What are Second Life magazines for? More thoughts

This piece is a follow on to something I wrote a few days ago (What are SL magazines for?) in response to a post by Prad Prithivi, the well-known designer, entitled The Devil Rezzes Prada.

I’ve been following the comments there, and was interested to read one by Eolande Elvehjem, of Eolande Jeweled Details, who has a blog of her own.

First of all, she complain about the number of ad salespeople who try to sell her advertising (a point I’ll return to), and then she goes on to say:

“I think there is hope for magazines in Second Life – first you need focus more on excellent writing of articles that will spark discussion or even be educational. Make the typeface large and keep the entire thing at a lower resolution so that I don’t have to wait five minutes to read the next page. Really focus on marketing your magazines – it’s more than just putting out stands for people to pick it up, you need to inspire them to do so – motivate them that somehow by the time they have read the magazine they’ve really gained something from it.”

Now, some of this poses a problem to me.  I definitely agree that magazines should have excellent writing – although I would put the educational content here ahead of the discussion (and entertainment ahead of both).  But my personal feeling is that in the modern media world – and this is true of real world media too – the place for discussion is increasingly blogs.  Here you can have rapid discussion and debate (moderated or not – I would favour the former to prevent spam and the kind of ugliness that drove Kathy Sierra out of blogging).  Therefore, in addition to the regular blog pieces drawing attention to the doings of designers and the Prim Perfect Organisation, and charity events, I also add in some comment pieces from time to time which I hope will make people think, or discuss issues.  The Open Space sim pieces were examples of that – this article itself is another!

However, I do think Eolande is indulging in a little wishful thinking when she wants excellent quality of writing AND large typefaces AND lower resolution so that magazines rezz quickly.  We have relatively small type, because we have a lot to say and want to keep the number of pages down to a reasonable length (which, for us, is around 100-120 pages).  But you can expand our magazines to read inworld, and you can read them on the web too – especially in the delightful Calaméo format.

From the start, our intention has been to produce a magazine that looks professional, and we think it does.  So too did the Daily Telegraph, where several members of the property section congratluated me on the professionalism of the product – heaven only knows what they were expecting!  But a magazine that competes on that level can’t get away with the amount and size of text that you’d find on a child’s chapbook or in the starter level of a ELF reader (oddly enough, I write those too).

But her point about marketing a magzaine raises some very interesting points.  How do you market a magazine in the Second Life world, where there are so many blogs to read, and so many other distractions?  Eolande talks of inspiring and motivating people – but how on earth do you do that?

One way some of the most popular magazines do it is throughs events.  Runway, for example, hosts fashion shows (and has a wing of its company now that specialises in hosting such events).   Best of Second Life has the Boulevard and has regularly hosted large events such as the Miss Virtual Worlds contestSL-Entrepreneur, the quality of whose articles is high, is hosting the SL Entrepreneur of the Year Awards.

And Prim Perfect too has hosted events – largely co-sponsoring live music events, such as the series of Summer Concerts on Tribute Island.

Having a blog such as this is important too both in promoting the work we do and in promoting ourselves.  And whether the magazine is web-based, in-world or both, having a blog that can respond quickly to issues is absolotely vital for any publication.

But the way we probably promote ourselves most of all is through Meta Makeover, reaching an ever-increasing audience both in-world and out.  This relates directly to our content and gives our viewers a chance to see our real enthusiasm for SL design, and learn enough about Second Life issues that we write about to encourage them to want to read the magazine as well.

But there are some routes that we’ve chosen not to go down, and I’ll talk about those in a future post.

One final word on marketing (although my colleague Diva Regina could handle this issue with far more grace and expertise than I can – and I hope she does).

I said in my earlier article on this issue that one of our key groups was designers:

“to give them a chance to get their work out there – through articles, through advertising and through additional features such as the regular Treasure Hunt which was designed to raise awareness and increase store traffic.”

