News' four new rival mastheads set to counter Catalano

Rupert Murdoch's News Corp is taking the fight to new Australian publisher Antony Catalano with a rival agricultural newspaper and online competitors for his Canberra Times and two other titles.

News says the launch of its online-only Canberra Star in mid-June will follow those of the St George Shire Standard and the Illawarra Star, "all of which form part of News' local titles".

Launched last year at the time of the sale of Fairfax Media to Nine Entertainment, the other mastheads cover the areas of the St George & Sutherland Shire Leader in affluent suburban Sydney and the daily Illawarra Mercury in Wollongong, which Catalano has now picked up as part of his Australian Community Media purchase from Nine.

News has also launched a new mass-circulation agricultural magazine, AgJournal - a glossy printed product being inserted in its metro dailies and Weekly Times -putting pressure on The Land and Stock & Land, and Queensland Country Life which Catalano acquired with the community titles and printing business.

While media attention has centred around the launch in Canberra - where Murdoch launched national daily The Australian in 1964 - the new mastheads can be seen as a direct response to the arrival of a new player in the Australian newsmedia market, which News Corp Australia dominates.

News says the title will focus on local Canberra news, issues and views, and follows "the recent success of our two new online news brands, The St George Shire Standard and The Illawarra Star".

The local news site for Canberra readers will have its own team of journalists and focus on "local news and local people, giving Canberra a trusted, true local news source dedicated to the local, important, everyday issues that matter the most to the local community".

News has also extended the reach of its glossy Brisbane weekly magazine Brisbane News, while Nine Entertainment still owns online news site Brisbane Times.

News Corp Australia says it sees opportunities for further digital-only local community publications, with NewsLocal publisher John McGourty saying the publisher will continue to invest in "local community journalism, local content and a new medium for local businesses to advertise their products and services".

An indication of the lack of attention the former Fairfax agricultural papers have been getting are the websites of The Land and Stock & Land, both of which carry the line 'copyright 2015 Fairfax Media'.

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