Having read of the big changes at ACP, Freddy Krueger (the printer’s devil) set about finding out more.
Score it one-all. No deal with Australia Post for ACP (but why the
chat? What sort of deal is being considered?) and yes to the big change
of printers for Woman’s Day, a change that could very well upset the equilibrium in the cut throat Australian printing business.

ACPites say the Australia Post story of a magazine distribution deal is
not happening, but the switch of the multi-million dollar Woman’s Day
printing contract from PMP in Melbourne to the smaller, but ambitious
Argyle Times group, also in Melbourne, has got the folk at Park Street
well and truly wondering, why?

You see Argyle Times doesn’t have the best of reputations in handling the existing ACP titles it’s printing at the moment, Ralph and Belle, Money and others. More of that shortly.

But there is an intriguing corporate play in the switch of printing
contracts. It is yet another example of the emerging links between the
Singapore Government and its investment arm, Temasek Holdings, Qantas
and the Packer-owned PBL.

Woman’s Day is one of the two magazine cornerstones of ACP. Along with the Australian Women’s Weekly, they are the heavyweights, dominating weekly and monthly circulation and revenue figures for all magazines in this country.

The company gets more than $90 million a year from the cover price ($3.60) alone of Woman’s Day with advertising revenues estimated at north of $50 to $60 million a year. Woman’s Day
is a big part of the success of ACP, even though circulation is down
more than 40% since 1996 (these are reduced by fees and other charges
to newsagents and other outlets).

So news on a change in printing contract for Woman’s Day is big news in the Australian printing and magazine industries. News that The ‘Day‘ will be moving from PMP at Clayton in Melbourne in January, to Argyle Times, also in Melbourne, will set off a chain reaction.

Why, because printing industry sources say that Argyle cannot handle
the existing ACP titles it now handles, and is in the process of
upgrading equipment to handle that and presumably Woman’s Day. (Click here for Argyle Times website)

The printers for ACP are PMP, Argyle Times in Melbourne, PMP at
Moorebank in Sydney, Hannanprint Sydney and Melbourne and IPMG’s Offset
Alpine (IPMG controls Hannanprint). Another is Webstar in Sydney, owned
by the Blue Star group of Auckland that just purchased Merritt Madden
that was owned in part by Helena Carr, of the wife of NSW Premier Bob
Carr.

Argyle Times is owned by the Times Printers of Singapore, part of Times Publishing, up till 1988, part of Singapore Press Holdings, when it was spun off.

Times Publishing
is a company with board links to the Singapore Government and Temasek
Holdings, the key state investment company that is now the largest
individual shareholder in Qantas, with around 3%.

Qantas is close to Temasek, with an investment together in Jetstar
Asia, the cheap airline due to start operations from Singapore in a
month or so.

James Packer is a director of Qantas, ACP and PBL are close to Qantas,
printing all the in flight magazines for the various airlines in the
Qantas group. ACP has two magazines based in Singapore, local
versions of the Women’s Weekly and Cleo and Harpers Bazaar.

Alana House, the editor of Woman’s Day was editor of ACP Singapore’s titles. (The same titles are also published in Malaysia)

Times Printing and Times Publishing are the dominant printers and
publishers of magazines in Singapore and would be well-known to
ACP. But ACP sources say there is some questioning of the
decision to switch the ‘Day‘ contract in Melbourne.

Argyle has had trouble in the past binding and compiling Ralph and Belle, which have had to be sent to other printers for the perfect binding to be completed properly and on time.

There have been delays which ACP has demanded and received credits. Other magazines printed by Argyle for ACP have included Money, Australian Table and 4X4 (a four wheel drive magazine).

The sources claim the whole issue is about money. Argyle charges less
than many other printers of their size. Argyle has installed new
printing presses capable of handling the Woman’s Day A4 size. They are being ‘run’ in at the moment, so the change has been obviously coming for some time.

But the big question is can Argyle handle the 700,000 a week copies of Woman’s Day, plus the other magazines it prints for ACP and whatever else it manages to do.

Argyle’s parent, Times Publishing owns the Marshall Cavendish group,
the world’s largest series publisher. It is an important part of the
business in Australia.

Woman’s Day has been shuffled around Australian printers in
recent years, with some in the industry claiming ACP uses the big
contract to ‘punish’ or ‘reward’ printers.

it has gone from Hannanprint Sydney to Offset Alpine, then to PMP at
Clayton in Melbourne when IPMG (the owners of Hannanprint), started
building up a portfolio of magazines to compete against ACP.

So what will move from Argyle. Ralph was at Offset Alpine with Woman’s Day
was being printed there, but it could only print on a Monday or Friday
because of the time it takes to run 700,000 copies of the “Day” through the system. The same might apply at Argyle or Ralph, Belle and the other magazines might move to PMP at Clayton.