Wotif founder Graeme Wood buys stake in news site Plugger

Graeme Wood, founder of online travel company Wotif, has emerged with a 50% stake in news aggregation site Plugger, which has signed a licensing deal with Wotif that will result in Plugger rebranding its site as Wotnews.

Graeme Wood, founder of online travel company Wotif, has emerged with a 50% stake in news aggregation site Plugger, which has signed a licensing deal with Wotif that will result in Plugger rebranding its site as Wotnews.

The deal, which was announced to the Australian Stock Exchange last night, allows Plugger to use the Wotnews branding in return for a licence fee calculated on gross revenue generate by Plugger. But the licence fee will not be paid until Plugger’s revenue hits a certain level and Wotif does not expect to earn any fees in 2008-09.

Wotif has a pre-emptive right to buy Plugger if its current investors decide to sell up and also has an option to buy Wood’s 50% stake at any time between now and 31 December, 2012.

Plugger’s general manager Richard Slatter is excited about the deal and says there are clear connections between the two companies’ styles.

“For some time we’ve been thinking about and preparing for a new brand that ties us in more with the Wotif family. They are kind of a fully-fledged travel products aggregator and we are a news aggregator, so there are some synergies there.”

Wood says he was introduced to the Plugger team about 12 months ago and liked what he saw. “I thought they were clever blokes who had a history of delivering on technology projects, which is pretty rare,” he says.

Two things particularly interested him about the company. The first was the technology involved, which allows enormous amounts of text to be distilled and organised into useable and manageable formats, without the need for human editing.

The second big interest was what Plugger means for the media sector. 

“We’ll get down to levels that your average journo wouldn’t think of – opinions on blogs, comments made in company newsletters, lesser-known publications. If we can distill all that down on a particular topic, it should broaden the range of opinions and the range of sources,” Wood says. “Maybe it’s another step of democratisation in the media.”

Wood says he is also enjoying being involved in another early-stage company.

“It’s the most fun, because you never know what’s around the corner. When you discover that something works, that’s a bit of a buzz. I think you get addicted to that.”

Slatter says Wood has been a handy addition to the Plugger board.

“He’s a mentor to this group. He doesn’t overly give us direction but plays an advisory role. He’s very involved and he’s very helpful.”

Slatter hopes traffic to Plugger’s public Wotnews site will receive a boost from the Wotif deal, but he is also aiming to develop the corporate side of the business.

Plugger is looking for deals whereby it would set up a sort of internal news site for companies. He gives the example of a professional services firm that produces a lot of its own content (media releases, analysts’ reports, white papers, submissions) and also has subscriptions to various publications.

The Plugger engine could combine and organise these two sources and add news from media websites and other content such as blogs. “Suddenly you have a far richer research tool for within the organisation,” Slatter says.

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