One million people a day picked up a copy of Metro newspapers in the three cities, based on the latest readership survey by Nielsen Scarborough, amounting to about 138,000 new Metro print readers a day.
This represents a 16% increase year-over-year in print audiences, compared to a recent 7% dip for other daily print newspapers in the three cities, said Wilf Maunoir, Metro US marketing and research director.
Print readership has struggled in recent years, and publishers have suffered from declining print ad revenue.
Metro US newspapers are distributed for free — mostly in areas with high commuter traffic like public transportation stations — and rely entirely on advertising for revenue.
“While most print media vehicles are seeing their audience shrink, Metro’s print audience is growing in an increasingly digital and connected world,” stated Maunoir. He credited its "hybrid media," for the rise, citing the newspaper's edit formula and free distribution model.
Maunoir told Publishers Daily there is a stark difference between newspapers which charge for readership and free papers.
For a free daily, there are no transaction costs, and racks are placed in convenient areas for people to pick up on the go, he said.
“Our style of journalism is of course very different from The New York Times. Metro can be consumed in 20 minutes, which fits the morning commute. People don’t have time, and their attention span is shorter than it used to be,” he said.
He added the growth of Metro’s online traffic also contributed to increased brand awareness, which helped print readership metrics.
A combined 3.4 million people read a copy of Metro in New York, Philadelphia and Boston each month in 2016. An additional 518,000 nationwide visited Metro.us, according to Google Analytics.
Metro New York reached 1.5 million readers a week in print and online, making it the most read free daily newspaper in Greater New York. This growth was largely a result of a distribution partnership with the MTA. New racks were installed at 100 subway stations in the city, with each rack holding 700 copies.
In Philadelphia, Metro’s readership jumped 24%, reaching 743,000 people. Metro Boston experienced a 13% increase in readership and a monthly audience of 451,000.
The Metro newspapers published in the U.S. were owned by Swedish-based Metro International before it was sold to former CEO Pelle Toernberg in 2009.