AUSTRALIAN HISTORY - Media reviews
Edited by Bridget Griffen-Foley
Until the installation of web offsets in the 1960s, colour printing in newspapers and periodicals usually meant one colour in addition to black. When two or more colours were applied, they almost never overlapped – or even touched – because positioning the colours exactly (the registration process) was so inaccurate. The favoured method was known as ‘pick-out’, as in comic strips.
Australians saw their first local comic book, the Comic Australian, appear in 1911 (continuing until 1913) with colour on four pages. In the late 1930s, Smith’s Weekly sought to reclaim its readership with a coloured comic using a single overlay, and in 1939, Frank Packer designed the new Sunday Telegraph around 16 pages of coloured comics shipped from California – until war forced their replacement with local ‘pick-out’ strips.
Brisbane’s Courier printed two- or three-colour supplements from 1903 and the Orange Advocate (NSW) managed two-colour advertisements in 1927 without special equipment. In 1926, the Melbourne Argus installed a web offset capable of printing in four colours, which it used for art reproductions and coverage of the Melbourne Cup. Additional plant made the Argus printery capable of 9500 sheets per hour in two or three colours, which it confined itself to using for the Australasian Pictorial Annual from 1933 and advertisements in the Argus Week-End Magazine from 1938.
Colour in the daily press remained so much a novelty throughout the 1930s that Newspaper News reported its every appearance – such as when the Melbourne Sun News-Pictorial used a four-colour process for a pair of display advertisements in 1934. More typical was the 1931 decision by Sydney’s Sunday Sun to abandon its rotogravure because of a scarcity of suitable inks. The Sydney Mail scored ‘a great advance in four-colour letterpress halftone pictorial reproduction’ in January 1938 to depict the sesquicentenary procession; it did so by using a special camera and producing copper stereotype blocks in seven hours, rather than the usual seven days; in another innovation, the pages were printed flat. Eleven months later, the 78-year-old weekly closed.
After the war, the proprietors of the Australasian envisaged re-launching it as the Australasian Post with ‘All rotogravure. Good splashes of colour’. The British firm that bought the parent Argus in 1947 spent a fortune on new equipment, including a pair of colour offset presses during 1950–51, making it the only Australian daily to offer advertisers colour printing on its news pages. On 28 July 1952, it established a world first by synchronising offset on one side of the page with letterpress on the other in perfect register – at least as far as that quality was then accepted. However, the spoilage rate remained astronomical and the process was extremely costly. Despite this, the Argus produced news photographs in full colour during the 1954 Royal visit.
In 1958, advertisers experimented with colour sheets to counter the punch of black-and- white television. Yet obstacles remained: pre-prints consumed time and colour pages had to be printed separately. Even using its Giganticolor, the Melbourne Herald needed more than 40 hours to produce a wrap-around for the 1967 Victorial Football League (VFL) Grand Final. Nonetheless, between 1967 and 1968 the sheets from John Fairfax & Sons’ Giganticolor increased from 53 to 90 million.
With longer production times and smaller runs, magazines took the lead. Kenmure Press achieved striking colours for Man Junior covers from 1948. In the inaugural Australian Home and Garden Annual that year, 19 of its 116 pages used more than one colour. Of the 132 pages in the 1963 edition, 30 carried colour. The printing quality remained poor, however, as the full-colour front cover and advertisements provided very little definition of faces or figures, the tonings looked bleached and most pages with more than one colour were ‘pick-out’. Art and Australia was among the first glossies to appear, in 1963. Shortly afterwards, colour printing on quality stock moved from the luxurious to the everyday, aided by jet freight to Dai Nippon in Hong Kong. Developments in several fields came together for the launches of POL in 1968 and Dolly in 1970.
As with all aspects of mass media advertising, the impetus for more colour of a higher quality came from those who paid the printer. Consumer surveys indicated that full-page, full-colour advertisements gained the attention of 60 per cent of magazine readers. Early in 1958, Southdown Press began planning to increase the colour in New Idea and TV Week by switching from letterpress to web offset before 1963. In 1964, Woman’s Day introduced state editions so that firms could publicise products regionally in colour. The production manager at the Land acknowledged that his weekly had ‘decided to go in for a web offset plant because of growing enquiries from advertisers for the use of colour’.
