These media were at first interchangeable in the sense that they carried similar features at a time when there was insufficient space in any one publication for the combination of news, information and literary items expected by their readers. Daily newspapers might include a poem, perhaps a serial story, while monthly magazines kept pages free for news summaries or other factual information. When Melbourne became more established, newspaper proprietors began to produce weekly papers that, even though they carried the week's news, might more accurately be termed periodicals. On the other hand, some magazine proprietors preferred to describe their productions as newspapers, in order to attract a lower rate of postage. This blurring of genre leads to confusion in exact classification of both kinds of publication. Therefore, newspapers are classed here as those papers that were published daily (or, as with the first group, bi-weekly) and periodicals as those that appeared weekly, monthly or quarterly.
The Melbourne Advertiser, handwritten and published by John Pascoe Fawkner, appeared on 1 January 1838. It contained news items, notices, advertisements, shipping intelligence and a poet's corner. This was an illegal production, published without the recognisances and sureties required by the Press Act administered from Sydney, and Fawkner was obliged to close it after nine issues. The Port Phillip Gazette, legally produced by George Arden and Thomas Strode, began on 27 October 1838. But Fawkner, undeterred by initial failure, made a further attempt to produce a viable newspaper with the publication of the Port Phillip Patriot on 6 February 1839. The Patriot had two more proprietors, William Kerr, who bought it in 1841, and F.C. McEachern, in 1845. The following year, D'Arley Boursiquot, proprietor of the Port Phillip Gazetteer (later the Standard), bought the Patriot, combining the two papers into the Daily News. Meanwhile, George Cavenagh had begun production of the Port Phillip Herald, first issued on 3 January 1840.
These early papers, moving through changes in ownership and combination, were the forerunners of the major Melbourne newspapers lasting into the 20th century. The Daily News was absorbed by the Argus, owned by Edward Wilson and James Johnston and published by Boursiquot, which began publication on 2 June 1846 and continued until 19 January 1957. The Port Phillip Herald became the Melbourne Morning Herald and then the Melbourne Herald in 1855. The Melbourne prefix was eventually dropped and the Herald continued as an evening paper until, in combination with its morning subsidiary, the Sun News-Pictorial (founded 11 September 1922), it became the Herald Sun, which is still in publication. The advent of the gold rushes in the early 1850s and the subsequent increase in population, enabled the foundation of another newspaper that would be equally long-lasting. This was the Age, founded by Francis Cooke on 17 October 1854 but owned by Ebenezer Syme from June 1856, and his brother David from September of that year. Still published under the imprint of David Syme and Co., the Age now rivals the Herald Sun as a leading Melbourne paper.
Newspapers in a new colony were a daily necessity. They carried important advertisements that enabled the immigrants to find lodgings and buy equipment, they printed information about the mails and they published news from home and abroad, helping the new arrivals to keep in touch with important events and current opinion. Periodicals were more of a luxury, though no less important in relieving feelings of nostalgia. The Melbourne Magazine, advertised in the Port Phillip Herald on 16 November 1841, does not appear to have been published. The Port Phillip Magazine (1843), published by William Kerr, then proprietor of the Port Phillip Patriot, was the first attempt at the successful production of a local periodical. Consisting of original articles, short stories, poetry and extracts from other journals, it ran through four issues.
English and American periodicals were imported in increasingly large quantities, available in libraries and on subscription, either through booksellers or by private arrangement. Educated immigrants attracted by the prospect of advancement in Melbourne after the gold rush also attempted to establish local periodicals fashioned on the overseas models, though in competition with them. While these new magazines filled a cultural gap and provided opportunities for the publication of work by local writers and artists, they depended on a comparatively small circle of interested subscribers and contributors. Early proprietors were beset with other difficulties, including shortages of skilled labour and adequate machinery.
Notable among the early periodicals are the Illustrated Australian Magazine (1850-52), published and owned by the Ham brothers, the Melbourne Monthly Magazine (1855, proprietor unknown), and the Journal (later the Illustrated Journal) of Australasia (1856-58), with which local printers George Slater and W.H. Williams were associated; Frederick Sinnett, a former editor of the Herald, was one of its editors. These magazines were of similar format to the Port Phillip Magazine, consisting of articles on local, general and literary topics, fiction, poetry and short miscellaneous pieces, combining original material and selected items from overseas publications.
More settled conditions, together with technological advances, made sustained production easier, encouraging further publication of new magazines and weekly papers. The Australian Journal (1865-1962), owned and published by Clarson, Massina, was one of the most successful of them. Founded as a weekly but changed to a monthly in 1869, it aimed at a wider audience, combining fiction, poetry, shorter pieces and miscellaneous items with popular appeal. The Australian Journal made colonial fiction an important feature, publishing aspiring local authors such as Marcus Clarke, whose convict novel His natural life was first serialised from 1870-72. Clarke also contributed to other periodicals, including the Australian Monthly Magazine (1865-67), becoming a co-proprietor and editor after the title changed to Colonial Monthly (1867-70).
