Confirmed: Freebie Metro Planning Up To 30 Lifestyle Layoffs

Update: As predicted, all regional Metro Life staff were handed compulsory redundancy notices at a series of meetings on Thursday afternoon, according to sources with knowledge of the situation. The demise of the Life sections is swift: staff are being given one month’s gardening leave, to cover the statutory redundancy period. meaning that from next week your Metro will be without its arts-filled centre pages and related coverage on Associated Newspapers was unavailable for comment.

Update 2: Associated sent us a short statement on Friday confirming a “series of potential redundancies” in the regions, “in response to the challenging economic conditions”. The company also points out that the Life pages will be published next week.

Original: After News International’s decision to shut its freesheet thelondonpaper, now Associated Newspapers’ national freesheet rival Metro is planning to make up to 30 redundancies on its regional arts and entertainment sections, paidContent:UK has learned

Sources close to the paper say it is cutting back drastically on its Metro Life sections – the regionalised arts, entertainment and food pages produced by journalists at Metro’s offices in Manchester, Glasgow, Newcastle, Birmingham and Bristol. We understand that all regional staff have been called to compulsory meetings in London, Manchester and Glasgow on Thursday afternoon to discuss their fate and formally begin a consultation process. A spokeswoman for parent company DMGT declined to comment.

Metro Life coverage is published in the centre of the paper. Staff and resources on the sections have been steadily trimmed back for many months with freelance budgets have been cut and a number of staff have taken voluntary redundancy, but it seems management have decided it can’t sustain the sections any longer…

This comes just days after Rupert Murdoch decided to close down thelondonpaper and is further proof that free papers, tied to the plummeting advertising market, are finding things tough right now.

Metro distributed a daily average of 1.33 million copies in July, making it the UK’s fourth most-read daily paper narrowly behind the Daily Mirror — so reach isn’t a problem, nor is the public’s appetite for free, snappy, how-about-that style news and arts coverage on the train into work each day.

But in H109 Associated Newspapers’ advertising revenues were down 15 percent year on year to £184 million — the Daily Mail can increase its cover price to offset losses from advertisers’ migration from print, whereas free papers are hostage to fickle marketing budgets.