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Free Newspaper Launched in Guangzhou

A free newspaper was launched in Guangzhou, capital of South China's Guangdong Province, yesterday, targeting the city's increasing number of subway passengers.

The giveaway newspaper is the latest in a growing number of such papers that have appeared across the world.

The tabloid Guangzhou Metro Daily, published by Guangzhou Daily Press Group and Guangzhou Metro Corp, carries 24 colour pages with news, consumption information and supplements.

It is being published on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays during its trial period, but it could come out on five week days in the future, according the Jiao Xiangyang, a deputy editor-in-chief of the paper.

The launch follows that of Metro Express in Shanghai, which is published from Tuesday to Friday.

Guangzhou Metro Daily is distributed at all the city's metro stations and top office buildings and is aiming for a circulation of 300,000 copies per issue. It targets middle and high-end readers.

Guangzhou's subway network, measuring 54.12 kilometers with 44 stations, carries 213.54 million passengers a year, or 585,000 per day, 30 per cent more than in 2004, according to Guangzhou Metro Corp.

The network is planning to extend to 112 kilometers at the end of this year and to 255 kilometers with 164 stations by around 2010.

The average age of Guangzhou metro passengers is 35.6, with white-collar workers accounting for 41 per cent of the total, according to a statement from Guangzhou Metro Daily.

The first free daily commuter newspaper in the world was introduced in Sweden in 1995 by Metro International, but the practice has since mushroomed.

Seventy daily editions are published by Metro International in 93 major cities in 21 countries, and in 19 languages, across Europe, America and Asia, according to the company's website.

With weekend editions also available, Metro International has more than 18.5 million daily readers and over 35 million weekly readers.

Free metro newspapers are the new frontier in the newspaper market, said Dong Tiance, a professor with the College of Journalism and Communications at Guangzhou-based Jinan University.

Publishers have to seek new growth areas because of increasing challenges from such competitors as the Internet, he said.

Advertisers are attracted by the relatively high purchasing power of subway passengers, he added.

Dong did not expect the free paper to have a major impact on the traditional newspaper market because it will carry soft, consumption-focused stories rather than hard news, he said.

"It will complement traditional papers instead of taking their readers."

One female commuter said she would continue to subscribe to her daily newspaper although she would read the free paper.

(China Daily October 2, 2006)

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