Metro Debuts With Controversy

Agencies for the most part are taking a wait-and-see attitude toward the Boston Metro, a free alternative daily newspaper that made its debut last week.

The paper’s parent, Metro International of Stockholm, Sweden, operates 19 papers in 14 countries—mainly in Europe. The Metro brand launched domestically last year in Philadelphia. Local circulation is about 175,000, ranking Metro behind perennial No. 1 The Boston Globe and the Boston Herald.

“It’s targeted toward the go-to-work crowd,” said Boston Metro publisher Russel Pergament, who was one of the founders of the region’s Tab newspapers in 1979. “The [Metro] philosophy is 24 hours in 20 minutes.” Heading editorial operations is Dan Caccavaro, who was editor in chief of the Valley Advocate, a weekly in Easthampton, Mass.

Metro, distributed by hawkers and in boxes near transit stations, has no current plans for an advertising campaign, Pergament said.

The paper’s launch has already garnered considerable attention in other local media. The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority refused to give the paper a distribution deal for its subway and bus stations, citing potential litter problems. At press time, the paper’s attorneys were negotiating with the MBTA regarding the permit process.

Some media directors are wary of the new paper’s ability to generate attention for their clients. “There’s no real way to verify the degree to which it’s being read,” said Alan Johnson, senior vice president and director of media services at Mullen in Wenham, Mass. No clients at Mullen’s headquarters are slated to advertise in Metro.

“I don’t think the Globe or the Herald leave any demographic uncovered,” said Jamia Gaffney, media strategist at Christopher Thomas, Boston. “Newspaper readership is way down, but it has nothing to do with the cost. A free newspaper immediately raises questions in my head.”

Nancy Ryan, CEO of Pro Media, Natick, Mass., however, is willing to give the new vehicle a try. “I thought the opportunity to reach a community with the content [Pergament] is providing is an interesting one,” said Ryan, whose agency is placing ads for florist chain KaBloom.

Philadelphia’s Metro also generated a lawsuit because competitors allege the paper’s distribution on city busses constitutes unfair business practices. That suit is pending.