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metro winnipeg launch

Metro launching free local edition

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FREE reads are coming to Winnipeg this spring, as an international newspaper brand gears up to launch a local edition.

Metro Winnipeg, the first Winnipeg offering by the international Metro daily newspaper chain, will publish its first issue on April 4, the company announced on Tuesday.

That means Metro's bright-green boxes will soon be dotting Winnipeg's bus stops, business hot spots, and street scenes -- just as they currently do in Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Halifax and Ottawa.

"Winnipeg represents the single greatest opportunity," said Metro Canada president Bill McDonald, noting Winnipeg is the biggest city the papers don't already reach.

The papers, which will include about one-third each of local, national, and international content, will be on the streets by 6 a.m. on weekday mornings.

About 15 local staff, including reporters and editors, will be hired to produce the paper, and the company will also contract local promotion and trucking companies.

McDonald said Metro papers tend to have a "low level of duplication" with broadsheet competitors, such as the Winnipeg Free Press, and focus more on tight reporting of top news stories.

"Our impact is not so much on our competitors as it is on advertising," McDonald said. "In our experience, we'll come into a market, we'll be another element in the community that attracts a group of people that may not have been attracted by traditional newspapers."

Metro Winnipeg plans to ramp up distribution to about 40,000 copies shortly after its launch. The target demographic, according to a press release issued Tuesday: "youthful, active metropolitan residents," which McDonald said primarily meant readers under 50.

In other cities, Metro reaches these readers by getting papers out to pedestrian hot spots and mass-transit hubs. In cities with well-developed transit hubs, such as Toronto or Vancouver, that's an obvious location. But Winnipeg doesn't boast either the high downtown foot traffic or the jam-packed subways of other cities.

No problem, McDonald said. "That's a distribution challenge or strategy that we have to grapple with when we look at that," he said, noting the company has managed its highest market penetration in Halifax, which also lacks a subway or light-rail transit line.

To meet the challenge, the papers will be distributed not just in Winnipeg's downtown but along all bus routes, university and college campuses, and businesses with a large number of workers, McDonald said.

The new paper is a joint initiative between Metro International S.A. and Torstar Corp., which owns media outlets including the Toronto Star, Harlequin romance novels, and career website Workopolis.com.

Metro International publishes hundreds of papers in 24 countries around the world, with editions in cities including New York, Hong Kong, and Mexico.

Metro will also be expanding to London, Ont., this year, the company announced.

melissa.martin@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 1, 2011 B3

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