Daily Mail's free London paper fails to hit target

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The Independent Online
DAILY MAIL & General Trust has had trouble attracting advertisers to Metro, its free daily newspaper launched in mid-March for London Underground commuters, the national and regional newspaper publisher admitted yesterday.

Daily Mail has earmarked pounds 10m to spend on Metro for its first six-and- a-half months of publication. Peter Williams, finance director, conceded that Metro's advertising revenue has developed "fairly slowly" amid scepticism among media buyers.

"We have no detailed readership survey, but we're going to build that up," he said. Metro is distributing 300,000 copies daily but expects to give away 350,000 by month end. Just prior to launch, Metro's original editor was replaced in a bid to make the paper more like a national newspaper - its prime competitors in the London market.

The company warned yesterday that year to September pre-tax profit growth would lag first-half gains due to Metro's losses and the costs of developing on-line and broadcast ventures - estimated at pounds 30m.

At the interim stage, Daily Mail reported underlying pre-tax profit rose 19 per cent to pounds 86.2m as turnover gained 14.7 per cent to pounds 754.1m. The shares closed down 1.8 per cent at 3,407p.

The publishing group is also launching an Internet portal site in September called CharlotteStreet.com to target female surfers of the Web.

Circulations for the six months from the year earlier period rose 4.1 per cent to 2.35 million copies per day at the Daily Mail and 5.2 per cent to 2.33 million at the Mail on Sunday. Evening Standard sales were unchanged at 450,000 despite a 5p cover price increase to 35p in October.

Total ad revenue for the three titles grew 9 per cent in the half from a year earlier. Total revenue at Northcliffe Newspapers, the group's regional newspaper arm, grew 1 per cent.

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