This commercial imperative came to the dailies late in 1960, with an eight-page tabloid liftout in the otherwise broadsheet Brisbane Courier-Mail to promote a real estate project on the Sunshine Coast. The next year, the Melbourne Herald published the first retail page in full colour for Coles. By July 1965, the Herald could produce 535,000 coloured sheets for New World Supermarkets with a wastage rate less than 2 per cent.
Although the Australian Women’s Weekly had included colour from December 1936, its concern during the 1950s was to hold readers who might otherwise watch television. The Women’s Weekly also anticipated the competition for revenue from colour television by colouring its news pages in three regional editions in 1967. However, technical difficulties persisted.
Web offset presses designed for national magazines were too expensive for most printers, so manufacturers reduced their size. The Caringbah Shire Pictorial had rolled off from an early example from 1954. Of the 35 offset plants operating in Australia by early 1966, 23 had been installed during the previous three years, with a further 14 in operation by 1970. During the 1990s, colour news photographs became the norm in virtually all dailies.
In 1921, D.W. Thorpe initiated the Australian Stationery and Fancy Goods Journal, which became Ideas for Stationers, Sporting Goods, Newsagents, Art and Gift Shops, Booksellers and Libraries in 1934, or Ideas for short after 1937; it has been Bookseller and Publisher since 1971. With the growth of local publishing, Ideas spawned a separate title from 1962 as Australian Books in Print, then Australian Serials (Periodicals) in Print in 1981. In 1988, the resale of D.H. Thorpe Pty Ltd saw its absorption into the Reed Elsevier group.
The creation of industry bodies such as the Country Press Associations from 1900 and the Australian Newspapers Conference (later Council) in 1924 underpinned Newspaper News from 1928; it became Advertising and Newspaper News in 1969.
As advertising agencies went from selling space to providing a full service of artwork and research, at least 15, frequently fugitive, periodicals – starting with The Reason Why (1908) – represented the shifting nature of their business. The Waddy (1919) was ‘for driving home club facts’; Smith and Miles’ Proof (est. 1925) built goodwill by selling the advertising firm’s ‘personality’. Advertising Monthly in 1928–30 rose with the boom and sank in the Depression. Rydge’s (est. 1928) always advanced the ties between commerce, entertainment, finance and publicity. Market researchers gained a separate voice in 1956 with the stencilled Journal of the Market Research Society of Victoria, which expanded Australia-wide from 1960. The media journals became explicit about the packaging of audiences for sale.
By the late 1960s, Newspaper News had 2575 subscribers, Advertising in Australia 2376 and B&T Weekly only 1811. Like the mass media they serve, the trade publications are squeezed by online advertising. In addition to its print version, B&T launched an electronic edition in 2003. It went bi-weekly in 2008.
REF: J. Nicholson, A Life of Books (2000).
Alexander Thompson set up Australia’s earliest type-foundry in Sydney in 1843; it was maintained by his widow until 1865. The foundry sold to the Sydney Morning Herald and other colonies until it was displaced during the gold rushes by importers such Gordon & Gotch. By 1900, linotype machines had replaced the work of type foundries, except for larger fonts and attractors. At the same time, photolithography took over from engraving on stone. However, colour printing for posters and packages increased the demand for a range of inks, with Collie & Co. offering 30 different reds. In the mid-1930s, Australia had 12 ink-makers, while five of the bigger printers made some ink themselves. Wimbles and Cowans had become the leading houses by 1900.
Frederick Thomas Wimble (1846–1936), the son of an ink-maker for Cambridge University Press in the United Kingdom, landed in Melbourne in 1867 with printing materials valued at £150. A tour of the United States and Britain in 1876 to secure agencies for equipment was followed by a move to Sydney in 1878. He conducted a type foundry for overseas designs, which he naturalised as Extended Tasmanian Gothic or Wentworth Bold. From 1895 until 1957, the firm promoted its wares through a quarterly magazine-cum-catalogue, Wimble’s Reminder, which championed process engraving and the colour printing flaunted in a lavish edition in July 1927. The firm continued under outside management until 1991.
