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Community backs form

PUBLISHING juggernaut the Community Newspaper Group is embarking on a number of revamps after the successful launch of its Western Suburbs Weekly last year.

The group launched its new Guardian Express this week and is reviewing its remaining 13 titles.

Community CEO Ian Thompson has disputed claims made by the group’s independently owned competitors that they were winning the readership battle.

“I think our figures tell the story. We had double digit revenue growth for 2001-02 on 2000-01 and it looks like we’ll have double digit revenue growth again this year,” he said.

However, Mr Thompson admitted that Community had not kept pace with changing readership demographics.

“I think a lot of suburban newspapers – us included – failed to keep pace with readership change. I don’t think our business met what our market required,” he said.

“If you look at the census figures five years on you see how much the demographics of different suburbs have changed.”

Mr Thompson said the decision to use the News Limited-owned Perth Print facility at Canning Vale had given Community much greater flexibility in how it could put its papers out.

“Before that we were very limited in how we could use colour. Once we had the tools to do the job we could start looking at readership demographics,” he said.

Community Newspaper Group editor-in-chief Iain Cameron said revamping newspapers was fine, providing the changes met what the readers wanted.

“When we bought the Hills Gazette we deliberately did not change it because its readers said they liked it the way it was,” he said.

Besides the newspaper revamps Community is also undergoing considerable structural change.

It has invested $600,000 in computer technology, mainly on a wide-area network, and will be rationalising some of its offices.

It is also opening a new distribution centre in Myaree in the coming months that will house its pamphlet distribution business and two of its publications.

Mr Thompson said the Myaree move made sense, given Community was being printed at Canning Vale.

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