The Melbourne Review (1876-85), a quarterly founded by a group of literary gentlemen that included Henry Gyles Turner and Alexander Sutherland, was a serious attempt to establish a periodical of a superior kind to the monthly miscellanies. Mainly consisting of articles on general and literary topics, it included poetry but not fiction. The rival Victorian Review (1879-86), largely edited by James Smith under nominal editor H. Mortimer Franklyn, was run along similar lines, although issued monthly rather than quarterly. Less conservative than the Melbourne Review, it included a serial story in the early issues. The Victorian Review also published the transactions of the Melbourne Shakespeare Society.
The town and country weeklies published by the newspapers were advantaged in production and distribution. These were the Melbourne Leader (later the Leader, 1856-1957), published by the Age; the Australasian (1864-1946, continued as the Australasian Post until 2002) and its companion, the Australasian Sketcher (1873-89, incorporated into the Australasian), both published by the Argus; the Weekly Times (1869-), first owned by the Daily Telegraph, later the Herald, and still in print.
Illustrations were an increasingly important feature as an attraction to readers. The Illustrated Melbourne News (1858) was published weekly with a monthly cumulation by George Slater, edited by James Smith and illustrated by Nicholas Chevalier; the Illustrated Australian Mail (1861-62), was published monthly by Edgar Ray, and the Australian News for Home Readers (later the Illustrated Australian News, 1862-96), also a monthly, was owned and published at the Age office by David Syme. There was also an Australasian edition of the Illustrated London News (1888-91), printed and published in Melbourne by W.J. Akhurst, later W.H. Williams, with the addition of local news.
Cheap weekly papers, designed for family reading, include the Melbourne Family Journal (1850), the Penny Melbourne Journal (1862, re-issued as the Australian Family Journal in 1864), and Massina's Penny Weekly (1899-1901). These were made up of short articles, stories and sketches, poetry, topical paragraphs, news items and domestic hints, jokes and other popular items. Satirical and humorous weeklies such as Melbourne Punch (later Punch) 1855-1925 were also popular. One of several colonial periodicals modelled on the London Punch, the Melbourne version was the most successful. It incorporated the Melbourne Bulletin in 1886, after which more social items were included. Punch continued until it was itself incorporated into the social weekly Table Talk (1855-1939), a successful publication which closed on the outbreak of World War II.
Magazines devoted to particular causes, or designed as mouthpieces of organisations and societies, proliferated. They promoted political, religious, theatrical, sporting and other news of interest to their adherents. In an attempt to gain a wider readership, some proprietors extended their focus, as for instance, with the Melbourne Mirror (1888-89), sub-titled 'a weekly social, political, literary and dramatic journal'. The Spectator (1865-67), promoted free trade; the Tocsin (later Labor Call, then Labor, 1897-1961) is an example of a more directly political publication. All the major churches had their own magazines; so did the Victorian Spiritualists' Union, which published the Harbinger of Light (1870-1956), edited for many years by James Smith, later by Annie Bright. Reviews of current drama often appeared in other periodicals, while magazines such as the Theatrical Courier (1887-88) or the Theatre of Australasia (1889-90) catered more specifically for dramatic interests.
For the most part of the latter half of the 19th century Melbourne was the leader in Australian periodical production. Local magazines often included 'Melbourne' in their titles to emphasise both their topicality and sense of place. There might also be a need to distinguish them from their Sydney rivals, as was the case with the Melbourne Bulletin (1880-86), an imitation of the popular Sydney publication. More often, though, even in the early stages of periodical production in Melbourne, 'Australian' or 'Australasian' was adopted as the prefix, indicating a desire for wider distribution as well as the concept of nationalism.
Following the 1890s depression, Melbourne's importance as a literary centre began to decline. Writers and artists left the city for Sydney, attracted by the success of the Bulletin (1880-) and the comparative liveliness of the local scene. But there were usually one or two periodicals of various kinds in publication in Melbourne during the early years of the 20th century, including, for instance, the Native Companion (1907) and the society magazine Adam and Eve (1926-41). Women's magazines, following the Australian Woman's Magazine and Domestic Journal (1882-84) and the Woman's World, later Wide Awake (1886-87) continued to be popular. The New Idea (later Everylady's Journal, 1911-38), originally a monthly, now updated as the weekly New Idea, and the Woman's Day, founded in 1948, are still in publication, competing with the well-established Sydney publication, the Australian Women's Weekly (1933-, monthly from 1983).
While all of the periodicals mentioned included literary features of some kind, small magazines of specialised interest attracted writers and scholars rather than casual readers. Collections of verse such as Birth (1916-22), published by the Melbourne Literary Club and edited by Bernard O'Dowd and Nettie Palmer among others, and Spinner (1924-27), edited by R.A. Broinowski and E.A. Vidler, were useful vehicles for publication. The so-called 'little magazines', of which Meanjin Papers (later Meanjin, Brisbane, 1940-44; Melbourne, 1945-), founded and edited by Clem Christesen, and the Realist Writer (later Overland, 1952-), edited first by Bill Wannan then Stephen Murray-Smith, are important examples, have a more diverse content, publishing articles, fiction and verse. University departments continue to produce their own magazines, as do groups of writers and historians. Those that depend solely on subscriptions lead a precarious existence. Others are able to continue with the aid of frequently declining government subsidies. Though not in direct competition, none can hope to achieve even a small proportion of the circulation figures reached by the nationally distributed glossy magazines that fill the newsagents' racks.