The Scottish paper-maker Cowan’s sent a consignment to Melbourne in 1844, operated through agents after 1855 and set up its first branch office in Sydney in 1868. Alex Cowan and Sons were manufacturing stationers until the firm was taken over by James Hardie in 1975. It published Cowans from 1904–30 as a sampler for company products.
During the early 1960s, Xerox electrical typewriters with interchangeable golf-balls of different faces, photo-setting, plastic stereotypes and the web-offset further marginalised the furnishers’ inventories, except for inks and varnishes. Letraset sold at local newsagencies displaced larger fonts, and the demand had changed to one for photographic equipment and chemicals. So thorough-going had the changes become by 1970 that franchises for instant print shops were on offer.
In accord with his maxim that a ‘business without profit is business without honour’, Rydge boosted companies in which he was a major shareholder, such as Cash Orders (Aust.) Ltd. His lifelong devotion to tax evasion began with his first manual, Federal Income Tax Law (1921).
From 1928, he edited Rydge’s Business Journal, two years before Henry Luce’s Fortune but with less of the American’s enthusiasm for civilising executives. Rydge’s biggest obstacle had been to convince his fellows that they needed to read. It began at sixty-four pages in January, reaching 112 pages by September – with almost a third taken by advertising. The hundredth issue (1936) wondered how ‘that comparatively insignificant publication ever bore the name Rydge’s’. Rydge chased 20,000 direct subscriptions, but from July 1928 had to share the cover price of a shilling with newsagents and booksellers, though he later reverted to subscription only. By the 500th edition in 1970, subscriptions were only just above the initial target.
Rydge understood that marketing went beyond advertising to include office management, the tricks of a commercial traveller, window-dressing, packaging and the publicity that he perfected with fictional testimonials. A name change in 1935 to Rydge’s: The Business Management Monthly emphasised this integration of skills, though he altered the look more than the content. After that second subtitle disappeared, the wording on the covers juggled ‘Business’, ‘Entertainment’, ‘Finance’ and ‘Industry’.
Rydge’s Memory Course in 1980 continued the 1920s appeal of the Pelmanism memory system, which had been part of The Rydge Course: How to Achieve Success (1955). The company gave away 5000 copies of Self-Made or Never Made to subscribers in 1933. By 1947, Rydge’s was selling How to Build Personality, claiming it was more effective than Dale Carnegie’s system.
The eponymous brand appeared on Rydge’s Construction, Civil Engineering and Mining Review (1967), Rydge’s Management and Marketing Service (1972), and Rydge’s EDP Manual (1977). The flagship publication, depleted of its gloss, and beaten by both professional journals and a more active business press, merged with John Fairfax & Sons’ Business Review Weekly on 25 September 1987.
REF: T. O’Brien, The Greater Union Story (1985).
Trade periodicals exist because manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers need to inform each other about innovations, and their availability and prices. The process was exemplified by the Journal of Commerce, which began in 1854 as a shipping register. In 1870, the diversity of commodities encouraged its publisher to print the Australasian Trade Review and Manufacturers Journal as one of the first periodicals to service wholesalers, agents and retailers; its advertising content grew to 60 per cent by 1882. During the next 20 years, the arrival of branded products in the areas of hardware, clothing, food, beverages and medicinals led to the launch of rival periodicals for each of the trades that advertised in the Review, which by 1903 had shrunk to 20 pages, with only one of advertising; it was absorbed back into the Journal of Commerce.
The inaugural editorial of the Australasian Hairdressers’ Journal and Tobacco Trade Review in 1900 contended that, ‘In these fast-living days of ours each particular interest has its “organ” of communication between its own circle, and those beyond its perimeter.’ Indeed, most journals came out on behalf of trade associations. Once launched, a publication could strengthen the parent body. For example, the staff of the Australasian Bakers and Confectioners Journal organised that trade’s first national conference in 1904. Starting in 1911 for the Victorian Grocers’ Association, the Southern Grocer recognised that ‘the trade press is the advance of all organisation movement to-day the world over’. The core of that organisation was price-fixing, which must ‘always remain the very first and foremost plank in any fighting platform worthy of the name, and hang the public!’ Trade journals were also backed by the firms they serviced, such as when Prouds and Angus & Coote underwrote the Commonwealth Jeweller and Watchmaker (1915).
