15 years of Metro
On 12 February 1995 the first Metro was launched (right), meaning that Metro Stockholm celebrated its 15th anniversary last week. Because of Metro, worldwide newspaper markets look very different today than 15 year ago. The 36 million copies of free dailies that are handed out every day are only here because of Metro. Between 70 and 100 million people in 60 countries read a free newspaper every day.
In the past 15 years, however, Metro only made a profit ($13 million) in 2006. The losses for 2009 were the highest ever (€22 million), although Q4 showed a remarkable recovery.
Metro now is a very different company compared to what it was even 5 years ago. The recession, the extreme competitive situation in many countries and the strategy of the new CEO, Per Mikael Jensen, led at least to five profound – and related – changes:
- From competition to cooperation. Metro was a very aggressive company in the first 10 year of its existence, but it is much more open for cooperation now. Full ownership was the rule then – it is partnership now. In Denmark and Sweden incumbent publishers own Metro shares and cooperate on advertising; in Hungary Metro works with Springer, in Spain with 20 Minutos, in the UK and Belgium Metro cooperates with “non-Metro” Metro’s.
- From ownership to franchise. Full ownership is now a minority ownership model for Metro. See a previous post for a list of ownership models in different countries. Franchise or minority is the dominant model now. It is a less risky business to operate but also a business with lower revenues.
- From Europe to the rest of the world. The focus in the first years was clearly to have Metro in almost every Western European country; with even Germany high on the list. The most recent launches of Metro are outside that area: Mexico, Brazil, Ecuador and Russia.
- Divestments & cost cutting. The number of closed down and divested editions is high in the last years: Spain, Poland, Croatia (closed down), the Czech Republic, Finland, USA, Italy, Portugal (divested); Head Quarters cost have been reduced substantially.
- Web revenues. Probably the most problematic issue is how to make money online. As a paywall is not the most promising strategy for a free newspaper, Metro is developing online partnership as well in the last period, for instance with Foursquare (Canada), CizitzenSide (France), TraineePartner and Traffic Radio (the Netherlands) and Jobzonen (Denmark).