Can we have a law against cost-cutting in the newsrooms, please? And perhaps one against increased commercialisation?
The weird and wonderful world of Second Life journalism

Swedes flock to Second Life

Riding on the hype from a potential launch of a Swedish Embassy in Second Life, the first Swedish paper has bought a piece of property in the virtual world. Last Friday, the Swedish daily Sydsvenskan launched its own island in Second Life: a nice little place where Swedes from the Southern part of the country, which the newspaper covers, can meet and hang out (via Media Culpa).

Interesting. I can't say I'm too convinced by the soundness of this idea, not dissimilar to MTV's recent 'virtual' efforts to revive a rather tired media brand: create a place to hang out in Second Life, a place some would argue may be just a wee bit overhyped.


I see your point, but it's not a matter of reviving more than experimenting in new channels. Will Second Life cover Sydsvenskans loss in real estate advertising? No. But hopefully the initiative will teach them a thing or two about the social behaviour of their future (and current) readers.

Calling the hype card every time mainstream media does something web 2.0-esque is easy, and on many occasions fair. But even if they are late, they have to start somewhere. Being biased, I reckon this is an initiative worth not writing off just yet.

/Björn, one of them that recommended Sydsvenskan to take a closer look at SL.

I dunno. When I first started writing online, I thought I might get an audience. It took tons of comments and cajoling ("please take a look at my work, you might enjoy it") to get even the paltry audience I have.

I was thinking that the problem of publishing online was that instant publishing for all makes the entire audience less receptive and more active in their own "right," i.e. not listening to you or anyone else but ranting in their own direction (and not realizing the irony of how many sound the same). But then it hit me if I think that, then the mere fact that media is diverse, that an attention span is being competed for in so many different ways and arenas, is the real obstacle.

No one has to pay any attention if they don't want to. That's the fundamental reality of media since modern democracy came about. The newer reality is that people can now shout such ignorance from the rooftops and think they're telling the world something.

I'm being cynical because the pressure on one who has a message and wants to get real feedback and dialogue is intense, and such pressure can only be alleviated by gambling, i.e. "there seems to be an audience at Second Life, let's try it." Good marketing efforts nowadays try everything and anything, because to know an audience that doesn't know itself in the least is a process of exploration, not of discovery and realization.

Björn: I would love to see media implement more web 2.0-esque features, especially when it comes to widening the debate with blogs and building more of a community with their readers (after a quick look it seems like Sydsvenskan is doing a decent job here). In fact, I think this is crucial if newspapers are to maintain an important role in this brave new media world.

I'm sceptical to Second Life as a marketing tool or place to build a newspaper community for a number of reasons. First, it takes quite some time just to get going, learn how to manouver etc in this virtual world. Are readers going to have that much time to spend on something like this? Obviously there's also going to be a technological barrier to entry, many readers won't be tech savy enough. Secondly, there's been quite a few questions raised regarding how big second Life actually is. At the peak of the media coverage last year, the number widely reported was 2 million inhabitants, it was later revealed that the number of concurrent users was more akin to 20,000.

Is Second Life an interesting place to watch? Absolutely, but apart from generating a lot of media coverage in real life, I think media are better served by building or expanding blog networks and improving community and outreach than setting up shop in cyberspace.

Ashok: In my experience building a blog audience takes time. They say for Om Malik it took five years, and look where he's at now. Over time you tend to attract readers who share your interests and are equally passionate about the things you blog about. That quality readership is worth it's weight in gold - to paraphrase a friend: 'I'd rather have 100 genuinely interested readers than 1000 random ones'. Getting random readers is not that hard - adding sex, porn or celebrity names to your titles often helps - but building the quality readership can be a slow process. As with most things in life: aint no quick fixes.

"Is Second Life an interesting place to watch? Absolutely, but apart from generating a lot of media coverage in real life, I think media are better served by building or expanding blog networks and improving community and outreach than setting up shop in cyberspace."

Why choose? Why not do both? As I see it, blogs/wikis/communities is one lead while SL is another. But there is no contradiction in doing both parallel.

