SLentrepreneur Profile: Publisher of SL Business Magazine, “In Iraq internet connection is the biggest management challenge.”

March 5th, 2008  |  Published in SL Entrepreneur Magazine, SL Entrepreneur Profiles  |  1 Comment

SL Business Magazine Publisher Hunter Glass

I was contacted by SL Business Magazine publisher and creator Hunter Glass, aka Ben Moyer, a few weeks ago and learned he was publishing Volume 2 of his popular business themed magazine. I was eager to ask him what he had learned from his first experience publishing an SL magazine as early as 2006 and why he had stopped the successful run of his publication. I discovered to my amazement that he currently managed several SL projects from his cot in the war-torn country of Iraq and that he had created Volume 1 while in Afghanistan. The following are his answers to SLentrepreneur’s questions regarding doing business in a virtual world and the impact it has had on his life.


How long have you been in SL? Why did you join?

I have been a resident of SL since February of 2006. I read about SL in Wired online and came over to check it out. I was very satisfied with the creative opportunities and the community aspects. It was for these reasons that I keep coming back.

Why did you decide to start a business-themed magazine?

Because I saw both a need and an opportunity. I joined SL when there only 124,000 residents or so. At that time there wasn’t an incredible amount of SL-based media–certainly none that were dedicated to SL Business. So I decided to engage others with the idea and see who was interested. It didn’t take long after that for the first SL Business magazine to be published.

Describe Volume One of SL Business. Was it successful? Revenue model? Challenges? Formats? Distribution?

Volume One was certainly well received. Those of use who worked on it daily throughout the months thought very highly of it and were very proud to be associated with it. I credit most of the success to three core individuals: Dalian Hansen, the Creative designer; Ute Hicks, the Editor in Chief; and Deeeep Witte, the managing Editor and strong supporter. All of the writers played a very important role as well and they should not be forgotten. Our revenue model was that of most publications: to sell ad space. We were successful in doing that and would have seen satisfactory returns had I continued publishing. Choosing to work with PDF was something that I insisted upon. In my opinion, PDF is what a magazine should be done in if it aspires to go to print. We had many readers ask us to be HTML-only, but that wasn’t our style. You have so much visual control over presentation when you use PDF. At that time we only did PDF; we didn’t do a blog style site as well. Our biggest challenge at that time was getting established as a team working on a budget. The market received us well and it was easy to distribute since many people asked us to put kiosks on their land parcels. I would have to say that covering all the noteworthy things happening in SL and covering them well was definitely a challenge. Finding the right people to work with is another. We definitely could not work with everyone that wanted to work with us. Many wasted our time by not meeting deadlines or moving too slowly. That made it difficult for those of us who were moving at a faster clip. We sought out and definitely appreciated those who had relative experience in the real world.

Who was your primary audience? SL residents? RL businesses?

Our primary audience were new professional SL residents who wanted to get established and were looking for a high quality source of information. That is why most of our content leaned towards the instructional. You can still go back to Volume One and learn something. When I say new residents that goes for individuals as well as RL businesses–because we are all new at some point. I never thought of SL as a Second Life, although many do. When we sit behind these computers and interact with each other we don’t become someone else. We are still real people and I remind myself of this when I interact with others and consider how they act in this virtual world. I always catered to the professional residents. I very rarely considered covering stories about sex. I never saw it as professionally or intellectually stimulating. We say that our publication is for ‘The Business-Minded Avatar.’

Why did you stop publishing the magazine?

When I started the publication I was half way through an assignment in Afghanistan. I was scheduled to return home in December of 2007. During the last few months of publishing Volume One, I and other members of the magazine were approached by different RL businesses asking for our collaboration. We continued to work with the magazine in addition to exploring these other opportunities. I was making plans to change the design of the web site to incorporate a content management system which would allow for daily content in addition to the monthly PDF. There were members who didn’t like that I was collaborating outside of the magazine and there were members that were upset that I decided to consult outside of the core team to have a new website designed. I continued to do what I felt was best since I was funding the magazine 100%. So, the team was significantly weakened by my decisions to better the brand’s image and position. This all happened while I was returning home to Michigan. When I got to Michigan, I was given the opportunity to go to the US Army Officer Candidate School to become an Officer. Once I made the decision to go to OCS, I simultaneously decided to stop publishing the PDF. Ute Hicks went to SLNN and Dalian Hansen went on to freelance and did some amazing things with IBM. Deeeep Witte continued to support me in my decisions and still supports me to this day. His friendship has been the single greatest thing I gained from publishing the magazine.