That is still at the core of our philosophy.  Yes, we take their money in advertising – we need it to keep functioning.  But our advertising is not only a service, it is part of a wider service that we offer designers.  Thus Diva Regina is our Advertising and Client Manager – she works with designers to suggest the best ways that we can promote their work – and we frequently give advice that improves the standing of the deigner and yet brings us no material benefit whatsoever.  We have also acted as matchmaker in numerous projects – we love being able to help designers grow their profile, their business and their creativity.

I believe it is this passion that underlies a lot of the best magazines in Second Life – and it covers not only the more obvious ones, but also the interest ones such as The Primgraph (with its associated blog – The Connolly Telegraph) and the Caledon Strand.

But passion is not enough if you’re not reaching the readers.  Spread across the range of outlets that we offer, we have reason to believe that we are reaching our target audiences, and averaging numbers that we are happy with  – and with occasional upward blips – the May 2008 issue of the magazine, for example, has downloaded over 37,700 copies of the pdf alone.  Would we welcome more?  Oh, yes please!

4 comments

  1. I give you this as my view onmagazines/papers in Second Life.

    *****

    I have used various SL magazines, newspapers and other publications since 2005 for advertising purposes.

    The biggest problem with them in my opinion is that they dont get published on time, as they are produced in the free time of amatuers (?).. or run by people that dont understand that publishing dates are vital to advertisers.

    When a fixed date of publication is set and the producer fails to make that date, it impacts the advertisers in major ways..

    Right now I have a Lucia evend Ad that I’d submitted to both Second Style and the Metaverse Messenger. I got the art work in on time, paid for the ads, and did everything necessary on my end. Swedish Lucia was 12 December, last Friday. Neither publication released their issue in time for the event – and in fact, the M2 still haven’t – Second Style did today Sunday.

    I am promised the money back or a second ad for free (Second Style) but that doesn’t help me in any way – the Lucia has come and gone until next year… as an marketing expert irl i think this is “too much”..

    So all editors, responsible people – a date is a DATE and not a play.. and if I had known this I would have put my money in another more reablie magazine/paper..

    So please think about this when yoiu make papers and magazines..

    /Tina (PetGirl) Bergman

    PS: – sorry facts are facts. Even if this are hard words its what happened.

    BLOGG: http://tinasuniversum.blogspot.com/

  2. I agree – this can be a real problem.

    We’ve been so late that it affected an advertiser once. We gave the event coverage in the blog, and added a free advert for them. But it did highlight a problem with deadlines.

    Prim Perfect comes out approximately every six weeks – approximately because we try to synch with some major dates in the commercial calendar like Halloween and Christmas. We tend not to have a fixed publication date, because we are aware that this can slide.

    I think the answer one of the problems here is money. If I could afford to pay the team a real world salary and employ people to work full-time, then I could certainly deliver to deadlines. But I’m paying the whole team in Lindens – and most have to earn a real life income as well.

    That being said, I’m also charging advertisers in Lindens too. The amount in Lindens might seem high – but if I were a real world magazine offering the demographic audience size I do, my prices here would be laughably low.

    The problem is that both sides are scaled down. That might mean not that people are treating this as a game, but that it does come second to completing the tasks that earn the money to put real life food on real life tables.

    Maybe the way to go is to have a clear written contract that commits to a firm deadline. However, I think I would probably say, “We cannot guarantee that – but we will do our best.” Our best, incidentally, often involves staying up till four in the morning trying to get the magazine out!

  3. But of course the people that make the AD(s) want to be payed IRL money:-((

    Another (HUGE) cost that are wasted in this case.

    I will of course have time to look closely under many months for the market (magazines) that are serious and deliver in time – until next huge event I have – Thats our Swedish Nationaldag 6 th of June…

    I know what you produce.. *smiles*..write about it at my blogg to..

    /Tina

    PS: BTW M2 are still not out.. and I have not got any LD back…

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