If your organisation has the time and resources to both successfully, that's fine. But building a succcessful blog network and community around that is very time consuming, as is having a rewarding permanent presence in Second Life. And how many of your readers are tech savy enough, and has enough time on their hands, to actually go there? Who will they meet, how can they interact with the newspaper folks while there?

It is a cool idea, I think there opportunities to be explored here in terms of events and seminars (tried leaving a post on this on your blog without success) - I'm just not convinced about the real effects in the virtual world and whether all the companies and institutions who are flocking there actually have the time and resources to utilise their presence in that world properly. But by all means, I wouldn't mind to be proved wrong - if you only get a few more Swedish companies in Second Life, Sydsvenskan could pethaps justify to have a correspondent there...

Alright. I'll buy that argument, that longevity, just "being there," doing what you're doing and not participating in hype will build an audience, and that this could be a mistake, investing in SL.

I will stick to my main point, though, and assert that if it takes 5 years for someone who has something worthwhile to say to build an audience, that the fact the consumer is in charge means that we probably should excuse weirder strategies on the part of the marketer. Patience and quality are virtues, but not when one sees the essence of the market itself as random.

Thanks for your input, although hearing that I'm really tempted to quit blogging.

Hey, would be a shame to see you quit blogging - you with that great tagline. Om Malik was just an example, I know others have used everything from a few months to a year or two to build a big or devoted blog audience.

If you really want to build a big audience it takes a lot of dedicated work: blogging at least once a day, participatig in many online discussions, linking, emailing, getting noticed. There are methods for doing that, but my starting point is that getting a big audience is not why I blog. I blog for fun and appreciate the high quality audience I've built up over time, say in the last half year or so - in the first half year of my blogging I had a very small audience because I wanted to take some time to recapture my personal voice (not intuitive when you're trained as a journalist), find the right tone etc.

And it keeps amazing me how many interesting blogs I find by following the links in my stats, or by the people who happen upon my blog and strike up a conversation. That in itself is enough to keep me blogging.

I don't think this 'brave new media world' is such an irrational place, or impossible to 'get' for marketers. But it means a shift in their mindset, and a willingness to learn and respect the rules of engagement online. And just starting a blog or setting up shop in Second Life doesn't work any magic on its own unless you understand the rules of engagement and have thought thru what you want to achieve with it and how to go about it beyond just launching it. Success with either, marketer or not, takes a lot of time and dedicated work, so no quick fixes.

Thanks for your kind words. I do disagree, but I have to concede that a marketing strategy can be had, over time. That's not really the sort of reason that I think is ineffective online - I think I'm leaning towards the idea that we're witnessing a breakdown of something, and that's affecting marketing strategies right now.

It should be noted that the reasoning which goes into marketing should always be effective, since that's the only goal it has. I'm confusing this "useful" sort of reason with what aims toward the "correct," because I want to say that the difficulty in some being effective could mean that we have fallen that much farther from what is correct. (To use some high-sounding language: People may become more predictable as they distance themselves from any sense of being governed, but they also become harder to persuade.)

I shouldn't have brought my blog into it, because that means I have to be even more cynical and whiny than I am now. I'm very happy blogging is working out for you and some others.

Yes, I think what we are witnessing is a breakdown of 'business as usual' and that the Internet is changing the whole field of communications and human interaction.

I think that's pretty exiting, though change is often a painful process as well - especially if you stand in the middle of it and e.g. find your job restructured away - but overall I'm more excited than worried about the way things are heading. Yes, that means we have to rethink a few things, especially true for media/marketing/PR, but I don't think that's negative, on the contrary.

I'm not quite the techno-optimist or advocate of a new world order that Jarvis is, though I do appreciate his blog - of course there are problematic sides to many of the new technologies, new ethical challenges etc, but I don't think those are unsurmountable.

I think what we're witnessing is an evolution not a revolution, and I think The The Cluetrain Manifesto guys did a pretty good job of explaining some of the key aspects of how the Internet is changing things back in 2000.

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