Plugger

Vishal Tuesday, March 04, 2008 , , , , , ,

The 5th participant is Plugger.

Cofounded by Stephen Phillips, Richard Slatter, Plugger, is a search engine that focuses on Australian business news. Plugger monitors, indexes, organises and analyses business news - Australian business news. Since its inception last year has already become one of the best source of Australian business news on the web.
Plugger enables you to:

  • Read the latest and most reported Australian business stories as they break.
  • Monitor the biggest news makers - which companies are most mentioned? Which business leaders and politicians are dominating the media?
  • Stay on top of the big issues in your industry.
  • Monitor news about your own company or investments - your customers, clients, prospects, competitors and so on.
The service is totally free. You don't even have to sign in or register although if users want they can. In addition, users can register (still free) for an extended service. We call this extended service PluggerPlus.

Plugger was created over the course of 2007 by a team with many years of experience in market research, advertising, marketing, journalism, web technology, and cutting edge programming. .
In Richards words :
Having worked in consulting capacity with hundreds of clients on their Internet strategies and developing lots of websites, the core of the team has used the web for years for secondary market research - to understand a market, work on positioning, find leads etc. While generic search engines are great for background and depth, nothing beats business news sites and blogs for the best source of what is happening in the market right now. So we decided to build our own business news site that does a lot of the work for us. A site that automatically organises news by company, people and themes to make it a lot easier to discover who is working with who, who are the market leaders, where is the market going, what are the important themes, and ultimately where potential sales might come from.
So we decided to build our own business news site that does a lot of the work for us. A site that automatically organises news by company, people and themes to make it a lot easier to discover who is working with who, who are the market leaders, where is the market going, what are the important themes, and ultimately where potential sales might come from.
Let us now learn more about Plugger from Richard, one of the founders, on various facets of their startup:

Q. How long it took before it was up and running?
A. The site has been in development for about a year, with the first version released in February 2007.

Q. What stage of your start-up is, stealth mode, beta mode or fully functional?
A. Plugger has not been actively promoted at all to date so I suppose you could say we are in 'stealth' mode at present. We are listening intently to all feedback and input from our user base and refining the application and experience accordingly. In effect the site is being beta tested by our current user community.

Q. What is the main objective/mission behind your venture?
A. To build the best personalised Australian business news aggregation service monitoring the broadest range of quality content available to Australian business people. To provide deep analytical tools to allow our users to extract meaning from a huge amount of content that they would otherwise have to manually sift through.

Q. What services it provides it for consumer or customers?
A. Plugger sources Australian business news across a vast set and variety of sources because what you read in the traditional media is only one perspective. At Plugger our team of human news fanatics and our even more fanatical automated news bots are dedicated to finding and organising the whole story across every perspective, wherever it appears on the web, and making it available to you in one place.
Plugger users and subscribers can:
  • Read the latest and most reported stories as they break.
  • Monitor the biggest news makers - which companies are most mentioned? Which business leaders and politicians are dominating the media?
  • Stay on top of the big issues in your industry.
  • Monitor news about your own company or investments - your customers, clients, prospects, competitors and so on.

Plugger analyses every Australian business news article it finds. It looks for the people, companies, themes, locations and products mentioned and tags and indexes everything. Using this information, Plugger can rate and graph who and what are getting the most mentions in the news at any given time and show how these rankings shift over the course of the day.

Q. What is unique about your venture?
A. The best source for multiple perspectives on stories in the Australian Business news arena organised in accordance with a user’s personal preferences and interests. The ability to then delve into the connections between news stories and the key actors (companies, business people, politicians, products, themes) featured.

Q. What type of customers you are targeting?
A. Generally, anyone interested in the machinations of Australian business and the stories reported in the media, both traditional and emerging. Plugger is designed for anyone who wants to search and monitor the news, analyse trends and movements over time and keep on top of events as they happen. For example:
  • PR professionals monitoring news about a particular client company and interested in the frequency, reach and volume of stories about the client as well as the variety of news sources - from traditional news networks through to alternative online media sources.
  • Share Traders tracking business news across a portfolio of investments.
  • Sales Professionals managing a long term sales process with a strategic customer.
  • Government policy professionals monitoring specific business and community issues.

