Founder reflects on history
I STARTED with Toowoomba Newspapers in 1995, following six years with Rural Press working for Queensland Country Life and then industry publications The Graingrower, Queensland Farmer & Grazier and The Cattleman which had been purchased from Western Publishers, a division of Toowoomba Newspapers, only a few years earlier.
I was asked to join The Chronicle to not only head the features department, but also help launch a new weekly rural publication. Mark Jamieson, now mayor of the Sunshine Coast, was the advertising manager at the time and had, for a number of years, wanted to produce a rural publication.
Queensland Country Life was the leading rural newspaper and although we didn’t have their editorial resources, we were able to provide a large distribution network using the APN owned and aligned mastheads throughout the state.
A number of focus groups were held with agricultural businesses to determine what was important to them in a rural publication. Circulation and advertising rates were paramount but also so were staples such as markets, weather, on-farm editorials and classifieds. This was well before websites and online sales. Rural Weekly was formed with sales representatives Heatley Gilmore and Ben Hodge, experienced rural journalist Miles Noller, who had been the editor of The Chronicle’s Farm Forum for many years, and Kirby Anderson, who went on to work within the Department of Agriculture.
The original circulation was just under 60,000 copies per week, pre-printed and inserted into 12 mastheads. Most editions were between 32 and 48 pages, which was a huge undertaking for such a small team.
We had great support from the local machinery dealers, seed companies and rural merchandise businesses. Rural Weekly was also the major media partner for Ag Show.
I am proud of my small involvement with the launch of a newspaper that changed the way news was distributed to rural and regional Queensland, as should everyone else who has been a part of Rural Weekly for the past 24 years.
Damon Phillips is now the chief executive officer at the Royal Agricultural Society of Queensland.
Founding advertising manager Damon Phillips discusses how the Rural Weekly came about 24 years ago.