Peter Coleman: When print delivers a grey weekend

It felt like a chill blast from the past - mono pages in an otherwise colourful world.

Ten of them in the 52-page broadsheet Weekend Australian I picked up from the village supermarket on Saturday, no doubt a convenience to allow the main paper - in four sections, 16, 10, 16, 10 - to be printed in one pass on a press originally configured in the 1980s. And in the case of copies printed at News' site in Murarrie, Brisbane, by a proprietor who was not then abreast of the need for colour and could then scarce afford the investment.

At trade shows around the world, when we discuss the much-later demise of Australia's newspaper readership base, I usually cite the high colour availability of print sites as one of the reasons. Tell a publisher from the US that almost all the dailies in Oz - even the small hometown ones - print 100 per cent process colour; mention classified ads printed in full colour - Brisbane's Courier-Mail even runs ads for hookers and escort services in CMYK - and they are astounded.

Increasingly, incidentally, more US publishers are finally scrapping their old, limited presses themselves to increase colour and flexibility.

Last weekend's paper had two inserts, a 56-page tabloid Review-and-Travel supplement and a glossy quarto Magazine of 60 pages, all in colour, of course.

So why, when readers generally are reconsidering their print newspaper purchases - and likely to do so more as the economy tightens next year - cut back on the offering. (Clue: Lack of much competition in Queensland may be a reason)

An irony is that while the press might print 48 all-colour pages, adding four pages to the count brings that down to 42.

Not complaining... just sayin'.

Peter Coleman

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