Saturday, December 3, 2011

Second Life and the Great Recession III: The Metaverse Messenger Is for Sale

Burke said there were Three Estates in Parliament; but, in the Reporters' gallery yonder, there sat a Fourth Estate more important far than they all.



Thomas Carlyle, Heroes and Hero-Worship



Recently, my friend, revochen Mayne , forwarded a link to me about a Second Life (SL) newspaper, the Metaverse Messenger (AKA M2) was up for sale and suggested I purchase it. 

Well, revochen is probably giving me more credit for being well funded than I deserve.  Not to mention, long term commitments are a struggle for me.  (Significant Other keeps me focused on ours.)  But, I was intrigued about what was going on here and approached Katt Kongo, M2’s publisher, for an interview. 

M2 is the longest running newspaper in SL although no new articles have been published for almost a year.  In its heyday, the paper was earning over $24K a year (that’s Real Life (RL) US dollars!) and had two hardcopy editions at the 2006 and 2007 SL Community Conventions.  Then the world changed with the Great Recession and this is where I pick up the story with Katt.   

We meet by the Seaside Apartments inworld and start by talking about the paper and why Katt is selling.   

Katt’s primary motivations for selling are not having the time to devote to it anymore and hating to see all of its history and resources going to waste.   

M2 at its end had only a few people on staff from a peak of thirty staffers, many of them paid.  Several staffers had been unpaid interns from a RL college.  Advertising revenues from what Katt refers to as “meatspace” (I love that term) companies began to dry up when the 2008 recession hit and she had to downsize. Advertisers like Caldwell Bankers, Pillsbury law firm, Dell Computers, and Rate Point stopped their ads and the money stopped flowing in.  In 2008, readership peaked at 250,000.  (Pretty impressive, I wish I had just a fraction of that.) 

I ask Katt about how the sale is going.  She’s had a few casual inquiries and a deal with a publisher fell through.  Otherwise, interest has been low.  Katt doesn’t have an asking price and will receive offers.  The paper is important to her and she wants someone who will do good things with it to assume control.  

Would Katt ever restart the paper herself?  No, she won’t.  In RL, she goes to college full time and is working on a book.  She doesn’t have the time anymore.  Katt adds that she doesn’t really have interest in SL anymore either.  She says that in 2005 and for a few years afterwards, SL was an awesome place to be.  Now, she finds SL a very different place to be and disagrees with many decisions Linden Lab (LL) has made.   

I ask about those LL decisions that she disagrees with.  Katt replies that while she doesn’t feel she has been affected directly by these, she disagrees with how LL watched residents create things with a lot of monetary value and then either copied or took these over.  Katt cites the Linden dollar exchange, the Marketplace, and home rental as examples.  She also dislikes that there are no longer unique last names to choose from.  She continues that as one who loved SL and had so much admiration for Philip Rosedale she is saddened by what LL has done. 

My next question is if Katt is looking at other virtual worlds like Inworldz or Avination.  She responds quickly that she will stay with SL but purely to have fun role playing with others.   

In her closing comments, Katt says it’s harder to run a business in SL now but still very doable for those who are willing to work hard.  She feels many come into SL expecting to make money easily and it doesn’t work that way.   

Katt is also proud of M2’s place in SL history.  They were the first real newspaper in SL and helped it to become what it is today.  She would like to see someone take the reins who also appreciates that history and who can grow M2 back into what it used to represent. 

As I thank Katt for her time and take my leave, I think a little about our conversation.  Here is a woman who successfully established a business and ran a newspaper in SL.  That success translated into RL.  Then the RL economic tide went out taking SL advertisers and their money along with it.  (There must be a transitive law for SL economics somewhere.)  SL changed and Katt’s RL did as well.  Now, an important piece of SL’s history is for sale.   

I write this story for two reasons.  First, to tell Katt Kongo’s and M2’s story and to let people know of their role and importance in the development of SL.  Second, to see if a potential buyer or buyers might think about restarting this SL communications medium and tradition.  Anyone interested in purchasing M2 and bringing it back to life can contact Katt either at the M2 website or inworld. 

I would like to thank Katt Kongo for taking the time to about herself and the Metaverse Messenger with me.  As always, I’m grateful to all for their kindness and time in stopping to talk with a stranger who was passing through their lives.  

I welcome feedback from readers, please either comment on my blog or e-mail me at webspelunker@gmail.com . 

     If you would like to read about my other adventures in Second Life
please click here.

Photo No. 1: Katt Kongo

Photo No. 2: Metaverse Messenger website



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