Metro, the world’s largest free newspaper, is delivered to 50 cities in the United Kingdom (UK) every weekday. To cut costs, boost efficiency, and improve analytical capabilities, Microsoft Partner Crimson Tide has developed a mobile solution
on Windows Azure that reports the daily delivery of Metro in London in real time. Back-office staff now save 26 hours a week, just 1 per cent of copies are returned, and newspaper deliveries meet targets.
Metro was launched in the United Kingdom in 1999 by DMG Media as a free, colour newspaper targeted at morning commuters. While initially distributed in London, Metro has now extended its reach to commuters in 50 cities across the UK, in addition to Dublin
More than 1.4 million copies of Metro are distributed daily in the UK—770,000 of which reach Metro newspaper racks in London each morning. It’s a major logistical exercise, especially since early morning commuters are the key target audience for readership
and advertisers. Rachael Hays, Head of Audience Targeting, Metro, says: “Until recently, we faced a challenge in the lack of timely, accurate, and manageable data to confirm deliveries of the newspapers to specified Metro newspaper racks. We wanted to equip
our drivers with personal digital assistants to confirm and record the delivery of Metro newspapers in real time.”
Before implementation of a mobile solution by Crimson Tide, information concerning the delivery of newspapers to stations across London and South-East England by drivers was recorded manually. Data was collated on paper, which lead to inefficiencies—delayed
reporting, wasteful printing, and excessive operational costs. Metro wanted tighter control over the number of unread copies and returns, specifically aiming to keep these at less than 1 per cent.
Metro also wanted increased visibility for the UK Audit Bureau of Circulations, its advertising clients, and its consumers. The organisation wanted the ability to demonstrate to these groups, with the aid of photographic evidence, that timely deliveries
had taken place at all 2,000 drop-points each day. Hays says: “We needed the ability to analyse data to set key performance indicators and refine our delivery operations. We also wanted to get early warnings about issues and improve our green credentials.”
Microsoft Gold Mobility Partner Crimson Tide developed its mpro mobile business solution to help Metro confirm and record the delivery of newspapers in real time on a daily basis.
The solution, which has recently been upgraded to mpro5, is based on an infrastructure consisting of Windows Azure and Windows Azure SQL Database to migrate the existing Microsoft SQL Server 2008 Compact Edition capabilities to the cloud. In April 2013,
DMG Media renewed the Crimson Tide contract for mpro for another five years, extending its use within London and South-East England to all other regions in the UK.
Luke Jeffrey, Technical Director, Crimson Tide, says: “Metro drivers use the mpro app on their personal digital assistants to confirm the collection of the correct number of newspapers for their delivery runs. The app presents drivers with their delivery
routes scheduled via the mpro Windows Azure cloud-based scheduling website. Once at a station, drivers take before and after photographs when filling the newspaper racks and use their mobile devices to scan in the location code on each rack. Both of these
actions are automatically date and time stamped. This acts as proof of delivery and confirms that the correct number of Metro newspapers has been delivered each morning.”
All the information entered by the drivers onto mobile devices, which run Windows Mobile software, is transferred back to the Metro data warehouse via the cloud in real time using SQL Database. Jeffrey says: “From the Windows Azure hosted website, office-based
staff can easily run reports to collate all the delivery data they need.”
Metro has improved productivity and cut costs with the Crimson Tide mobile business solution and Windows Azure. Automated monitoring of newspaper distribution has reduced returns of unread copies to 1 per cent and back-office staff are saving 26 hours a
week. Drivers make their deliveries on time for the first commuter trains of the day, which has resulted in a consistent increase in readership since deploying the system.
Real-time reporting saves staff 26 hours a week. Compared to the previous manual systems, the Crimson Tide mobile solution developed on Windows Azure is saving back-office staff 26 hours a week. Hays says: “Windows Azure helps free up staff
time for analysis and reporting, ensuring that we can fine-tune our key performance indicators to target our audience more effectively.”
Accurate circulation figures offer greater transparency. Hays says: “Audit Bureau of Circulations audits heavily influence advertisers. As mpro helps us to provide distribution data faster and in greater detail, advertisers gain confidence.
It’s a much more transparent process than before.”
Automated delivery schedules ensure newspapers reach stations on time to target urban commuter audience. By automating driver delivery schedules through Windows Azure, Metro is ensuring that deliveries reach stations for
the first commuter trains of the day. Hays says: “Metro is an early-morning read for commuters. Readership tails off after 09:00, making it even more important that it arrives at stations on time. We’ve seen a consistent growth in our readership in London
and South-East England, with an overall increase of 8.7 per cent since implementing the mobile solution.”
Reduced paper waste and fuel costs boost green credentials. Hays estimates that automated reporting is saving the firm two reams of A4 paper a day in the back office, while drivers are consuming
less fuel with more accurate and timely delivery schedules.
Metro extends Crimson Tide mobile solution to other regions. After its successful debut in London and South-East England, the Crimson Tide mobile solution developed on Windows Azure is being extended to other areas of the UK. The East Midlands,
Merseyside, and North-West England are already live, with the remaining regions following in the second half of 2013.
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