Q. What age group of people will be benefited most?
A. The age and gender of our user base is as broad as the demographic underpinning the Australian business world in general. Our subscribers comprise young 20-something analysts working in financial services, through to accounting firms, ad agencies and construction contractors, as well as more mature C-level executives from media corporations, telcos, banks and mining companies. If you’re interested in Australian business news then you’ll be interested in what Plugger has to offer.

Q. How many users are using your services?
A. Over 4000 subscribers. The site gets about 80,000 unique visits per month.
What sort of marketing you are using to spread the word?
At this stage very little, although we have recently sponsored www.blogpond.com.au since we value the efforts and opinions of those working hard to create a thread of conversation, debate and commentary in the Australian blogosphere.
How are you measuring the success of your venture? Are there any special mechanisms/tools are in place to monitor the progress?
The success of our venture will be measured by:
  • The numbers of users and subscribers
  • Positive feedback from user-base and customers
  • Ultimately, and most importantly, we’ll measure our success in terms of revenue derived from our subscription and private feed services
Q. What is the monetizing/revenue model? Is there any new model, which is being tried?
A. Our model is to generate revenue by providing subscription services and private feed services for corporate customers.
Our goal is to deliver relevant personalised content, and intelligence derived from this content, to our users faster and more conveniently than any other news or analytics provider. We will charge an appropriate subscription fee for this service.

Q. Which are the main competitors or major players in this market segment? What are the main technologies used behind this start-up?
A. A kit bag of algorithms crossing the realms of entity detection and traditional tagging, natural language processing and sentiment detection, news story ranking, clustering and personalisation, story and source aggregation.

Q. What has been the most easy to use, out of box and helpful technology?
A. The website is built using the Django web framework – a framework that has allowed us to quickly deploy the site as well as introduce revisions and amendments easily over time.

Q. Are you using lot of open source tool sets for this?
A. All the technology used behind Plugger is open source.

Q. What is your operating environment (operating system) and what type of database you are using?
A. Apache web servers running Linux, MySQL databases. Application code is all written in Python.

Q. How often do you catch up with others trying similar things and where do you catch up. Do you have dedicated communities in your city?
A. We don’t participate in a specific ‘start-up’ community. All team members have been working in the web arena for a long time, so we routinely connect with people, businesses and communities both off and online, from web shops to ad and marketing agencies, larger IT companies, telcos and bloggers.

Q. How much money is needed upfront to start a venture?
A. The exact dollar figure depends on the number of people you need to build your offering or the number of contractors and partners you intend to engage. But broadly, you need to be able to support at least 18 months worth of design, development, marketing, promotion and sales effort before revenue generation.

Q. What are the main barriers in general for people start their venture in Australia?
A. Funding.

Q. What are your thoughts on the future trends of your service and market segment you are in?
A. Plugger operates in the realms Search, Aggregation and Analytics, all of which are very hot areas right now and will continue to be so over the next few years. With the search engine war well and truly over, we believe the next game is about delivering niche search engine experiences so Plugger will continue to focus on
  • Australian business news
  • Personalisation tools to allow the user to tailor their news experience
  • Analysis tools to help the user identify and understand trends and aggregate movements in the news, discern connections between people, companies, products, industries etc, identity positive and negative bias, determine volume and quality of news on given topics or people and so on.
Q. Do you have any advice for people who want to start their venture?
A. To have any chance of success you need to get all the ingredients right – a talented technical team as passionate about the user outcome as the technology itself should be at the heart of your organisation. You also need an inspired creative team mad about customer focused design and delivering optimised user experiences. Also, dedicated site admin, editorial and support staff a strong sales and marketing capability, good connections into other potential partner organisations and customers, and above all an enthusiastic, innovative board and management team prepared to try new things albeit with a responsible and balanced approach to risk management.

Thanks Richard for sharing your thoughts. We look forward to hear from you on the progress of Plugger. All the best for Plugger and the competition in this carnival.
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