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Gary Cullum listens in to the Media Show
THE Metro and the Times Literary Supplement (TLS) are chalk and cheese products. But they have two big things in common – growing readership and the fact that both editors talk excitedly about the future of their printed titles.
I’ve just listened to Ted Young and Stig Abell on last week’s Media Show on the BBC. I was a few days late listening in for various reasons, so thank goodness for iPlayer. It’s almost as good as your tried and trusted printed on paper newspaper that you can pick up and put down as many times as you like, and for as long as you like. It was a particularly interesting ‘show’ with Metro editor Young and TLS editor Abell talking about their products’ respective phenomenal growth.
Admittedly, Young’s paper is free distribution, but it’s a highly successful model that has seen the Metro increase its distribution to just under 1.5 million copies – “overtaking the sun as the most widely read newspaper in the UK”, he said.
The Metro is now available all over the country in 52 cities, said Young, with 120k copies printed for Scotland, 890,000 copies distributed throughout London and 56,000 copies available on Tyneside. He rattled off another dozen major cities too. And he said the Metro made £11m profit last year and around the same the year before.
He also reckoned that if a 50p cover price was applied the Metro would sell as many as it gives away. “Indeed, I’ve always said I wanted to produce a paper that was so good I’d want to buy it,” he told Media Show presenter Amol Rajan.
While both interviewees acknowledged that it is a challenging time for printed newspapers generally, both gave a glimpse of what can be achieved with the right product, the right content and the right business model. Abell also gave great stats; the TLS has shown around 20-25 per cent year-on-year paid growth, according to the latest round of ABC figures.
“While there are people who value short read, brief summary newspapers, there is a counter culture whereby others value length and breadth and expertise and want to read four-to-five thousand word articles. While the Metro summarises brilliantly, there is an audience for long form journalism too,” he said.
In repeating a quote that “new media never replaces existing media”, Young channelled the CEO of Axel Springer who had said that books have not replaced story telling, newspapers have not replaced books, radio has not replaced newspapers and television has not replaced radio.
“It follows then that the internet will not replace television nor newspapers,” he added. Young wasn’t surprised that the Metro and the News UK-published TLS were bucking the trend and increasing their readers. After all, paper is so easy to read, you don’t have to download it, you can sit on it and the screen doesn’t break, he said.
“It’s fantastic,” he insisted, adding that you don’t need a battery and you can move around stories very easily or come back to them later. News is so much easier on paper, he enthused. Is there a resurgence? Well, a number of niche news magazines like the TLS continue to prosper, but could more newspapers follow the Metro’s continuing success?
Thanks to the Media Show insight, I’m sure there are now many more people like me who have an unshakeable belief in the unique power of print.
Caption: Metro’s Ted Young (above) and TLS’s Stig Abell (left) gave insight into their growing circulations on the BBC’s Media Show