Victoria's towers of strength

Aug 13, 2008 at 02:26 am by Staff

Demand for colour advertising - and a healthy economy in rural Victoria - has seen three independent newspaper publishers install tower upgrades to their Goss Community presses. A first four-high tower in Yarrawonga, a second for the western district's 'Hamilton Spectator' and the fourth on a line originally commissioned in Bairnsdale in the 1970s add strength and capacity to the state's proud country press. In Victoria's western district, Richard Beks, managing director of the Hamilton Spectator Partnership, reflects the mood of quiet optimism which surrounds the city dubbed Australia's wool capital. "Having escaped the worst of the drought, the trend is for considerable development in the next couple of years through bluegum harvesting and mining," he says. That translates into increased demand for colour - especially for real estate and national advertisers - in the triweekly 'Spectator' (circulation 7500) and 'Portland Observer' (4500) titles and weekly 'Casterton News'. A busy printing plant in the city centre also produces monthly farming and tourist newspapers for the area, with 33,000 copies of each distributed through newspapers and a variety of other outlets. A second four-high tower has been added to the Goss Community press, doubling the amount of full colour available and reducing the number of runs needed for the big weekend editions. Motorised press controls and direct ink have also been extended on the press, which includes four mono units.Beks says colour demand "grows all the time" but the need to secure production in the event of a breakdown - especially following the closure of the neighbouring 'Warrnambool Standard' printing plant - is also a major driver for the development. "We're doubling up on everything needed for production, adding the second tower, another Lüscher CTP system and another plate processor for example, just to be sure," he says. "All being well, we expect to add another tower in a couple of years." The first four-high was installed in 2006, and like its predecessor the new tower has had to be craned in because of restricted access. So if the rain keeps falling and the local economy continues to prosper, it seems it won't be the only thing going through the roof. In north-eastern Victoria, Aaron Loughnan, print and production director of the 'Yarrawonga Chronicle' paints a picture of a lakeside idyll with million-dollar properties and a vibrant economy driven by retirement and tourism. The 125 year-old newspaper is one of the country's few remaining independents: Noel Loughnan, who started there as an apprentice printer in 1946 and bought into the business until he owned it, has since been joined by sons Aaron and Jared (who looks after advertising and editorial). Two other titles - the 'Rutherglen Sun' and 'Corowa Free Press', both more than a century old - were acquired 15 years ago, and for the last ten the company has been printing these and other work on a Goss Community press which has grown with the business. UOP units and a secondhand tower have enhanced capacity and this year a second tower was added, this time new as part of a Goss-managed upgrade which included units and a faster SSC folder with quarterfold, acquired from the 'Latrobe Valley Express'. Buying new was a pragmatic decision reflecting the high resale value of Goss equipment: "You'll never lose money, and reinvesting in plant is a great way to keep our independence and protect the business," says Aaron Loughnan. "It pays to print our own newspapers and be able to react to competition without having to worry about the cost of doing so." Despite doubled colour capacity, demand for colour advertising in the fast-growing area means the 4000-circulation 'Chronicle' still requires three print runs. Loughnan also believes the company - which prints three neighbouring independents - will be able to increase its share of commercial printing work. Investment in an ECRM platesetter has been accompanied by the addition of a Baldwin stacker and equipment for the busy sheetfed department where a four-colour A3 press and new finishing lines complement the web capacity. With the new equipment and a refurbishment of the first tower, Aaron Loughnan is "particularly happy" with the resulting quality: "At last I feel we have got something we can offer to other customers. It's the ideal press for small colour products and short runs." And things are "going OK" in Bairnsdale: Fourth-generation newspaper publisher Bob Yeates wouldn't want to give a better impression lest others should be encouraged to muscle in on the patch to which he gratefully returns after every visit to the city. "I love living in the country," he says, recalling that his last trip - to a Michael Bublé concert - ended in the frustration of a traffic jam. And the country has been good for Yeates. A fifth generation has now joined him in the business great-grandfather James Yeates founded more than a century ago and all's well with the world. "OK," anyway. Good enough for the family company to have just added a fourth four-high tower to the Goss Community press originally commissioned in the early 1970s. It's kept busy with the two newspapers now owned in Victoria"s north central region in addition to the flagship 'Bairnsdale Advertiser', the 'Snowy River Mail', 'Lakes Post', 16,000-circulation free title the 'East Gippsland News', tourist publications and contract work. And even the Community which prints the 'Huon Valley News' in the group's outpost in Franklin, Tasmania - probably Australia's southernmost newspaper plant - is replete with its own tricolour UOP unit. Yeates says even the capacity to print 32 tabloid pages isn't always enough, and the next development is likely to be an upgrade of inserting facilities. "It's a very good little press now, and we plan to keep adding to it with motorised register and other features," he says. The web newspaper capacity is complemented by four-colour sheetfed and digital print facilities, and a second ECRM platesetter has also been added. Now plans are in hand for a new plant on the western side of town, "with the cooperation and vision of the local shire and state government," Yeates says with a smile. • Reprinted from GXpress NewsLeaders Goss International supplement Pictured (from top) Spectator Partnership managing director Richard Beks (right) with press engineer Ian Jacques and the new tower; fourth-generation newspaper publisher Bob Yeates with 'Bairnsdale Advertiser' web press manager Ryan White (left); and print and production director of the 'Yarrawonga Chronicle' Aaron Loughnan (right) with his father Noel and brother Jared
Sections: Columns & opinion


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