The issue with SL “magazines”

Creating a magazine is hard work and takes a lot of people to make it come true. At times, you can cut a few corners, especially if the magazine is meant for digital publishing only.

Foreword: I’d like to point out that though I’m using BOSL mainly as an example here, this article is not aimed at them directly. Neither is this a commentary on the content of any magazines. This article is mainly addressing an issue I see with most SL-based magazines.

The SL community has several high-profile magazines, and all of them cut a few corners too many. As in they cut out the content, the very thing that’s supposed to be the meat of the magazine, almost completely. At least compared to the number of pages they have.


For example

At the moment of writing, one of the top names BOSL (Best Of Second Life) just released their December issue. A whooping 107 pages, promising high-profile fashion content.

The first thing I noticed when I opened the magazine was that it had the traditional double-spread of ads on the first 2 pages. That’s custom, it’s ok, most people do it. Then again on the next spread… and the next… and the next… The content index, the first actual magazine page, is on page 24. That’s 22 pages of ads, all of them double-spreads, before you even get to see the index or company credits. and then they throw in another 8 pages of ads before the first article.

There’s 56 pages of article-related content. That means there are 50 pages of ads, all of them double-spreads. That’s half the magazine being devoted to ads…


Well, more than that actually

2 of the pages of “content” is an ad for BOSL itself, with no real content. 2 pages are the “credits” and index pages. There are 5 “articles”, 3 of which are “promoted content” (meaning someone paid to have them made). That leaves 2 articles, one of which is a roundup of the magazine’s own beauty pageant. All 4 of these “articles” have 2-4 pages of text, the rest is images, often spread over 2 pages, sometimes with a tiny text under it explaining what items you see (so you know what to look for when you visit the store they are writing about, which is the entire purpose of promoted content).

The remaining article is about ethics in religion (so nothing about SL at all) and consists of 4 pages.

To round up BOSL’s December issue, you have 4 pages of actual content, and those pages has nothing to do with Second Life, the very thing that the magazine claims to be about. The rest of the magazine is advertisement in one form or another.


Not just BOSL

I’m not targeting BOSL here, for they just do what everyone else in SL is doing. This phenomenon is true in most SL magazines. Actually, I have to this day yet to see a single magazine that does not do this.

True, real-world magazines do have a lot of advertising, but it’s nowhere near this level. They also condense their advertising, and do not spread content over several pages just to make it look fuller. Mostly to save on printing paper, but also to make the content more digestible.


This is unfair

This is not only unfair for the reader, but on the people who pay dearly to be featured in these magazines as well. They are shown numbers, often unverifiable, about how many readers the magazine has, but are never told that the vast majority of the readers don’t even make it to the index page before they close the tab. Those who really do try to read the article will only skim over the picture double-spreads, because they look just like the ads.


So what can the magazines do to make it better?

Redesign! The designs mostly look professional, and I commend them for that (considering most people do this for less than a cup of coffee’s worth a month). But a redesign of the layout that fits advertising into the articles, like quarter-pages instead of double-spreads, would cut down significantly on the amount of flipping the reader has to do to get to the content. Reduce the flipping even further by having the ads be single-page, or even half-page, with only a selected few being double-spread.

This would already spread the text out a bit, to fill more pages, but you can do even more. Instead of having the images be double-spreads, fit them into the content. An eight of a page, with text flowing around it, is usually enough for most pictures, and you can make some bigger, about half a page, if you really want to show off details. That would spread the text out even more, so that you might get 5-8 pages of article text instead of 2-4.

Take that along with the reduced number of ad pages, and you’ll soon find yourself with a more digestible 50 page issue, that has the exact same content and the exact same number of ads.


Use common ad spread

If you flip through Vogue or just about any other fashion magazine, notorious for its many ads, you’ll see that only 2 or 3 ads are on double-spreads. This is to conserve space, that doesn’t just save on printer costs, but also on the legibility of the entire magazine.

The most common thing is to have one double-spread at the beginning and one at the end of the magazine, and possibly one right before or after the mid-spread article (or sometimes even have that ad be the mid-spread).

All other ads are either integrated into the article pages as either a full-page opposite an article, a half-page under a text or two quarter-page ads right next to each other under a text. On top of this, it’s also custom to put a full-page ad between each article and one double-spread with quarter-page ads (for 8 ads in total across two pages).


Apply this to the latest BOSL issue:

If BOSL did this, the December issue would have the same 25 ads, but spread differently.

  • 6 pages of double-spreads (3 ads)
  • 5 half-page ads (one per article, 5 ads)
  • 10 quarter-page ads (2 per article, 10 ads)
  • One double-spread of quarter-page ads towards the middle (8 ads)

That is actually 26 ads, one more than BOSL currently have, but the number of pages of the issue is suddenly reduced to 35 pages, instead of the 107 pages it had before.

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