Friday, October 26, 2007

Maybe those free papers aren't
such an easy sell

A story in the Georgia Straight points out that Metro International S.A., which is a partner in the Vancouver Metro Vancouver free commuter paper lost twice as much in its third quarter as it lost all of 2006.

Metro International's US$18.2 million loss came on sales of US$91.5 million. This means that for every $5 in sales, the company posts a loss of almost $1. This has occurred despite Metro's efforts to woo advertisers by selling its front covers.

It makes one wonder about the future of free commuter papers. Two-and-a-half years ago, three of these publications appeared on the streets of Vancouver.

Dose , created by CanWest Media Works, stopped publishing papers last year. More recently, local billionaire Jim Pattison dumped his 50-percent stake in a different commuter paper, 24 hours , which he created along with Quebecor Inc. in 2005. Pattison isn't known for selling profitable businesses, so it's safe to assume that 24 hours is still recording significant losses.

But it's the financial woes of Metro International, the world's biggest publisher of commuter papers, that raises questions about this nascent industry's future. Maybe people want a little more fibre with their newspapers, and they're not quite as celebrity-obsessed as the media mandarins might think. Gee, wouldn't that be a refreshing thought?


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