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  ‘SL Business’ Magazine Launches  
Posted 2006-08-01 by Tony Walsh
SL Business, billed as "The premiere virtual branding magazine" by its international team of creators, was launched today. The 60-page periodical covers the business aspects of the virtual world Second Life, although its masthead says the "Meta, Cyber, and Real Worlds" will be covered, indicating other MMOs may be explored. SL Business features a number of Second Life advertisers in its debut issue, some of whom are spotlighted as cover models and in a feature article, suggesting that the magazine is open to advertorial content (and thus devaluing it as a balanced information source, in my opinion). The magazine is available in cumbersome PDF format (copy/pasting disabled), Second Life-specific "prim" format, and as a paper-based version for $10 USD plus shipping.

Predictably, the articles I skimmed lacked a critical or view of Second Life as a business platform. One article discussing investment opportunities in Second Life mentions that "if Linden Labs [sic] determines a banker has violated the TOS, the banker could then be banned or suspended, but there would be no judgements against the banker or reparations to be paid." In actuality, Linden Lab doesn't need a reason to take its play-money away--currency you might work for, but don't actually own. The bottom line is that Second Life investment carries more risk than the stock market--at least the stock market is regulated. A separate article on copyrights and brands in Second Life says that "using someone else's ideas or trademarks, or brand names is not legal, and not even cool..." I'm not a lawyer--and I suspect the author of the article isn't either--but as far as I know, it's generally legal to use someone else's ideas. Inventions are covered by patents, trade names and images are covered by trademark, and literal works are covered by copyright. Ideas (in the broadest sense of the word) aren't covered by anything, but on top of this there are plenty of legal and "cool" ways to use protected material. I'm looking forward to reading impressions of the magazine around the business blogosphere. Before SL Business was published, a couple of writers were already hailing it as "must-read" material. Maybe it's "must-read," but I'm not sure it's "must-heed" yet.
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Comment posted by Prokofy Neva
August 1, 2006 @ 7:21 pm
I totally agree with your take on this publication. It indeed has an advertorial on the cover, where famous builders are the lead story, and it's about selling not only their prefabs but their "development" skills in making rental communities. That's ok to a point -- these are all in fact builders I admire, some of whose work I've commissioned or from whom I've bought in bulk, and it's all part of that sort of clubby, community feeling that people like making in SL that gives it the walled-garden, claustrophobic feel to it at times.

This is not the group to expect hard-hitting criticism of the platform or of business from -- it's a glossy magazine that's mainly about asserting a new generation of content creators who aren't part of the original-adapters scripters and programmers, and aren't part of the FIC set of clothing designers and robot-avatar makers. These people featured here are prefab makers -- something that is relatively new as an area in SL and has really burgeoned in the last year, with some houses being sold for as much as $100 US routinely, and prefabs being sold for $10 US.

I found the article on photography utterly devoid of the criticism that DROVES of people have been expressing on the forums, from snapshot baron Cristiano Midnight, who has pointed out the obvious, that having a stupid "flash" animation with blinding light and a free-frame is just ridiculous, to the average avatar who can't figure out how to work these new tools. The quality is in fact WORSE I find, and it only hobbles you from using photography for all the mundane, routine quick things you need it for -- like real estate, product ads, convincing Lindens to show up to handle a replicating prim disaster, etc. etc. It just no longer moves fast enough and a lot of us have taken to using printscreen and uploading out of Paint instead of being hobbled by these overly cumbersome tools that once again, seem to have been designed for studio use by one tiny group of content creators, who show off the platform better as platform, and who alienate the rest of the users, who don't matter -- without any option of toggling on or off. Build tool improvements did the same thing with imposing obstructive XYZ grids just to make a deck, etc.

PDF of course is a huge nuisance. It's merely cheap ad layout that drives that.

BTW it is awfully hard to get at and download this PDF file -- I had so much trouble I finally registered for the site thinking it was locked even from PDF downloads.

As for this claim, ""using someone else's ideas or trademarks, or brand names is not legal, and not even cool..." -- yeah, that's so typical of the creator-fascism you find in SL. It has no place in a genuinely free, democratic, liberal *open market* world. It's very common to find amateur content creators who themselves filched ideas from other video games and swiped textures off the Internet by right-clicking to get incredibly hysterical and clutchy about their little SL creations, screaming like stuck pigs if anybody else sells their stuff at a yardsale.
Comment posted by Tony Walsh
August 2, 2006 @ 10:08 am
Thanks for expanding on this, Prok. Seems like we're on the same page here. I, too, had a difficult time actually finding a way to download the magazine. Their web site navigation is really clunky.
Comment posted by Damanios
August 8, 2006 @ 7:30 pm
Just to set the record straight; the cover article wasn't offered as an advertorial. I haven't paid a dime. The advertising space was offered as a compensation and a 'thank you' for doing the interview. I have not used that offer myself.

And I would suggest reading the article, I am certainly not mild on SL as a platform. ;)
Comment posted by Prokofy Neva
August 8, 2006 @ 7:50 pm
Damanios, I don't know if you are familiar with good practices in RL journalism. I think they apply in SL journalism, too. An advertorial isn't necessarily something offered "for a dime," it could be offered in barter in just the way you here acknowledged, that you paid the subject of your interview in kind, by giving them free advertising space or the cover of the magazine.

Perhaps you made an editorial judgement that this story was the lead story and your friends belonged on the cover, I can't tell. But giving them a quid-pro-quo of "you give me an interview, I give you advertising space" sets you up on the slippery slope of uneven and unprofessional coverage

You are not supposed to pay people for interviews. This is not done. Some media pay people "location fees" as it is known in the business to offset the loss of time or their travel to a site or their inconveniencing of work with cameras, etc. deployed. Some of the sleazier tabloids pay outright a celebrity whom they want to interview. But I think Tony would agree that it is not a good practice to pay subjects. Why would you? Either they are newsworthy, or they aren't.

There's also a practice of keeping a firewall between the editorial side of the business where the journalism must operate "without fear or favour," and the advertising sales have to happen. This can be a struggle, especially in the closeknit hothouse world of SL, which can be like highschool. Still, advertising sales should happen as separate functions, not connected to the story.

I read the articles. Carefully. You are soft on the platform if you can carry a completely uncritical piece on the new camera features, which have everybody raging.
Comment posted by Damanios
August 8, 2006 @ 8:01 pm
I agree with your opinions on journalistical ethics. And that is mainly the reason I did not use the offered advertising space.
This does not make this into an avertorial though, which I assume would mean that the interviewee would be the one compensating for the article, not the other way around.

I'm less than pleased with the new camera options, but comments on this would have no place in the specific article. The new camera features have no impact on me as a builder or as a business owner whatsoever.
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