Thursday, October 25, 2007

Metro battered by new competitors

BusinessWeek magazine is questioning whether Metro International, which it describes as the "Free Dailies King," has been dethroned by imitators in France, Spain and its original market of Sweden.

The article points out that one of Metro's toughest challengers is the free daily 20 Minutes, owned by Norwegian media group Schibsted. In Spain, 20 Minutes has 2.4 million readers compard to 1.7 million for Metro. In France, 20 Minutes has 2.4 million readers compared to 2.0 million for Metro.

BusinessWeek talked to analysts who said 20 Minutes has pulled ahead because it has jazzier visuals, a more conversational tone and a stronger emphasis on local news. Metro carries a lot of international stories while "20 Minutes is very French," said Patrick Bartement, director general of OJD, a group that audits media circulation in France.

Piet Bakker, the University of Amsterdam associate professor who tracks free dailies, is quoted by BusinessWeek as saying Metro is in a precarious position because it has no other business to fall back on—unlike 20 Minutes' owner Schibsted, whose holdings also include traditional newspapers, magazines, and TV and online operations. In the battle for supremacy among free newspapers, he says, success may come down to "who has the deepest pockets." Metro International may have to dig deeper to stay in the game.