Why 1m is the right circulation figure for Metro

Why 1m is the right circulation figure for Metro
The Media Leader Podcast

The Metro commuter freesheet’s distribution has settled to 1m daily copies, Mail Metro Media’s commercial chief Dominic Williams has said, after adapting to a hybrid working environment.

Speaking on The Media Leader Podcast, Williams, who is chief revenue officer at the publisher, said he was “frustrated” by post-Covid-19 perceptions that people have not returned to the office, pointing to how busy transport networks have become in 2024.

According to ABC figures for February 2020, the full month before lockdown measures in the UK were implemented, Metro‘s average daily circulation was 1.42m. This figure had been stable since 2007, with a range of between 1.3m and 1.5m.

Listen using the player or read an edited transcript below:



The Media Leader: We’ve talked a lot about the [Daily] Mail, but we haven’t really touched much on Metro. There were a bunch of changes last year, including a redesign and more advertising tools. What would you say is the biggest point of issue that you need to get absolutely right in the next year when it comes to Metro specifically?

Dominic Williams: Yeah, I think Metro has been on a journey and a half, God… flying before Covid. Absolutely flying. A record year in terms of distribution, circulation, ad revenue was really good. Covid — you know what happened? Yeah, [all] just stopped virtually.

Credit to the chairman [Lord Rothermere] for sticking with Metro — very easy to make an easy decision; [he] stuck by it for many months.

Now it’s doing really well, good solid circulation… We’ve had lots of changes in the teams, commercially and editorial. It’s one team — we have a dedicated Metro team. And it is flying compared to where it was two years ago.

It’s not back to 2019 yet, but it’s definitely going in the right direction. It’s one team in terms of digital and print. It is one team in terms of sales and we’ve got our distributions correct. And we’ve had a lot of interference over the last few months — years — with strikes.

And credit to the advertisers, credit to our clients who have stuck by us. Credit to the ones who will come back, I hope. And we’ve got a really good talented team on Metro and Jo [Mazenko, commercial director], who runs it — she’s just… cut her in half and it’s just Metro.

It’s great to see the consumers and commuters reading Metro again, it really is. And it’s back.

The Media Leader: When would you expect circulation to get to where it was pre-pandemic, if ever?

This is a conversation I’ve asked of OOH companies or cinema, where people, yes, are back into the office but they’re not back to the office five days a week necessarily. There have been some full-on changes that have really stuck from the pandemic that impact these types of businesses. [Is] the goal or guidance to expect that we’re going to exceed 2019 at some point in the next, let’s say, three years or so?

Williams: No, we’re finally settled at a million now. And it’s a solid million; we’ve refined our distribution.

I think that’s the right number, because not everyone’s back five days a week. [Although] I am! A lot of my colleagues are as well. I get quite frustrated about this — when people say “no-one goes into the office”, especially in the last couple of years. They are. Look at us, back in a new office.

The bubble of some sectors of people not going back into the office is long gone. It’s a different subject, but I think you get a lot better output by being back in the office. The “elephant in the room” is part of our sales pitch to the market by going: “You’re saying to me: no-one’s travelling any more? The buses are packed, the trains are packed, the Tubes are packed.”

Everyone’s back in the office and maybe not five days a week. Certain sectors are; the retail sector has been back for seven days week throughout the pandemic.

[Metro] is still on a journey — a new journey under Deborah [Arthurs], the editor. She’s got great plans for Metro, digitally as well as the paper.

And it’s non-political. It’s a lovely brand, it’s a great brand. And it’s good to have it back.

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