Trade journals earned less from subscriptions than from advertisers, who found it more effective to pay a premium to reach 500 subscribers with proven purchasing power than to access a circulation of 50,000. Firms also took advertisements to support their trade organisation or to square a chum. However, sales and subscriptions do not necessarily measure readership, and process engravers were sceptical throughout the 1930s about promoting their services to rural and suburban printers who did not read the trade journals.
The proliferation of trade journals in the late 1920s allowed what Newspaper News described as ‘The Unscrupulous Publisher’ to profit from a journal that was ‘either “written” with the scissors, or complied by cheap, journalistic hacks’. Publishers also launched magazines to fill up slack times in their print shops. Since almost no printer employed a full-time accountant before the 1950s, costings were woeful; they escaped scrutiny because so few printers were public companies.
Postal arrangements allowed almost any British periodical to be delivered in Australia for the penny post paid at ‘Home’. However, despite this ‘dumping’ of UK publication into Australia, the appeal of the local versions was their summarising of the overseas trade press. American journals were available only by subscription until the 1920s, when G. Jervis Manton imported titles on ‘Advertising and Business, Mining and Engineering, Dress and Fashion, Office System, Factory Organisation’.
Why do trade periodicals appear when they do? The Industrial Australian and Mining Standard started in 1888, the year BHP issued shares. Three years later, the Pastoralists’ Review united the squatters against the shearers’ insurrection. The London publishers of the Draper of Australasia (1901) hoped to profit from ‘the change of conditions of business caused by the establishing of free-trade throughout Australia’. Media periodicals matched new media, printing techniques and mass marketing. The arrival of plastics transformed all mass products, and added rivals the Australian Plastics Journal (1946) and Practical Plastics (1950).
The pattern of proprietorship was diverse. Some houses produced similar journals and economised by carrying the same editorials and news items in the same typeface and column-widths. J.C. Macartie managed monthlies for cordial-makers, confectioners and bakers, but also the leather trades. Peter Guthrie Tait (1880–1953) started with Mining and Engineering Review in 1908; he later divided it into the monthlies Chemical Engineering and Mining Review and the Commonwealth Engineer, before adding a weekly newsletter, Tenders. In 1924, he began Electrical Engineer and Merchandiser, and finally Manufacturing and Management in 1946.
George A. Taylor (1872–1928) founded five journals in the domain of building, town planning and engineering with his architect wife, Florence (1869–1969). Their Building Publishing Co. Ltd ran 11 titles, including the Radio Journal of Australia and Australian Home, which incorporated Real Estate and Soldier. On George’s death, Florence closed eight titles but continued to edit Building (later Building, Lighting and Engineering), Construction and the Australasian Engineer.
The trade journals provided berths for men of letters. In 1891, Richard Twopenny co-founded the Australasian Pastoralists’ Review with a literary section to rival the Bulletin’s ‘Red Page’, while the editor of the Australasian Builder and Contractors’ News, James Green, was documenting the Sydney art scene.
As well as resisting British imports, local journals voiced interstate rivalries. Victoria’s electrical trade supported its own journal from 1924, and in 1936 the Queensland Electrical and Radio World appeared as ‘yet another outcome of the recent moves from Sydney’ to treat the rest of Australia as its outer suburbs. United Press in Perth had the west sewn up in the 1920s by publishing for farmers, grocers, motorists and Masonic Lodges. New Zealand had to be content with ‘Australasian’ in the title of assorted trade journals.
Newspaper News observed that trade journals, ‘to be of any real use’, must be ‘written by men who not only understand trade conditions, but who also have some grasp of economics, industrial organisation, banking, currency, national finance, and so on’. In 1889, one had scorned ‘grandmotherly legislation’ for pure food. The founder of a chain edited the People’s Weekly for the colliery-owners during the 1923 NSW lockout. Many campaigned for ‘sane optimism’ to counter ‘Depression propaganda’, or linked Bolshevism to racial pollution. Hence the middle classes were not as forgotten as (Sir) Robert Menzies declared when marshaling anti-Labor forces in 1942.
