'Metro will overtake the Mirror in 18 months'

UK free national daily Metro is set to overtake the circulation of the Daily Mirror in the next 12 to 18 months.

This was the prediction made by Associated Newspapers’ free titles managing director Steve Auckland at a briefing for journalists this morning.

Steady circulation increases in recent years have seen the free title, launched in 1999, rise to an ABC free distribution figure of 1,360,000.

Auckland said Associated was looking throughout the country to gradually increase Metro’s circulation and predicted that the title would overtake the Mirror’s paid-for sale, whether it is through “us putting on copies or the Mirror losing copies”. The Daily Mirror’s current paid-for ABC is 1,535,477.

Metro currently claims to be the UK’s fourth largest circulation paper – behind The Sun, Daily Mail and Daily Mirror. And executives claimed this morning that it should be listed in newspaper circulation tables alongside the paid-for national newspapers.

They also claimed today it is unfair that Metro is not included in TV round-ups of the national newspapers.

Executives boasted that, according to the National Readership Survey, Metro is read by more graduates than any other UK national – 437,000.

Metro’s 10-year contract to be distributed on the London Underground comes up for renewal in three years and Auckland said he believed franchisers could be used to distribute it if the contract is lost. He said: “It’s quite expensive, but so are the Underground rights, so we’ve got to weigh it up.”

Just over a year after the launch of free London evening paper London Lite, Auckland claimed that is now the most-read evening newspaper in the UK.

Even though News International’s rival title thelondonpaper has a distribution of around 500,000 compared with London Lite’s 400,000, the Associated title claims a higher readership.

According to the National Readership Survey, London Lite has a readership of 745,000 compared to thelondonpaper on 713,000.

When it was pointed out this was based on a survey of just a few hundred Londoners, Auckland said: “With every piece of research we have done so far we have always come out ahead.” But he added: “There’s not much in it.”

He maintained that London Lite will move into profit within five years, as originally forecast, perhaps sooner – and added that so far it has hit its ad sales targets, increasing monthly revenue by a factor of 2.5 since September last year.

He refused to divulge how much money London Lite was losing per week. But when asked whether it was as much as £1 million – he said: “It’s not silly money, it’s not £1 million a week.”

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