AP: 70 years and seven owners on

Advertising agency, E.G. Holt launched Australasian Printer in January, 1950. The magazine was successively owned by Lawson Publications and then Thomson Publications group.

Enter, Paul Callahan, who began his media career in radio, initially with NSW country radio stations, before joining 2UE in Sydney where he sold advertising as well as hosting the midnight-to-dawn slot.

Callahan furthered his career in advertising first with Prince Publishing and then with Lawson Publications. After six years as national advertising manager, he branched out to form a company to produce an annual 300-page Graphic Arts Technical Specifications Manual.

When Australasian Printer came up for sale, Callahan and previous editor, Bob Moore purchased the magazine through Calmor & Associates and it was during the Calmor era that the biggest growth occurred in Australian Printer and its associated titles.

Ann Callahan took over as co-owner and editor in 1974. She had initially trained as a teacher and met Paul when she taught his sons, Matthew and Paul Jnr.

Between July 1981 and July 1983, Australasian Printer included a section targeted at New Zealand printers and circulation included copies mailed across the Tasman.

By 1984, the New Zealand section had a life of its own and the magazine was renamed Australian Printer, with New Zealand Printer having spun-off as a separate bi-monthly magazine published in Auckland.

In August, 1988, Asian Printer was launched as the third magazine in the stable.

“Launching these new titles were significant milestones in our family business,” said Paul Callahan. “We’d identified a need for B2B magazine in South East Asia for the printing and graphic arts industries, but felt we needed to finesse the model closer to home first.

“This resulted in the launch of New Zealand Printer magazine and four years later we felt we had the necessary skills and staff to repeat the successful formula in Asia.

“Throughout our tenure as owners, our focus was on providing news that readers could use, providing advertisers with a valuable medium to reach their customers and a marketplace for printers to advertise their wares.”

Paul and Ann Callahan, who ran the publication in the ’70s and ’80s

Co-owner, Ann Callahan said the company never shied away from investment in the kinds of technologies it was informing its readers about. She says, “The most profound change in the industry during our ownership of the magazines was, without doubt, the move from offset to digital printing.

“In the early days I remember pasting up galleys at our typesetters, initially Kerry Packer’s ACP in Sydney’s Parkes Street, and then Magazine Printers, part of John Armati’s Macquarie Publications Group, in Chippendale, and then Waterloo,” she said.

“We’d already gone digital with the investment of $26,000 in a Taiwanese IBM PC clone for managing our growing databases – it had a clock speed of 8MHz with onboard memory of 10MB, a small green screen that was like looking into a clothes dryer and sounded like a Fokker engine winding up as it took a couple of minutes to start up!

“This was followed by a five-figure investment in a Remington Dest OCR scanner to capture and avoid re-keying the growing amount of content we were receiving for our enlarged publishing enterprise – all of it still in print.

“Next, we commissioned our own publishing management system by Sydney developer, Hong Van Le, which was closely followed by an investment in our own digital typesetting system through Steve De Vroom’s Amazing Faces in Milson’s point.

“After the early days in premises we inherited in Camperdown, we’d always had offices just north of Sydney Harbour. First we operated from Milson’s Point where, over the years, we owned two homes a few doors from one another in lower Arthur Street. Advertisers and readers were always welcome to drop by and talk business as they enjoyed AP hospitality.

“As the business grew, we bought our own three-story commercial premises just up the road from SBS in Milsons Point and the next move came with our purchase of three-story office in a town house in McMahons Point, near Blues point Road.

“We left publishing just as the internet was coming into its own and 22 years later, whilst many publications maintain online as well as printed versions, some have chosen an online presence exclusively and we believe that this trend will only increase.”

When Australian Printer and New Zealand Printer were sold to Swedish industrialist and ink man, Anders Oqvist, in 1998, the Callahans opted for a major lifestyle change, moving to Auckland and opening a luxury bed and breakfast establishment and wedding reception venue.

After Paul suffered strokes in 2000 and 2001, they decided to return to Australia to enjoy the company of their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.

Although they’d always been Sydneysiders, they chose to move to the Gold Coast where they enjoy tending their canal side tropical garden and catching up with former printers and advertises who had also retired to this more relaxed part of the world.

Ann Callahan continued, “We met some extraordinary people in the printing industry – advertisers, readers and competitors and some of our most memorable times were at exhibitions such as Drupa and Ipex, where everyone worked hard during the day, wore out lots of shoe leather, enjoyed socialising at night and came back to Australia or New Zealand exhausted.”

Over the past 22 years, the Callahans have been able to indulge their passions for travel, particularly ocean and river cruising, often linked to their other interests including music, theatre and opera.

But neither Paul nor Ann are officially retired and when, in 2017 they had their first trip to Bali, they took on another project – building two luxury villas in Legian as a holiday accommodation investment. These were completed in 2018 and are now operating successfully.

In 1998, the Calmor ANZ publishing business was sold to Anders Oqvist, a former Sicpa executive, when it became Printer Magazines Group (PMG). Oqvist, in turn, sold it to entrepreneur and IT specialist, Shankar Vishwanath, in March 2013.

Following a successful career in IT business development and stints with both Woolworths Group and their joint venture partners in India, Tata, Vishwanath had taken a change in direction with the purchase and successful expansion of two Kwik Kopy franchises between 2009 and 2013.

This gave him a taste for print, and when the opportunity came up, he bought Australian Printer and the rest of the PMG titles through family company, Sulobu and went about refreshing the titles and streamlining business operations.

Shankar Vishwanath who took over Australian Printer in March 2013

Vishwanath’s strategy included a focus on digital business and growing market share, which he sought to achieve through the acquisition of AP competitor, ProPrint, from Michael Hesseltine-owned UK publisher, Haymarket, which was scaling down its Australian operations.

Some five years and seven months after acquiring AP and its sister titles in print and online, Vishwanath sold the business to current owner The Intermedia Group, when it was renamed Printer Media Group.

After a 10 month break on the road with wife, Devi, to clear his head for a new challenge – which included climbing to the first base camp of Mount Everest – Vishwanath re-entered the entrepreneurial world with start-ups aimed at launching, supporting and optimising digital businesses.

List of the seven owners of Australian Printer, 1950-2020

  1. E.G. Holt
  2. Lawson Publications
  3. Thomson Publications Group
  4. Calmor & Associates (Paul & Ann Callahan)
  5. Printer Magazines Group (Anders Oqvist)
  6. Sulobu Pty Ltd (PMG, Shankar Vishwanath)
  7. Printer Media Group (James Wells & Simon Grover @ TIG)

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