Swedes debut third free "Metro" daily, plan other launches worldwide

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STOCKHOLM--Swedish media company Kinnevik says it will launch "several" more editions of Metro--a free daily distributed in public transportation systems--including one in South America. Director Won-Suk Song declines to identify which cities are under consideration.

The company has just launched its third edition in Europe, in Hungary. The first edition of the daily newspaper was launched in Stockholm in February 1995, and a Czech edition followed in 1996.

Like the Swedish and Czech versions of Metro, the Hungarian-language edition is advertising-supported and distributed free at entrances and exits of subway and regional train stations.

Around 160,000 copies of the 16-page, full-color daily are currently being distributed in Budapest. The Hungarian transportation authority BKV has a small stake in the venture, as do its Czech and Swedish counterparts in Stockholm and Prague.

"We chose Budapest because it has an established advertising market and its transportation system is well-developed," says Mr. Song.

Mr. Song says if Metro has any competition, it comes from the major Hungarian dailies. "But we're not really a threat for them," he says. "We're increasing the advertising market, not taking anything away. In our experience in Stockholm and Prague, people don't read Metro as a substitute; they read it in addition to the newspapers they already buy."

Visibility has been high in Budapest, Mr. Song says. "It has a big impact in a subway system here--you see everyone sitting down reading the newspaper, and the back page is like a little billboard."

Mr. Song refuses to say how muchis budgeted towards the TV, radio, and direct mail campaign produced by an in-house team, but confirms it is more than the $1 million the company spent promoting the Czech edition.

Initial advertisers include Coca-Cola, Pizza Hut and Hungarian telcom Matav. Metro contains both international and domestic news-- mostly from local news wires--as well as cultural listings and news about sports and entertainment.

In the fall of 1997, a copycat of the newspaper began appearing in the Moscow public transportation system with the same name, format, look and distribution style of Kinnevik's Metro. The Russian paper is published by Metropolis Media, a company with alleged ties to Moscow Mayor Luzhkov. According to the Open Media Research Institute, the pro-Luzhkov paper enjoys "substantial" financing from the Moscow city government. The paper is not affiliated with Kinnevik.

Copyright March 1999, Crain Communications Inc.

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