ACM's Ive contract could be the start of a bigger print partnership

A long-term contract for Ive Group to print publications for Australian Community Media could be the start of a beautiful friendship.

An announcement today by chief executive Matt Aitken sees Ive earning more than $100 million over the next five years printing and distributing "publications currently published and managed by ACM", and taking over "selected assets" of ACM's Mandurah, WA print site from the end of this month.

ACM still owns printing capacity in NSW and Tasmania following closures in Canberra and Murray Bridge (South Australia) in August, and Ballarat (Victoria) this month, and the sale of Wodonga to McPherson Media.

Ironically, ACM's North Richmond, NSW print sites - upgraded to print the Sydney Morning Herald and allow then-owner Fairfax Media to close its print site in Sydney's Chullora in 2014 - has been busy printing newspapers for many of the upstart community papers which have launched since News Corp Australia's closure of more than 100 regional newspapers.

ACM itself has also launched new glossy community papers in Sydney's Northern Beaches, the Northern Beaches Review, while its paid-sale Northern Rivers Review - covering an area of NSW including Byron Bay - will launch on Thursday (October 29).

While the North Richmond print site includes capacity to print glossy magazines (both heatset and UV) as well as coldset newspapers, heatset printing is the core business of magazine and catalogue printer Ive Group, which added Melbourne heatset printers Franklin Web and AIW in 2016 and opened a new Franklin supersite in Sydney two years later.

ACM's Mandurah print centre is anchored on a manroland Uniset 75 press (pictured), extended in 2010 to seven four-high towers - one of them heatset - and two folders. Among the work it handles is the WA edition of Nine's the Australian Financial Review.

In July, ACM said it has no intention to stop publishing printed newspapers and executive chairman Antony Catalano wrote that "collaborative agreements" with News Corp Australia would see them use "each other's" printing networks. With Nine's The Age and the Australian Financial Review, it will be a significant customer of News' new Truganina print site in suburban Melbourne when this opens early next year.

ACM bought the regional titles of the former Fairfax Media business from Nine Entertainment in 2018. Its mastheads include the Canberra Times, Newcastle Herald, the (Launceston) Examiner, the Border Mail, (Ballarat) Courier and the (Wollongong) Illawarra Mercury, agricultural publications including The Land and Queensland Country Life, and more than 100 community-based websites across Australia. It is also a major shareholder in property website Real Estate View.

During the year, ACM has received financial support from the government's Public Interest Newsgathering programme and JobKeeper, and the Judith Neilson Institute.

This month Ive sold its telephone fundraising business - formerly Pareto - having recently also launched a new business to supply hygiene and personal protective equipment.

Recently Ive lost an estimated $35-40 million of print business when major customer supermarket Coles announced it was stopping home-delivered catalogues in favour of an upgraded website.

Peter Coleman

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