Stokes challenges News Ltd’s WA Sunday monopoly

One of the longest standing unofficial truces in the Australian media industry appears to have ended, with Kerry Stokes’ The West Australian moving onto News Ltd’s Sunday turf.

The West Australian’s Saturday edition is to become The Weekend West and be on sale across the whole weekend.  

Previously the 226,000 circulation The West Australian, which has been under the control of Stokes since late in 2008, has had WA’s weekday publishing market to itself while Rupert Murdoch’s News Ltd has enjoyed a similar print monpoly over Sundays with the 300,000 circulation Sunday Times.

The move, which puts the two into direct print competition in WA for the first time, raises the possibility that News Ltd might respond with a weekday product. News Ltd’s WA printing press  – Perth Print – is only about ten years old, and while it already produces a limited daily run of The Australian, it would have further capacity.

The Weekend West will launch on October 30.

In an announcement West Australian Newspaper said: “This change brings a new freshness and vitality to the paper positioning it as an all-weekend read of news, opinion, information and entertainment.
Consumer research over the past 18 months evidenced readers consuming the newspaper in a different way and with a different mindset on the weekend versus the weekday.

Editor Brett McCarthy said, “The change to the masthead acknowledges what many of our readers have already pointed out – there is a whole weekend’s reading in the newspaper.”

Advertisers are being offered a greater number of solus positions as part of the relaunch. Sales director David Bignold said: “The launch of The Weekend West marks a new era in weekend reading and some exciting opportunities for our advertisers. Increased availability with Saturday and Sunday sales means greater longevity for advertising, while design features enhance the advertising environment to
maximize impact and ownership of the page.”

West Australian Newspapers CEO Chris Wharton said: “These changes haven’t been made just for the sake of change but to better serve our readers’ and advertisers’ interests.

A marketing campaign for the paper will kick off at the weekend.

Sunday Times MD Jason Scott told Mumbrella that rebadging The West Australian’s Saturday edition as a weekend newspaper would not make it a Sunday paper. He said: “I don’t think West Australians are as easily fooled as that.”

Adding that there was no truce, official or otherwise, he did not rule out launching News Ltd’s free daily commuter offering, mX, in the city. He said: “We’re always looking for new opportunities. It’s been very successful in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. Perth is the next biggest city. But I don’t have a business plan in front of me.”


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