Metro: Free Dailies In Trouble

0123metro.jpgOK… What’s going on at freebie newspaper chain Metro? First we heard they were considering a sale of their US holdings, then we heard that they were putting it on hold.

Then we heard they let go two of their American publishers and Keith Kelly confirmed it.

Metro New York publisher Daniel Magnus has left and Metro Boston publisher Stuart Layne is out as well.

But here’s the thing. Why is the chain facing so many problems? We recently spoke with journalists in New York, Boston and Philly about the newspaper chain’s performances in those respective cities. One of the replies, that of Will Bunch of the Philadelphia Daily News, bears reprinting:

It’s funny but as a longtime journalist here in Philly, I almost never see it on most days. maybe because I commute to the Daily News office by car. We actually don’t read it (or have it available) in the newsroom. That shows the extent to which we never saw it as a journalistic competitor, just a business competitor. That said, the fact they make money elsewhere but not in Philadelphia (or New York or Boston) surprises me; we have a working-class audience and a fair amount of mass transit ridership. Perhaps the market is too divided — there are two good free weeklies here and the Daily News does a pretty good job retaining people willing to lay out 60 cents. I’m surprised Philip Anschutz isn’t interested, since he seemed like a natural. I think Brian Tierney and Philadelphia Media Holdings is too focused on upgradhing the Inquirer and Daily News to fool with this, so I don’t know…I think they will find it very difficult to find a Philadelphia buyer, especially when they couldn’t make it work with a formula that’s been successful elsewhere.

Here’s the damn thing. The analysis stated by Bunch for Philadelphia works 100% when applied to the New York market. How does Metro expect to succeed in a crowded media market (AM New York and the regular dailies) with a readership composed nearly 100% of mass transit commuters who put the paper away once they reach 59th Street/Prince Street/whatever? If you want to play armchair quarterback from Metro, we’d love to hear how you would salvage the troubled chain. Really.

[Image via Capn Design]