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New York Times Co. Buys Stake in Free Newspaper Metro Boston

The New York Times Co. formed a joint venture with free daily newspaper publisher Metro USA to acquire a 49 percent stake in Metro Boston, a move that neutralizes a competitor in a key New England market.

A $16.5 million investment gives the Times a key to the door of Metro Boston, a 3-year-old newspaper claiming 300,000 daily readers who are young, active and affluent. Metro Boston, distributed at commuter points on weekdays, last year generated revenue of nearly $10 million.

Metro Boston fights for some of the same readers and ad dollars as The Boston Globe, a Times-owned paid paper that is No. 1 in Boston.

The Metro Boston alliance is patterned on others. Metro USA parent Metro International S.A., Luxembourg, has inked similar partnerships with Canada's Torstar Corp. — publisher of the Toronto Star — and France's Television Francaise 1 S.A. for the local Metro papers.

Metro USA, New York, will own 51 percent of the joint venture. It will continue to control and manage Metro Boston. But the board will have directors from both Metro USA and The Times. Metro Boston's editorial format will be unchanged at the deal's closing, which is expected later this month. The Globe newsroom will not contribute to Metro Boston.

The Times' minority interest yields several advantages. First, it co-opts local competition for the Globe. It also reaches an audience with little duplication to the Globe. Metro Boston's audience is split equally between male and female, with 70 percent younger than 45. The Globe claims nearly 1.3 million readers each weekday.

The partnership with Metro USA acknowledges that free newspapers are becoming a force. The New York market, for instance, includes not just 7-month-old Metro New York, but also am New York and another broadsheet launched recently.

Metro USA has five free weekday dailies in the United States and Canada, including Toronto, Philadelphia and Montreal editions. They carry local, national and international news in a news-brief format designed for commuters. The first Metro paper in the United States, the Philadelphia edition, launched in 2000.

Metro papers typically are distributed at commuter points such as subway entrances, trolley cars, train stations and on service racks. Other placement venues include hotels, office buildings, retail stores, busy streets and college campuses.

Starting this month, Metro USA will offer its media buyers and advertisers audited circulation data on a monthly basis. BPA Worldwide will track monthly circulation of Metro New York, Metro Boston and Metro Philadelphia. The Shelton, CT, media auditor currently conducts a quarterly audit of these newspapers.

The North American Metro publications are part of a global franchise comprising 42 newspaper editions in 16 languages. Metro claims these editions reach 14.5 million daily readers and 32 million weekly readers in 17 countries in Europe, Asia, North America and Latin America.

Its partner in Boston is one of the largest U.S. newspaper publishers. The Times owns its flagship New York Times, International Herald Tribune, The Boston Globe, 16 other newspapers, eight network-affiliated television stations, two New York radio stations and 40-plus Web sites. Revenue last year was $3.2 billion.

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