Free forum software now available to newspaper publishers

CUTTING-edge software is being offered for free to newspaper publishers seeking to offer their readers an online discussion forum or an improved version of what they currently already have.

Dundee-based Waracle comprises managing director, Michael Romily, his brother, Dave – who is sales director – and Mike Wharton, who is technical director. Established six years ago, it specialises in designing software, including applications for iPhones.

And following a successful trial involving The Great Outdoors magazine – published by The Herald & Times Group, in Glasgow – Waracle is launching Version Two of its free forum software, with Version Three soon on its way.

Version Three will save readers having to log in if they already have a Facebook account they have already signed in to, using the recently-luanched Facebook Connect. It will also allow for live chat. But Version Two is expected to particularly appeal to newspaper publishers because it offers the opportunity to sell advertising.

Says Michael Romily: “The forums you see on websites just now are dead space, as far as generating advertising revenue is concerned. They can also be clunky in the way they operate. A lot will have been designed using PHPBB and VBulletin software, now a bit tired-looking compared to our, revolutionary new lightweight social forum product.

“Our Version Two is also optimised for viewing on mobile platforms, such as iPhones and iPads. Of course you can go on to forums on websites, using your mobile handset, but the chances are the forum has been optimised for a computer screen, not for a mobile – and therefore doesn’t look that good and is slow.”

In addition, Waracle will be offering publishers the opportunity to engage with users through applications that are built natively into mobile platforms such as iPhone, Google Android, Blackberry and Windows Mobile.

Waracle’s forum software is called Wetoc – as in, ‘we talk’. Version three is expected to be launched in the Autumn. Versions Two and Three have both been designed to simply ‘bolt on’ to an existing website. As for the advertising that appears in a forum, it is either sourced by Waracle – for a percentage fee – or is provided by the client, for a smaller fee.

Adds Romily: “By stimulating increased user activity and page impressions, the Wetoc software drives additional revenue and value for advertisers. As publishers make the difficult journey from print to online, Wetoc seamlessly threads contextually-focused advertising into each component, providing much needed new revenue streams.”

Among recent iPhone applications designed by Waracle, they have produced – for the Scottish Government – an application that helps people judge the size of the portions of food they eat, so they waste nothing. ‘Love Food, Hate Waste’ has so far been downloaded – for free – over 50,000 times.

Waracle has also just completed an application for Virgin Atlantic that tracks the flight paths of its aircraft, aimed at friends and family, for instance, requiring to know when a flight is due to land.

Romily can be contacted at Waracle on 0779 175 4483.