Metro International is planning to sell their operations in Italy and Portugal, either in total or in part (see previous post). The graph (click on it for bigger picture) below, shows why Italy is such a difficult market for free papers. In 2009 free papers have a market share of more than 40% (with paid dailies slowly losing circulation) but with 5 national titles, the market is still very crowded. Particularly in a recession advertising revenues will be under pressure.
Metro is the free paper with the longest history in Italy, launching in 2000 in Rome and Milan. It expanded to more markets in the northern part, although it closed some editions in 2008 and 2009. Current circulation is around 700,00 (circulation of free dailies is not officially audited in Italy).
Main competitors were introduced in 2001, first Leggo by Caltagirone (paid paper Il Messaggero, Rome), and later that year City (RCS media group, Corrière della Sera, Milan). Both competitors expanded to several more markets in the years to follow, with Leggo (12 editions) becoming the best-read free daily. Leggo has a circulation of almost 1 million, City prints almost 800,000 copies.
In 2006 part-free Il Sardegna (Sardenia) expanded to 13 more markets all over Italy with E Polis editions, introducing a more local free model with more pages that also was distributed on Saturdays. In 2008 three more editions were launched. Investor Alberto Rigotti bought the paper in 2007. Total circulation is around 570,000.
Some former E Polis employees started a similar model, DNews, in the beginning of 2008 in Rome, Milan, Bergamo and Verona, claiming a circulation of 800,000.
Two major free dailies have already been shut down: free sports daily Sport24 in 2007 and free afternoon daily 24minuti (April 2009). But Italy is still the most competitive European free daily market.