Metro Boston, free subway paper, shuts down
Circulation was shrinking amid phone-obsessed riders
Metro Boston, the free daily tabloid known for its provocative front pages, abruptly ceased operations Wednesday after providing commuters with news for nearly two decades.
The Boston Business Journal’s Don Seiffert broke the story, reporting that the subway publication shut down following the sale of its sister newspapers, Metro New York and Philadelphia, to Schneps Media. Schneps Chief Operating Officer Bob Bennett told Seiffert he didn’t know what the plan was for Boston’s Metro.
But a call to Metro advertising director Susan Peiffer yielded a voicemail that said, “Unfortunately, Metro Boston has ceased its operations. We thank our readers, advertisers, partners and vendors for your years of loyalties.”
A memo to staff from publisher Ed Abrams and Peiffer issued on Wednesday said it didn’t make sense to continue to operate the paper after the New York and Philadelphia Metro papers were sold, in part because they could no longer share central office resources.
The daily tabloid had a fizzling circulation of around 50,000 near the end, and saw its heyday in 2005 when that number was 300,000.
Metro International, the original parent company, sold Metro Boston, along with the Philly and New York papers, to SeaBay Media LLC in 2009. The New York Times gained a 49 percent stake in the paper in 2005 for $16.5 million, which was later transferred to John Henry when he purchased the Boston Globe and the Telegram & Gazette in Worcester from the Times in 2013 for $70 million. Henry turned a profit on the deal by selling the Telegram & Gazette and the Globe’s real estate, but he still retained his stake in the Metro as recently as 2018.
Former staffers and freelancers at the Metro are lamenting the paper’s end, and editors at Boston’s other publications are calling this a loss to the continually shrinking media landscape in the area.
Metro Boston was the last free tabloid daily. Jason Pramas, executive editor at one of Boston’s remaining free weeklies, DigBoston, wrote, “The collapse of any professional news outlet is dangerous at this moment in American history. Each publication or station we lose is another nail in the coffin of democracy. Communities need to organize to rebuild our shattered news infrastructure—especially at the local level.”
Pramas and other media professionals across the region are pushing for a bill proposed by state Rep. Lori Ehrlich of Marblehead that would create a commission to study the state of the media industry in Massachusetts and recommend sustainable local business models for news outlets.Layoffs at publications across the region have marched on, and newsrooms continue to consolidate. Paywalls have gone up over the past decade at the Boston Globe, Boston Business Journal, and Boston Herald.
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh was also saddened by the Metro’s passing. “To all the reporters, editors and people who worked hard to put this free paper out every day: thank you,” Walsh tweeted Wednesday. “The Metro will be greatly missed.”