As managing director of Metro, Linda Grant holds the key to one of the most diverse and desirable audiences in advertising – the young, affluent and aspirational, on-the-move urbanite.
Metro’s daily newspaper is considered a must- read by millions of UK city dwellers; their daily briefing en-route to the office. Its reputation for combining essential news with more left-field stories, entertaining oddities, or guiltily-pleasurable gossip has won it fans across demographics. But in a media environment where print is increasingly under pressure from other mediums, Linda faces some interesting challenges.
“We’re working hard to extend the presence of Metro beyond the traditional commute through the development of our mobile and digital offerings.
“The urbanite audience is at ease with the evolution of new technology and we want to engage with them more frequently throughout the day. At the same time we recognise that there are many urbanites who don’t fall into our natural print distribution – they may cycle to work, for example. Mobile gives us the opportunity to connect with them.
“We’ve just launched our iPhone and Kindle editions, plus a Facebook app, which means Metro is now available on a whole host of different devices in addition to the newspaper and website. Our vision is to ensure Metro’s content is available to urbanites on the move, at any time of day, across the channels that best suit them”.
Linda was part of the Metro team at the very beginning, becoming part of the founding senior management team at launch in 1999. She describes the buzz around the project at the time: “I had been on the tube travelling to work at Canary Wharf and I was watching people reading Metro, almost fighting to get a copy, and I thought ‘this is unbelievable’. I wanted to be part of it. I felt a deep affinity with Metro from the very beginning.”
In an advantageous development, it’s not just Metro looking to develop its digital offering – it’s the tube too. This year, in partnership with Virgin, TFL rolled out WiFi access to 41 underground stations. The programme is due to expand further throughout 2012.
As a title that already occupies that space – physically, in print form, and psychologically in the habits of the audience – Linda believes that Metro is better placed than many to manage the transition.
“Metro has never considered itself a traditional print operation. We’re wholly focused on our consumers’ needs – if there’s a challenge, it’s how best to deliver on that in a digital environment and understanding how to make that deliver for advertisers so that we can make the model last.
“Our print offering which launched 13 years ago was the original mobile commuter product. The newspaper combined Metro’s unique, stimulating blend of news, entertainment, sport and celebrity gossip with a concise format designed to be easily consumed on the move.
“As our NRS print readership figures still continue to grow, we know we’ve got the right content mix which appeals to our audience. Taking this content and making it easily available across all platforms is a natural next step and one that offers Metro boundless opportunities.”
What’s key, as far as Linda’s concerned, is “staying close to consumers”, maintaining the personal connection that was built in the tube carriage en-route to work and building on it. “Print remains at the heart of our business. The paper is a well-loved daily ritual for many – 3.8 million readers a day – who look forward to the stimulating and entertaining pick-me-up it offers. Our vision is to build on this print success; delivering a complete suite of cross-platform products and so building a range of different revenue streams.”
Linda adds: “We’re excited about the apps and digital editions which we’re bringing to the fore. We plan to be wherever our consumers are, delivering outstanding content that adds value to their day. That just seems like the obvious thing to do.”
It may seem obvious to Linda and to Metro, but other print publishers have frequently struggled to keep up with the advent of digital technologies. How has Metro succeeded where others have found it harder? “By understanding what the urbanite consumer wants from the brand,” says Linda, “and simultaneously understanding how to creatively deliver for advertisers.
“We’re focused on building bespoke creative solutions for our advertisers across all platforms. We don’t rest on our laurels here – we’re eager to co- create campaigns and utilise the expertise Metro’s commercial team has to offer in order to deliver stand out; both for the advertiser, and for us as a leading, cutting edge media brand.
“Our success has been about hitting the right mix of content, platforms and distribution, which deliver a scale audience that is highly engaged. The appeal to advertisers is the value of the audience and the visible results that we can deliver.
“The growth of our mobile properties – on tablets and phones – combined with the success of metro.co.uk and the positive reaction to the newspaper redesign last year, means that we’re in a great position. Our innovation and evolution continues to result in growing audience figures and at the same time maximises our advertiser exposure across all channels.”
This forward-thinking, consumer-centric approach to publishing has been front of mind to Linda for many years.
“I began my career at Thomson Regional Newspapers in Edinburgh working on the pre- launch of Scotland on Sunday. Even then there were challenges in the press market but at the same time there was investment going into innovation – trying to create new products, which has always been really appealing to me.
“The notion of building, creation, development and innovation has really engaged me. The challenge and reward of seeing development within brands, organisations and people has always been a key motivator.”
And of course a little praise doesn’t go amiss either: “We recently took home the Newspaper App of the Year award at the 2010 Newspaper Awards. We were so proud to see our tablet app receive industry-wide recognition. It makes all the hard work worthwhile.”