What made you decide to publish Volume 2 of SL Business Magazine?

I always knew I would continue with SL Business and virtual ventures. The magazine hasn’t achieved my vision yet. So now that I have the time I am working hard to attain that vision. This time around, I’m committing to twelve months with the plan to go to a print subscription after a year if the readership is evident. Also, I will be designing the magazine to build on my design skills. I want to have this experience on a portfolio.

How will it be different from the original 2006 publication?

The main difference will be with the layout. I’ve used the same color scheme as before but I chose to use a more structured layout. Perhaps you could say refined. I will be the creative director this time, so I will be the one responsible if it looks horrible. Send all hate mail to me. LOL.

How has SL changed since that time? How will those changes be reflected in your magazine?

SL has changed in terms of it’s size and the different uses of the platform, but the need for SL Business Magazine hasn’t changed. The biggest change will be with the amount of content to cover. It was a challenge then and it has proven itself to be a challenge now. Not unmanageable though. The changes will be reflected in the amount of diversity you will see covered in the magazine. The small niches have grown into mini-industries now and they warrant more coverage.

Will you have the same target audience? Same revenue model?

Yes, same audience and same model.

What is your RL profession?

My full time job is as a Field Engineer on contract with the Department of Defense. But I run a start up media business now and that is what I would like to do into the future.

What are the challenges of managing the magazine while on assignment in Iraq (If you prefer not to divulge that fact I understand, but I think it’s VERY interesting)?

In Iraq internet connection is the biggest management challenge. Sometimes the weather here affects my ability to connect or causes slow transmission speeds. I have a set amount of down time in the evenings that I dedicate to my small business.

How does your SL biz impact or influence your RL?

Business in SL is influential because I just never know who I am going to meet and have the opportunity to work with. So, as time goes by, those collaborations could end up becoming my full time work. I think that is significantly influential.

Any RL skills translate into SL biz?

I studied multi-media in college so I am very familiar with the Adobe Master Collection. Which is of course useful in Second Life.

Most promising new industry for biz in SL?

I firmly believe that someone with the skills and time would do well as a management consultancy business. The number of successful small businesses in SL that need help managing their workload warrants the need. I don’t know if I would call it an industry, but it’s definitely an opportunity.

Who shouldn’t come into SL and why not?

Well, the only situation I can think of is if a new user is dead set on doing harm to others. SL has enough of those types of people—it doesn’t need any more. Even those that come in thinking they will be rich aren’t horribly misguided. Who are we to say they won’t be?

Opinion on RL biz in SL? How will it affect the community?

RL business in SL enhances the community. There are more opportunities to collaborate, more interesting things to talk about, more ways to grow professionally. Also, it builds credibility for Second Life as a platform.

Biggest mistakes SL entrepreneurs make?

The biggest mistake is not doing research before starting something. But I’m conflicted when I say that because you learn so much by making mistakes and these are a learning experience in themselves.

Any predictions about the future for SL? New technologies? Growth? Potential uses?

I have predictions about virtual technology as a whole, but I’m not certain about the future of SL. I would like to pose that question to the chairman of Linden Labs. The growth is definitely here–Linden Labs has been adding partners to their list of international providers.

Do you have any other projects in the works?

Yes, I recently bought two SL-based publications and have been busy realigning their back-ends. And I have a couple other virtual projects I am working on.

What does having a second life give you?

It gives me the ability to be a part of an extended RL community and the opportunity to work with many interesting and talented professionals.

Is there an element of fantasy or escape?

For some, yes, there is an element of fantasy or escape. But for me I’m not fantasizing or trying to escape from anything. I am me—Ben Moyer–no matter where I interact on the internet.

Will SL change the landscape of business as we know it today? Will it change any landscape; cultural, social, etc?

SL is changing the landscape of business as we know it today. SL is thrusting professionals into virtual opportunities left and right, charting the inevitable virtual way of the future. Hey, that just gave me an idea for a story. LOL. Maybe I will call it ‘The Virtual Way.’


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