Business News has successfully negotiated the strategic shifts and technology revolutions that have reshaped the publishing industry over the past quarter of a century.
Business News was established 25 years ago when experienced publisher Harry Kleyn teamed up with Vanguard Press boss Ted van Heemst.
“I had no staff at all, there was nothing there, I had to recruit everybody,” Mr Kleyn recalled.
“It was all done on a real shoestring when we got it started.”
Business News was Mr Kleyn’s second foray into publishing, after his success with Community Newspapers in the 1970s and 1980s.
He established the Comment News in Kelmscott in 1972 and launched six other titles, including Canning Times, Melville Times and Southern Gazette.
“By 1985 we had all the southern suburbs covered,” Mr Kleyn said.
He subsequently merged his business with a north-of-the river publisher to form Community Newspaper Group, where he served as chief executive.
Community Newspapers listed on the Perth stock exchange in 1986 and Mr Kleyn sold his shares not long after, investing the proceeds in farming and tourism ventures.
Mr Kleyn’s many achievements included being president of the former Perth chamber of commerce, which published a newspaper titled Business World.
The chamber’s then executive director, Colin Barnett, wrote the editorials.
When the chamber merged with the Confederation of WA Industry in 1992, to form the current Chamber of Commerce & Industry WA, it had no use for Business World, which had been printed by Vanguard Press.
That was the trigger for Messrs Kleyn and van Heemst to form their new venture at the start of 1993.
Their early initiatives included a new masthead.
“Marketforce designed that for us; Howard Read was a great supporter,” Mr Kleyn said.
Regular columnists included then premier Richard Court, former deputy premier Mal Bryce, Property Council WA boss Joe Lenzo and restaurant critic Rob Broadfield.
In the early years, Business News was run on a community newspaper model, with free delivery to every business in the city.
Mr Kleyn recognised that approach had its limits – while the business always made a profit, it took five years to reach $1 million in advertising sales.
He also recognised that a serious business newspaper had to be driven by quality content, so he sought out investors to support a new growth strategy.
Current chairman Elton Swarts was one of the new investors who bought into the business in 2000.
That was followed a few months later by the recruitment of editor (and current chief executive) Mark Pownall.
One of the biggest strategic changes was the shift to paid subscriptions.
“Overall it was an amazing story, converting a totally free paper to subscriptions,” Mr Kleyn said.
A seminal moment for the business occurred in 2001, when Mr Kleyn and Mr Swarts went to the US for the annual conference of the Alliance of Area Business Publishers.
“The biggest thing was our first trip to the US,” Mr Kleyn said.
“That just blew our mind, that every city has its own serious business newspaper.
“It gave us a strategic direction for the business.”
The changes that followed included the launch of an events division, which remains a key part of Business News.
The Success & Leadership breakfast series began in 2002, with some of the early speakers including Harold Clough, former Bunnings boss Joe Boros, Austal founder John Rothwell and winemaker Franklin Tate.
The 40under40 awards also started in 2002, with investment banker Mark Barnaba and tourism executive Manny Papadoulis sharing the honours as joint winners of the First Amongst Equals award.
Daily email bulletins started three years later, in 2005, the first such service in Western Australia, while the Rising Stars awards for fast-growing businesses commenced in 2006, when Australian Mine Services was the winner.
A consistent focus over the years has been building a rich database of WA business information.
The first edition of the ‘Book of Lists’ was published in 1997 – the database has grown every year since, and is now available to subscribers as the BNiQ Search Engine.
More recent changes have included the rollout of a comprehensive digital strategy, which reflects the changing habits of readers and the shifting economics of news publishing.
After 25 years of change, Business News is uniquely positioned in the WA market.
Our fortnightly magazine has a readership of more than 48,200, with 83 per cent of readers in a senior management or board position, while the twice-daily email bulletins go to 48,500 addresses, ensuring readers stay up to speed with breaking news.
To mark the 25th anniversary, each edition of Business News this year will look back at some of the defining stories and events that have shaped WA.