Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Why Rise of Free Papers around the Globe May Have Limits; the Going Gets Tougher: Freesheets Are Now Available in Virtually Every Major Western City Such as Boston, above, in America

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Why Rise of Free Papers around the Globe May Have Limits; the Going Gets Tougher: Freesheets Are Now Available in Virtually Every Major Western City Such as Boston, above, in America

Article excerpt

Byline: ROY GREENSLADE

NEWSPAPERS will return to Fleet Street next month when MetroInternational moves its headquarters into the former Reuters offices. Thecompany is taking over a newly-constructed floor in the Lutyens designedbuilding that is acknowledged as one of the landmarks in the former home ofBritain's press, known variously as the street of ink and the street of shame.

Reuters occupied 85 Fleet Street from its opening in 1939 until the news agencydecamped in the summer of 2005 to Canary Wharf. Since then, although the listedexterior and the extravagant entrance hall remain the same, the interior hasbeen entirely refurbished.

The newspaper industry has also been refurbished in recent years, and MetroInternational is proof of that. As the publisher of nine million freenewspapers a day, in 100 cities in 21 countries, it has been responsible for asweeping change in the reading habits of millions of people across the globe.

Its launch of a free daily paper in Stockholm 12 years ago started a trend thathas since led to the publication of freesheets in almost every major city inEurope, the United States, Canada and Australia. Several South American andAsian cities have daily frees too. But making profits from free papers hasproved a difficult trick to pull off.Metro International finally managed toturn a profit for the first time last year, but it has just posted an operatingloss of [pounds sterling]6.5 million for the third quarter this year. With masterlyunderstatement, its chairman, Dennis Malamatinas, called the result"disappointing".

It was certainly an unwelcome greeting for the new chief executive, Per MikaelJensen, who started work this week. He inherited the job from the man whopioneered what is often called "the free revolution", Pelle Tornberg, whoresigned earlier this year.

Jensen, the former head of Denmark's largest free-to-air TV channel, hasarrived while the company is conducting a strategic review that is aimed atimproving the company's financial performance.

But could it also lead to retrenchment, with the closure of certain titles? …

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