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Metro Newspapers To Address “Smart Boredom” With Swiping

Peter Judge has been involved with tech B2B publishing in the UK for many years, working at Ziff-Davis, ZDNet, IDG and Reed. His main interests are networking security, mobility and cloud

Metro commuter freesheet available on more platforms, geddit?

Metro, the free newspaper run by the Daily Mail’s company Associated Newspapers, is adopting a “mobile first” strategy and updating its website to help its urban readers endure boredom and frustration.

Within the next few days, the newspaper is adding an Android app to its mobile software lineup, which already include iPhone and iPad versions. It plans to launch a Kindle Fire version before Christmas and versions for Windows Phone and BlackBerry 10 next year.

At the same time, the site is being updated to allow mobile style “swiping” between stories, and is ditching a proprietary publishing system in favour of the open source WordPress platform.

Urbanites are early adopters

Metro coverFounded 13 years ago, Metro has been given out at railway stations in London and other cities, and is “the original mobile commuter product,” said Linda Grant, Metro managing director, but the rise of the mobile web means it should be available on other “platforms”, Metro managers joked.

Readers are increasingly turning to the web to share content, but are still shy of using tablets on the train, said Metro’s product development director, Jamie Walters. So, although the site has had a million downloads of its iOS apps and 400,000 subscriptions, most the iPad traffic occurs before people leave the home.

This is good news for Metro’s paper edition, as readers moving to the mobile web are open to a lot more reading options and mobile technology also gives some of them the option to avoid the commute altogether. But the title plans to link up with advertisers so its printed ads connect to online content, said Grant.

Sometime in the next 13 years, Metro will presumably move away from print as we know it, but that time is not close, she said.

The new site will be the first to allow “swiping” sideways to different stories, which is implemented using HTML5. As the site is moving to the open-source WordPress. this plug-in will be available to other WordPress users, although it does rely on other features used by the site, which will run on the enterprise-grade WordPress VIP platform.

“We looked at Drupal and other platforms, but WordPress met our needs,” said Walters. “We no longer have to maintain back end systems.” Despite adding functions like swiping, he wants the site pages to load in two seconds.

The swiping and ease-of-use features are all about making the paper’s content easy to consume while on the move, or waiting in queues, the Metro execs said. The group has been working with market research company Future Foundation, so is planning to address readers through headings such as “smart boredom” which is about the downtime most urban people experience in travel and waiting.

Metro will also be using Facebook as the login for its comments, so all comments on the site will have to be made through Facebook, and will appear on readers’ walls, said Walters.

Metro has some 80 journalists, and close links to the Mail and other titles in the Associated Newspapers line, but the adoption of WordPress is not spreading any further for now, said Walters.

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