David Kirk said it wouldn’t happen … but then David Kirk is now history at Fairfax: Today Fairfax Media (chief executive Brian McCarthy) put pilot print editions from its Brisbane and Perth website content into the hands of thousands of commuters and city workers.
The editions – headed ‘special edition - for one day only’ – may become collectors’ items. Or they may be the precursor of print editions for the Queensland and WA capitals. Major sponsor ING Direct worked on the concept and a sponsored report is promised to coincide with National Savings Week, which starts on May 4. ING is also using cover-wraps on editions of the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ and ‘The Age’.
The WA and Queensland cities each got 15,000 copies of a 24-page tabloid containing “all the up-to-date current affairs, Queensland, world, national news, entertainment news and sport that readers have become familiar with”. A promotional video on www.brisbanetimes.com.au urges readers to continue to log onto the website for breaking news.
The feature-rich tabloids are more likely a vehicle to promote ING Direct and to draw attention to the websites than the start of new commuter papers. Fairfax suffered a bloodied nose in its earlier ventures into commuter publishing, losing territorial battles in Melbourne and the NSW Central Coast to News Limited rivals.
Would it try the same thing in Brisbane and Perth? We think not … especially at a time when advertisers are hard to find and the News-owned ‘MX’ editions are low on paid space.
But apart from the change of chief executive, a few things have happened at Fairfax since the last attempts … not least the acquisition of Rural Press’s extensive regional printing capacity. Included is a modern manroland Uniset-equipped plant in Mandurah (WA) and the new Goss Uniliner at Ormiston in suburban Brisbane. The latter – similar to the press being installed to print the metropolitan daily Christchurch ‘Star’ – is capable of printing 80,000 64-page tabloids an hour. Both plants print daily editions of Fairfax’s ‘Australian Financial Review’.
In Perth, Fairfax competes with the dominant ‘West Australian’ – now effectively controlled by Kerry Stokes’ Seven Network – and the News-owned ‘Sunday Times’, both of which have modern printing plants. In Brisbane, where Fairfax owns community papers, the dominant title is News-owned ‘Courier-Mail’.
Catch Fairfax video footage of the Brisbane launch.