Spits & Metro celebrate 10th anniversary

Ten years ago, on June 21 1999, two free papers, Metro and Spits, were launched in the Netherlands.

Metro celebrated today with pictures of 10 year olds on the front page (click for bigger view) and had two children that were born on June 21 as guest editors. Today’s edition counted 56 pages.

Metro Holland was the 4th international edition after Sweden (1995), the Czech Republic (1997) and Hungary (1998). Later in 1999 Metro also launched in Finland.

The Dutch edition was owned for 90% by Metro International at launch, in 2005 the remaining 10% were bought back.

In 2003 the edition made money for the first time. The paper introduced a Saturday edition which closed down in 2005. In 2004 an edition for Rotterdam was launched, in 2005 the Amsterdam edition followed.

Circulation increased from 270,000 in 1999 to 540,000 daily copies in 2009. Readership is more than 1.9 million, meaning that more than 14% of the 13+ population read Metro on an average day.

Spits was launched by De Telegraaf, by far the most popular newspaper in the Netherlands at that time. Spits celebrated with a 40-page edition with ‘historical’ covers on the cover (click for bigger picture).

The management already visited Stockholm in 1995 and made plans for a free paper. They had a distribution contract with the Amsterdam public transport, copying the Stockholm model.

It was not until 1999 – when the Metro plans became public – that the plans were put into practice. By that time Metro already closed a contract with NS, the Dutch rail operator, seeing the whole of the Netherlands (and not just Amsterdam) as its market.

Spits complained about the exclusive contract. The competition authority NMa argued, however, that there were alternative ways to distribute. Spits is now handed out in front of most major train stations, which is more expensive but also more effective.

First launch date was in the beginning of September 1999 but as both papers wanted to be first they moved the launch date several times, until Monday June 21. Launching in the beginning of the summer holiday was not perfect timing for advertisers while the first issues showed marks of lack of preparation.

Spits started with a circulation of 245,000 and grew to 435,000 in 2009. Readership is 1.7 million, meaning more than 4 readers for every copy. Although Spits did make a profit in the past, 2008 and 2009 probably show losses (De Telegraaf Media Groep TMG does not break out separate results for companies).

In August 2000 De Telegraaf launched another free daily: news.nl – published in the afternoon with 200,000 copies. It closed down in April 2001.

In 2007 two new free dailies were launched. De Pers by investor Marcel Boekhoorn started as a free quality paper and boasted it would be the biggest paper in the Netherlands within one year. It cut circulation recently to less than 200,000. DAG by PCM publishers closed in 2008.

Total circulation of free dailies in the Netherlands is now 1.2 million, against 1.9 million in 2007.

One Response to “Spits & Metro celebrate 10th anniversary”

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