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Five reasons why Metro adopted a mobile first strategy

Blog post   •   Aug 27, 2013 09:17 BST

It finally feels as if the proclamation “this is the year of mobile” has now well and truly been confined to Room 101. When the year actually arrived may be up for some debate, but it’s definitely here and it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere fast.

Most of you will think first and foremost of Metro as the morning newspaper picked up by over 3.5 million commuters every weekday morning; the brand’s growth story in print has been phenomenal. Back in 2011, we made the decision to build on this success and focus on a digital mobile growth strategy, and here are the top 5 reasons why we made that call.

1. A mobile audience
We target an audience of urbanites, who tend to be younger, professional ‘city facing’ workers with shared attitudes and mind-set. Through our work with the Future Foundation, we have found that urbanites are more likely to be ahead of pretty much every technology trend, so meeting their expectations on the platforms that they are using is critical for Metro’s growth (especially when considering that regular Metro-reading urbanites are 37% more likely to own a smartphone and 55% more likely to own a tablet than the UK population as a whole).

2. An on-the-move brand
Mobile, albeit in analogue form, was at the heart of Metro’s inception back in 1999. The newspaper was, and still is, designed to inform and entertain commuters on their way to work. The key ingredients of the brand in the form of highly visual, engaging and espresso-style content are critical drivers of our digital publishing model.

So while on-the-move consumption has always been central to Metro’s purpose, we have underpinned our digital mobile growth ambitions with plans to reach even more urbanites, on more mobile platforms and on a more frequent basis, beyond the morning commute.

3. Straight to mobile 
As a relatively new publisher brand, Metro’s focus over its first decade or so was very much in the print arena. While certainly wasn’t insignificant in scale, it wasn’t the primary focus for the business. Back in 2011 almost one-third of’s traffic was coming from mobile devices (despite a sub-optimal user experience) and given what we knew about urbanites’ likelihood to use portable technology, the decision was made to rebuild our site from a mobile-first perspective. Today around half of our website visitors access via a mobile device.

A platform agnostic approach to the launch of Metro Play, our new gaming service, has also meant that we’ve been able to sidestep some of the legacy issues that many gaming operators encounter. The user experience for Metro Play has been designed to be as good, if not better, on mobile as it is on desktop.

4. Anticipate and help define the market
Back in the late 90s there was similar excitement around the potential of ‘interactive/digital/new media’ advertising as there appears to be around the potential of mobile advertising today. Our aim is to ensure that we have the right audience and scale to play a key role in setting the agenda for the advertising industry in this space.

To date we’ve had great commercial success with Metro’s digital editions, our mobile app-based products. From full page interstitial advertising through to unique branded content, this digital mobile offering provides both an additional platform to extend our cross media campaigns, or a new opportunity to reach advertisers who have traditionally shunned the press market. We’re also working with the Association of Online Publishers as part of a consortium to understand and demonstrate the value of mobile advertising on premium content sites over and above standard network-bought inventory. 

5. An ambitious but safe plan?
Ofcom’s most recent figures have shown that smartphone adoption has more than doubled in the past two years, while the same rate of growth was seen for tablet ownership during the past 12 months. The mobile age isn’t going to disappear anytime soon.

At Metro, we’re focused on ensuring that every step we take is founded in consumer insight in order to ensure that we anticipate, and exceed, urbanite needs wherever possible. We have an agile approach to our product development to ensure that we can react to changing expectations.

Moore’s Law states that the capabilities of technology is pretty much doubling every year, and with this rate of change expected to last for the next 20 years, it’s impossible to imagine what the world will be like in five years’ time. I do however feel pretty sure that as consumers we’ll be doing even more things on-the-move, and that’s a great place for Metro to be positioning itself.


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