AI’s bright future for Murdoch’s ‘biggest’ colour site

May 05, 2024 at 05:32 pm by admin

News Corp’s former Westgate Park print centre has a bright new future, supporting the technologies that helped sound its death knell.

That’s right, the silenced halls which once housed the biggest of Rupert Murdoch’s Australian manroland Newsman 40 press lines have been earmarked for a new future… as a data centre.

The Melbourne location, close to the Westgate bridge – reconstructed following its disastrous 1970 collapse – has been identified as an ideal location because of its proximity to the Yarra river.

The prospect or potential environmental impact of warmed water being pumped back into the capital-city waterway has not been mentioned, but Australia is vying for a place in the global data centre league table, and Westgate Park could help.

So far Sydney has been placed ninth in a list compiled by analysts Cushman & Wakefield, which is topped by Virginia and Atlanta in the US, with Tokyo third and Mumbai seventh.

Apparently Brisbane – where News put its Murarrie print centre up for sale after moving metro production to Yandina on the Sunshine Coast – is also a contender.

Asian centres such as Hong Kong and Singapore are reported to have lost favour because of tight land supply, with Johor (Malaysia) and Batam (Indonesia) seen as potential alternatives.

Craig Scroggie, who heads data centre operator NextDC, says the former Herald & Weekly Times print centre in Port Melbourne will help meet the greater processing demands of artificial intelligence, with AI requiring up to 13 times as much rack density as “regular” data centres.

Installed in 1992, the six German-built presses were the second in News’ colour newspaper roll-out (after Adelaide), initially producing process colour on one side of a web and spot colour on the other, reported to be as much as Murdoch could be persuaded was necessary. At first, the Ferag conveyors delivered printed newspapers to two lines of inserting and stacking equipment via a unique splitter, although this was rendered unnecessary when a buffered mailroom system was installed as part of a multi-million dollar upgrade in 2015.

The Westgate Park real estate was sold in 2019 for $55 million and initially leased back to News. A new print centre in the western suburb of Truganina was announced in 2020, equipped with just two press lines – a more modern manroland Geoman press from News’ Chullora, Sydney site and a Goss Uniliner T90 from Ormiston, Queensland, acquired from Antony Catalano’s Australian Community Media when he bought that part of the former Fairfax Media business from Nine Entertainment.

In a sign of the times, the two Truganina presses are able to produce current circulations of The Australian, the metro Herald Sun, Nine’s The Age and Australian Financial Review, and other work.

Of the transition, Scroggie referenced Schumpeter’s Gale, the “creative destruction” in which one technology replaces another. Those in the industry also remember the lessons on Wapping in the UK, which your scribe once had to promise not to mention in the context of the Melbourne dockland site.

Peter Coleman

Westgate Park photo, Parks Victoria

Sections: Print business


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