The Tailors’ Art Journal and Cutters’ Review closed in 1913, with moans against the ‘cringing, scorpulated mind’ in the trade against advertising itself. However, the Tailor appeared later that year with a third of its pages taken by advertisements before seeing the advertising share of the journal grow to 45 per cent with promotions of food and alcohol. Because trade journals could not produce full-colour advertisements, clothiers distributed tear-sheets from the Australian Women’s Weekly.
Few circulation figures are reliable before the 1960s, when readership of Australian Fashion News increased from 3750 to 5540, while that of Tailor and Men’s Wear plummeted from over 5000 to below 2000. Retail Week fluctuated around 20,000 – the largest subscriber base – followed by Building and Decorating Materials at 10,000 and Australasian Hardware Retailer – which had been redesigned in response to an ABC television program for handymen – at 8000.
Trade journals today are brighter in appearance, breezier in content and accessible online. Analysis and technical advice have mostly disappeared, with some going to academic journals. Hard copies look like printed web pages, with snippets in place of the ocean of expertise that confronted readers before the 1970s.
An early post exposed corruption and murder in Kenya, earning the Amnesty International Reporting Award. Mainstream outlets paid more attention from November 2007 to the Guantanamo manuals on how to lie to the Red Cross, and even more in April 2008 to the ‘Collateral Murder’ video of US helicopter attacks on civilians.
The 28 November 2010 release from 260,000 US State Department ‘Confidential’ cables made WikiLeaks as recognisable as Google; saw credit-card corporates block donations; the Pentagon set up a war room; and the Department of Justice initiate a secret grand jury. Australian Federal Police concluded that he had committed ‘no crime’ after prime minister Gillard’s allegation on radio that he had broken the law. The US military sentenced WikiLeaks source Chelsea (Bradley) Manning to 35 years on 30 July 2013. While US voices called for Assange’s assassination as the ‘most dangerous man in the world’, he was readers’ choice for Time’s Person of the Year (2010).
WikiLeaks unsettled the profession of journalism as much as did the new media. Was Assange an editor, investigative journalist, leaker or ‘newsman’? This uncertainty surfaced in 2011 when WikiLeaks won a Walkley Award for journalistic leadership.
On 30 May 2012, Assange’s lawyers lost their fight against his extradition to Sweden on sexual molestation allegations but he was granted diplomatic asylum in London’s Embassy of Ecuador on 18 August 2012. His life turned into a television soap, with more media investigation into his private affairs than into the crimes that WikiLeaks documents. Journalists and academics have not followed through on cables regarding Rudd’s advocacy of force against China, Shorten’s pitch for political advancement to the US Consul in Melbourne, or ex-Senator Abhbib’s conduit from the ALP to the US Embassy. WikiLeaks is the prime source of information about the Trans-Pacific Partnership Treaty with its implications for local content.
Hence, WikiLeaks is significant for what it indicates about the new and the old media as well as for the crimes and lies it reveals. ‘The Internet,’ Assange writes, ‘by itself does not give you freedom. The Internet is simply a way to make publishing cheap’. He expected his leaks to ‘bubble up’ as if from a blog but soon learnt that ‘publishing in the computer age therefore becomes about performing the task that the systems allow and facing down the ingrained, self-protecting habits of the old publishing way’. Seeking ‘the widest possible circulation’, WikiLeaks in 2010 dealt with five liberal press outlets, primarily the London Guardian, and in Australia through Fairfax
WikiLeaks is emblematic of a ‘Sunshine Journalism’ which shines light on crimes. Attracting support across the political spectrum from those opposed to limits on the web, it broke into a social order shaken by the GFC to hit prominence in step with the Occupy Movement and the Arab Spring. A WikiLeaks Party, registered in July 2013, fielded impressive Senate candidates in three States before imploding over allocation of preferences to right-wingers, leaving Assange with 1.24 percent of the Victorian vote.
Although attention has shifted to Edward Snowden and his NSA downloads, Assange is Rupert Murdoch’s only Australian-born rival for influence over the global mediascape.
Suelette Dreyfus and Julian Assange, Underground, William Heinemann Australia, North Sydney, 2011 edition.
Andrew Fowler, The Most Dangerous Man in the World, Melbourne University Press, Carlton, 2011.