle, underground systems as well as main line rail stations are used. Contracts with bus companies maintain delivery in the other cities.
Metro will initially be distributed by hand in new cities but will rapidly turn over to self-select from boxes.
By Jean Morgan