Second Life has a versatile atmosphere with many activities and events happening around the clock. Magazines and media sources across the grid make their virtual living by providing exposure to the various business and venues that support entertainment. Mixing business and pleasure is frowned upon in certain situations and in others, it is the perfect combination for bringing people together from both sides of the virtual spectrum.
With the increase of media sources all competing for readers, group members, advertisers and stories, it is difficult for avatars to get their news in one place, or they spend way too much time searching through media sources that satisfies all their interests and provide them services.
Recently, I had a meeting with Bill Kaye, an up and coming business journalist with an eye for hot topics to help SL entrepreneurs succeed. We discussed how we could combine our sources to give our readers a combination of Business and entertainment news.
On November 18, 2012, SLBR and SLE came into an agreement to give readers access from both sources. You can find business news on The SL Enquirer main tabs, as well as a convenient RSS feed of their latest headlines on the left column of our site. In exchange, SLBR features SLE’s top stories on their news source. With ideas still on the table for new projects, I thought it would be fitting to have a sit down and discuss our plans so you all know what to expect with this collaboration.
Interview with SLBR's Bill Kaye
Lanai: Hi Bill, we meet once again to talk about our joint venture. I have to say, I’m so excited to have you as a part of Team SLE and I look forward to the projects we have in store for the 2013. Before we get into all of that, I’d like to ask you some questions about you and what brought you to Second Life. This is my favorite question because Second Life doesn’t have an extensive marketing plan that I know of and doesn’t seem to care much about contacting Second Life media sources either. I never see commercials or ads in my local media. Many people find out about SL from a friend or stumble upon it on their own. What’s your story?
Bill: I actually learned of Second Life from one of my favorite shows The Office. Sorry guys! American version.... Dwight had set up a Second Life for himself. And Jim, who is always harassing Dwight, also sets up an account to stalk and torment Dwight. When I saw it, it reminded me of games like The Sims, which I always loved and got really hooked on. Now I cringe every time I come close to describing SL as a game.
Lanai: I can understand that feeling when people in the real world call it a game. It most certainly is not. In Second Life © , how would you describe your writing style?
Bill: Right now, I would describe my style as straight nuts and bolts style journalism. They call it the “inverted pyramid” in journalism school. Start with the most important stuff and end with the least important. Some people consider this structure to be creatively restrictive but it doesn’t have to be.
I also think style is something that changes with time and circumstance. I’ve written screenplays, fiction, essays, research papers, etc. Each requires that you access a different portion of your mind and apply a different style.
Lanai: I like how you described that. Writing has a wide variety of styles. To me, it is an outlet. Do you see Second Life as an extension of your real life or a simulator for entertaining your need for writing?
Bill: I want to try to answer this without copping out and saying: “both.” I would say writing is a need that I need to fulfill in my day to day life. If SL didn’t exist, I’d still have to fulfill that need, but I still feel deeply that SL is a great platform for writers, for media types, and creative types. There is truly something about SL and it created something of a creative awakening in me. I know it has done the same for others. So with that belief in my heart, I chose to focus a lot of my creative efforts back in-world. And I treat my craft and business with the same respect I would if I had a RL office on Park Avenue. So at the end of the day, it inevitably becomes an extension of RL.
Lanai: Well said. So, are you a journalist in the real world?
Bill: Yes, but at the moment I’m doing my tour in the education system at an after-school program. In college, I majored in English (writing) and communications (journalism) and minored in cinema studies. In my undergraduate days, I was the editor of my university’s official newspaper. I also experimented with acting, film and various forms of multimedia. I went to grad school for journalism. In those years I served internships with several major national publications.
Lanai: I’m jealous of all that real world media experience under your belt. What made you choose to tackle business in SL?
Bill: Well once I became somewhat familiar with Second Life, I learned that people actually make money doing this. Not only that, but they make enough money to do this full time! I look at the popularity of games like Farmville and Cityville, where people I know were extremely diligent about tending to their cows or whatever. They accumulated all of this money, for what? I’m not dismissing Zynga games; I play some myself. In SL, what caught me was the fact that people were utilizing “spare” or “recreational” time to build brands, explore dreams and maybe take a risk that was far more costly in real life to execute. I thrive on that raw passion. So I wanted to find my place in that system, not necessarily to make money, but because it fascinated me. As I started to cook up ideas for a business of my own, I ultimately tapped into my RL experience to get started.
