The Metro is the name of a free newspaper given away initially on the London Underground, and subsequently in other cities. It launched on the 16th of March 1999. It is tabloid-sized and thin enough to read on a short tube journey; it is published by the Daily Mail group and, although circulation figures are hard to come by, it appears to be very popular.

On the one hand, the Metro is generally inoffensive. Despite its parentage, it doesn't have an obvious politic bias, and, apart from a letters page, there isn't an editorial or space for commentators.

It's also quite possibly the future of newspapers

You see, it's created on a tiny budget by a skeleton staff, and is made up largely of reports from its sister paper, The Evening Standard, plus a mixture of lightly-garnished press releases and rewritten Reuters bulletins. Everything in The Metro is fed to it from outside; furthermore, what revenues it generates come from advertising, and it is part of a much larger newspaper group. Whilst it doesn't have an obvious political bias, it neatly illustrates that the majority simply do not care about about quality, or about events in far-off lands about which we know little, they - we - just want a bit of celebrity gossip and the television listings.

This isn't a ground-breaking revelation, of course. If it was not the case, we'd live in a utopia, something which is not the case. What makes The Metro worrying, however, is its sheer, Daily Express-style inoffensiveness. Both The Sun and the Daily Mail are as subtle as sledgehammers, and everybody knows where they stand in relation to both newspapers - the Daily Mail, in particular, offends as many people as it pleases. The Metro, on the other hand, can stealthily slip into the sleep-deprived minds of tube travellers without raising the alarm.

In this respect it is almost an ideal case study for Noam Chomsky's 'Manufacturing Consent'.