Should Business Editors Get a (Second) Life?

Second Life is a computer fantasy world where people assume alternate identities in order to visit virtual space stations and vampire castles. So you'd think this was one online trend business editors could skip. But according to Rob Freedman and Dave Levinson, you'd be wrong.

Freedman and Levinson spoke at the Central South-East Region Azbee Awards banquet on July 12 in Washington D.C. Freedman is immediate past president of ASBPE and has written a book called Second Life Business Strategies, to be published by McGraw-Hill. Levinson is the CEO of Cranial Tap, a firm that builds Second Life sites for business clients. Their talk was summarized in a post on the the ASBPE D.C. blog.

The two pointed out that businesses like IBM and Coldwell Banker are already starting to use Second Life, and B2B magazines could do the same. For instance, Feedman said, a homebuilder magazine could sponsor a virtual workshop on building techniques, demonstrating in a realistic recreation how to install solar panels on a roof.

Other reasons B2B editors should pay attention to what's going on in Second Life (and other virtual worlds that are emerging):
  • The mass consumer market is interested in virtual worlds. That's undeniable, given the success of Second Life. The site has garnered millions of users since its launch in 2003.

  • Businesses are making money serving customers in Second Life. "Some entrepreneurial users generate a six-figure income based on the objects they create and sell," the blog post quotes Levinson as saying.

  • Virtual worlds are a global phenomenon. Right now, Second Life can be translated into 12 languages. That gives it potential to reach an international audience.

  • Virtual worlds are a way to reach a younger audience. Why should you care? Because that's the audience of the future. Rob Freedman argued that the next generation of readers "will be totally acclimated to virtual environments." As one audience member suggested, they may even require new interfaces such as virtual worlds before they're even willing to consume new content.
Read the full recap of Freedman and Levinson's talk, from the D.C. chapter blog.

Also see:

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2006-07 Northeast Region Azbee Winners Posted

Now that both the Boston and New York regional awards banquets have taken place, the full results can be posted online.
And here are the magazines that are the finalists for national awards, which will be given out at a banquet during the National Editorial Conference in New York City on Thursday, Aug. 2:

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Editorial Director of PennWell's Lightwave
Joins Chapter Board

Stephen M. Hardy, editorial director and associate publisher of PennWell's Lightwave magazine, has joined the ASBPE Boston/New England board.

Hardy has twenty-five years' experience in techonology publishing, starting with Telecommunications magazine and then the Journal of Electronic Defense. He has been with Lightwave since 1997. In his current position, he has management responsibility for the editorial content of Lightwave, its website, and the Lightwave Direct electronic newsletter.



Who Is Tomorrow's Reader?

Last Wednesday night, the Boston/New England chapter held a banquet for the Northeastern region Azbee award winners.

Because there will be a second banquet for the Northeastern region in New York City on Thursday to honor those winners, full details on regional award winners won't be on the ASBPE web site until Friday. What we can tell you that there were 2,600 entries to the competition this year, and the Northeastern region is the most competitive of the four. And we can tell you which magazines are in the running for regional awards.

We also can share the comments of our guest speaker at the banquet, journalist and Boston University professor of communication John Carroll. Carroll started off by pointing out that three of the four segments in bustines-to-business publishing -- events, custom media, and e-media -- have been thriving. Only print revenues have remained flat. We all know that, but what do we do about it?

"What you don't know is who today's students--your future audience--are," Carroll said. And as a teacher, he has come to know those future media consumers--and their media habits--intimately. He shared with the banquet audience what he saw as the four most salient characteristics of the next generation.

Characteristic #1: "They are their own producers. They have nothing against traditional media, they just have no use for you. They have 'The Daily Me' " -- news that meets their interest criteria, aggregated on personalized pages on sites like Yahoo and MSN. "Instead of radio, they have iPods. Instead of TV, they have You Tube. Instead of reading columnists or listening to commentators, they write their own blogs."

Characteristic #2: "They are fearless navigagtors of the Internet. This is coming from someone who's never used an ATM—I'm hoping to be the Cal Ripken of Luddism," he noted. They have no problem giving out personal information, such as date of birth, in order to register for a web site.

Characteristic #3: "They're virtually unconcerned about privacy issues, and they don't understand why anyone would be worried about it," said Carroll. "Their attitude is, 'They're going to get that information and you're not going to stop it.' All this leads to a particular frame of mind when you are trying to deal with these younger people They are not like you and me."

Characteristic #4: "They don't understand the value of a free press," Carroll said. "They don't get the role of a watchdog. They don't trust the press, they don't like the press, and they don't believe the press. ... They don't understand why the First Amendment is important. They don't understand why anyone would go to jail to protect a source."

The idea that young people are really media savvy isn't quite accurate, Carroll concludes. What they really are is media saturated. "They don't understand that MTV is a series of commercials interrupted by ads. They don't understand that their cell phones are running them, and not vice versa. When you ask them who's going to report on the conditions at Walter Reed Hospital, it doesn't occur to them [to think about that], because they don't know about the Walter Reed story."

How do you reach these people? "I don't have a real boffo finish," Carroll admitted. "But you have to convince them of the value of what you do ... that you're a real business, that you're important. ... They don't understand what they're going to lose if traditional media go by the boards. It doesn't strike them that it would be any big deal. You try to convince them that [professional media outlets are] essential to their well-being, to the well-being of a functioning democracy.

"It's not that they don't care, it's that they've never thought about it before," Carroll points out. But when you explain it to them, they do start to understand. "[R]e-establish a sense of importance of the news business, because I think it's disappearing. It's too easy to look at the negative and dismiss the news business overall," he said.

He added: "If it doesn't work out, there's always teaching. Give me a call."

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ASBPE Conference: Reserve by July 9!

The 2007 ASBPE National Editorial Conference and Azbee Awards of Excellence banquet will be held in New York City, Aug. 2-3, at The Roosevelt Hotel.

You have six days left to make your hotel room reservations and get ASBPE's group rate of $229 a night single/double occupancy. The hotel reservation deadline is July 9. Call The Roosevelt Hotel at (888) 833-3969 to reserve.

To get the early-registration discount for the conference and/or awards banquet, register by July 13. By registering early, you save:
  • up to $180 on full conference registration or
  • $100 on single-day conference fees or
  • $25 per banquet registration.
You can register online (credit card required) or get a printable registration form (1.2MB PDF).

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