Lanai: I think the virtual economy is what makes Second Life run. Otherwise, I’m not sure many people would stick around. On to the next topic. Have you gotten into Politics? If you do, you’re pretty brave. I nearly created a riot when I announced a political party event featuring only one presidential candidates right before elections.
Bill: We did in a “meta” sort of way. Early on, we ran a great story about an avatar named Senator. He was sort of born as an anti-griefer set on boring any foe who came in his path. But he was very well-versed, active in politics and played the role well. It was a fun story.
Before starting inKLine Media, which publishes SL Business Review, I actually had a decent paying gig covering the GOP Sim a few months after joining SL. That was my only formal job in SL come to think of it.
Covering politics doesn’t necessarily scare me though. I’ve covered politics since college. I’m still hoping to get a seat in the first row of the White House briefing room if you know anybody. My approach to any news story is to be fair and objective, so covering politics in SL would receive the same approach. I think riots come with the territory when it comes to the media. You can spend all of the time in the world fretting and trying to word things cautiously, but at the end of the day it’ll be a story that’s seemingly benign to cause an uproar.
Lanai: I suppose you are right. I’ll just keep my distance from it and send the political news to you. So Bill, what are your favorite topics to write about in business?
Bill: So you’ll throw the “hot-button” stories to me. Thanks. I generally like trying to write stories about trends in the economy--the “how we got here” story. Those are the toughest to write. Usually this all shifts back to real estate in one way or another, which is something I really love to write about as well. Real estate is the big-ticket item in SL and so are the ramifications of what happens in that industry. Linden Lab derives its largest share of revenue from land. So naturally there is a big interest in real estate stories.
I really enjoy writing about the Capital Exchange, though it’s taken some time for me to really wrap my head around. The CapEx is one of the best ways to gauge activity, as a business journalist, in SL. It’s also a great way for companies of great talent to raise funds that support projects that grow the SL economy. It’s not a role-play of a stock exchange. If you look at some of the people involved in CapEx, or the publicly listed companies, their products, etc., you get a sense of the impact that this collective has had on SL.
Lanai: Oh yes, CapEx is a great example of how to show the real world how serious Second Life is as well as help the residents gauge the virtual world economy. About your media source, I was confused when I first visited your site because the main header says Inkline Media, can you tell me a little about that?
Bill: inKLine Media is actually older than SL Business Review. I started inKLine Media as a publishing office based in the Manhattan sim in February 2011. inKLine started small with customized design and publishing work for businesses. In July, things really took off with the magazine. In addition to the publishing and design work, inKLine is going to start heading more into the multimedia and entertainment division. So think NBC, which has a news and entertainment division.
Lanai:Ooo sounds interesting. I like the entertainment side of news. What kind of stories do your readers seem to be interested in?
Bill: Easy one: CapEx stories and real estate stories. It makes sense because my gut instinct with the magazine was that people were looking for business coverage that provided news, but context at the same time. Some people, like myself, haven’t been around SL for that long, so it’s hard to catch up. So that’s what I tried to create. It’s purely coincidental that I also enjoy covering these stories.
Lanai: What has your feedback been like since beginning SLBR/Inkline Media?
Bill: I would say I’m amazed. Right now I’m being interviewed by Lanai Jarrico of SL Enquirer. This is a name that I’ve read about a million times as I researched different publications and aspired to create one of my own. People compliment me on the content, which I appreciate most. Good news content is the top priority, so that means a lot. All I can say is, I always strive to do better.
Lanai: Aww Bill, you speak so highly of SLE, thank you. It motivates me to continue to bring the type of news people are interested in. Back to the Second Life economy. From your perspective how do you see Second Life’s economic health?
Bill: That’s usually what I ask the people I interview. If I can boil the common responses down to one quote, it would be: “It’s not what it used to be.” So as a reporter, my instinct is to either support or negate it in fact. The few macroeconomic statistics still available suggest that in a big way. Concurrency rates down. Private regions are dropping off the grid. Even singers I know are getting fewer gigs. With that said, I think most of that deflation was due in part to the bans on banking and gambling. Many of these practices weren’t exactly above board. That’s not what legitimate business owners want. So yes, the bans drew a lot of big money players out of the game--no pun intended--but SL is still a fertile ground for very talented and hard-working individuals to find success. On the ground, no one is giving up. Maybe business owners are making a few less Lindens, and some moguls are not making a living like they used to, but there’s also a value in practicing your craft and making good connections.
