What’s That About Free Newspapers As Saviors? Oh Yeah, Ad Slump…


After debate over the last few years over free and freely distributed metro newspapers and how they represented the future of the industry comes the news that the bubble might be bursting there too. Metro International, the world


Henry Scott

Metro's problem isn't the free daily concept. It is mismanagement. The US properties (full disclosure: I was launch publisher for Metro New York) have had six overseers since the launch of Metro New York in May 2004. Several of them had no newspaper experience, which resulted in disastrous decisions. The staff at the three papers has turned over countless times.

The company has been incapable of thinking strategically (why launch newspapers in Philadelphia or Boston, for God's sake, when the growth in the US is in the South and West?). Its London managers don't understand the US markets (which, along with the desire to save on newsprint expense, is why the US papers sometimes don't publish on days that aren't US holidays).

Metro won't be able to sell the US properties because there's no longer any value there. Once profitable Boston is not profitable any more. And Philly, which also turned profitable briefly under a skilled publisher, is now deeply in the red. The New York paper long ago lost the free daily war to AM New York, a Tribune property.

The new CEO is a great guy. But he's surrounded by lots of the same people who made the boneheaded decisions of the past. And he's at the bottom of a hole that I can't imagine anyone being able to dig out of.

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