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UK Freesheet Metro Launches New App Business

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When Richard Titus was the CEO of newspaper publisher DMGT’s digital arm AND, he had big ambitions for apps: his aim was to launch 150 by May 2011. In a wave of cost rationalisation, both he and AND disappeared from DMGT, but a trace of their mobile apps ambition still remains: the DMGT freesheet Metro today launched its own app business, and will put out the first fruit of this labor tomorrow, a special edition of “Super Yum Yum: Puzzle Adventures” for the Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) app store, on sale for 59 pence ($0.94), with more titles to come.

The venture, called Metro Apps, will be run as a publishing division that specifically targets Metro’s demographic of 18-45 year-old urban professionals. It will be a joint project between the Metro newspaper and Associated & Northcliffe (A&N) Mobile & TV, the new division that DMGT formed after it closed down AND, says Ian Macleod, the head of marketing for A&D Mobile & TV.

It appears to be another example of a company wading in to offer discovery and aggregation services for the great big world of apps: “We can help publish third-party apps to a wider audience than they could get themselves, to help them rise above the crowded app market,” says Macleod.

“Super Yum Yum” may not be the best example of a small-time app that needs a leg up: the game was already a hit with Java handset users, having been downloaded more than one million times. It is also available on Nintendo DS and PC. All told, the services Metro Apps will be offering to developers include brand partnerships, standalone publishing packages, sales and marketing consultancy, concept/UI/development assistance, lifecycle management and PR and viral marketing. It will also be developing some apps for the Metro brand in the process.

Metro Apps will be headed up by Neil Johnson. That name might ring a bell: he had been the MD of Teletext Mobile – a division that made mobile apps for Teletext services and also had designs to work with third parties on their apps. Teletext Mobile also disappeared this year.

And Metro has some other experience under its belt: it has its own iPhone app, which has had 350,000 downloads; and it has been running a quarterly apps competition in the newspaper, AppFactor, offering publishing deals to the best apps.

Varied business models. Macleod says that it is not taking a one-size-fits-all approach when pricing apps. “Super Yum Yum” is a paid-for app; another upcoming app, “C-Zones” to help people pay traffic “congestion zone” charges across Europe, will also come at a price, but “Cab Finder” will likely be free. No word on what revenue shares will be applied.