Lanai: You are so right about that. I’ve seen a big changes from when I first began wandering the grid in 2005. Gambling, prostitution, Mafia Role players by the swarms and raunchy stripclubs all died out. There are only a few remaining gentlemen’s clubs around, escorts turning tricks and e-gangster drama. It seems to be more discreet since voice chat was introduced. and more serious media became plentiful. That brings me to my next question.
What do you think about the business ethics exhibited here?
Bill: I hear lots of horror stories and even write a few. Most people I deal with are straight up.
In a story that deals with ethics, I always try to get into the mind of the anti-hero to stay balanced. When it comes to most business activity in SL, as the LL policy system currently stands, it’s pretty much buyer beware. Some things are so blatantly unethical that you have to write about them. At that point, it’s become a story that’s rooted in facts though and you can avoid vilifying any particular person just for the sake of it. That’s not my game.
Lanai: I understand your perspective. It’s probably best to walk away to avoid conflict but I prefer to write police reports on griefers or the ridiculousness I come across every once in awhile. Why should they get the last laugh when we all could?
Second Life and the real world may be similar in many respects but there are lots of differences that often times, make a successful person in the real world be unsuccessful in Second Life. What are the similarities and differences between virtual world business and real world business plans that you see?
Bill: In RL, most people get the luxury of treating a business like a full-time job. Unfortunately, most of us can’t do that. So I would say you have to consider real life logistics first. Do you work in RL? What’s your schedule like? How much time can you devote to SL? Where are your Lindens coming from? Are you buying Lindens? How much can you afford to buy in RL?
Once you answer those questions, you can start to get to the similarities. Budgets, expenses, profit streams, the dirty stuff.
Lanai: I like your detailed thinking. What are some of the business issues many face in Second Life because they don’t ask themselves those questions?
Bill: It depends on the industry. For fashion, it seems to be griefers and lag at the moment. For real estate, it’s tier costs, but I highly doubt those will lower any time in the near or distant future. For almost any merchant, they seem to have issues with Marketplace. So it has a lot of variables.
As a whole the one problem those industries share is a contracting market. Many of these well-established business owners have seen SL at its peak, when 60,000 to 70,000 people were online at any given time. Now their products are exposed to about half that audience at any given time. So there was a huge cultural shift during that downswing and a lot of pessimism about the future.
Lanai: You are definitely on too something. The balance between business owners and consumers is very uneven and its spreading business very thin. Do you have any advice to give to those struggling?
Bill: Don’t compete with anyone; Just put your head down and practice your craft. I hear a lot of murmurs about this business wanting to take out that one or squabbles between competitors. I don’t believe in any of that. I believe in my craft. And I practice it here out of admiration for those who started doing it in SL before I did. Just because SLE exists, doesn’t mean SLBR can’t. If that were the case, we wouldn’t be conducting this interview. There are something like 2,000 blogs on SL. Let’s start more, I say. I believe in competitive spirit when it allows everyone to grow in what they love doing.
Lanai: Cheers to that! I’ve collected many creative friends through the years, most involved with various media sources. I think allowing yourself to be open to others and not looking at things as a competition is the best advice you can give. The second piece of advice I would give is, surround yourself with positive people and whatever you do will be fulfilling and will enrich both your second and first life.
Lanai: Now for the big question, how do you feel about mixing business with pleasure? (Not that I’m trying to come on to you or anything) I mean mixing those news topics.
Bill: If you mean covering the sex industry, I’d base my judgement on the same sense of news value I do any other story. I don’t like to ignore news because someone might get offended.
Lanai: I meant mixing SLBR and SLE lol. OK, on to some of the projects we discussed. Would you like to give our readers a sneak peek on what’s to come? I must say it’s going to be a change for me since I’m used to written media.
Bill: No, next question. Kidding. Well I’m really digging the multimedia thing these days. I’m totally hooked on the Wilder World of Business radio show. And Lanai, I’m a bit jealous of your promo video. So you guys forced me to step it up. I’d really like to kick off an SLBR podcast and video. I’d certainly like to spark up some media discussions in-world, on podcasts, and whatever forms of media still or will exist by then. Lanai, we had spoken about cassette mix-tape or something. We wrote it all down in a Google Doc. And of course, we would love everyone, including SLE and its affiliates to participate.
Lanai: Sounds like a new adventure to me! Before we end up giving away the topics we have already whipped up to discuss, I’d like to thank you for this interview and I look forward to the new media Business/Entertainment plans.
Bill: Thank you for the opportunity, Lanai.