TheAvastar: Blogified!

One fun aspect of Second Life® was that very early on it attracted its share of tabloids — the old veteran from The Sims Online days, the Second Life Herald, and a bit more recently, the AvaStar, which is published by Axel Springer AG, one of the largest German publishing houses who also publish several RL tabloids.

The AvaStar, to be more effective in its message, adopted since the beginning a PDF format, not unlike several other magazines in SL (like the Second Style Magazine), which naturally allows a much tighter control on the format. It also had a production cycle just like a normal magazine, ie. once per week, with several milestones over that period for their journalists to submit content.

PDF has also the advantage to be possible to print out or read on several devices offline. However, it has one big disadvantage: no “immediate” news. You just got week-old news. And in the fast-paced world of Second Life where everything changes so quickly, “old news” is not what people want to read. So, the AvaStar’s editorial board made the decision to abandon the PDF format and move towards a blog, like so many others.

The blog is stylish and reflects their tabloid nature quite well. However, it permits the AvaStar staff to experiment with nice “Web 2.0” tools, like separate RSS feeds for each article category, picture upload (videos coming soon!) and events calendar. It naturally also allows people to comment back. Since all Second Life residents have to be online most of the time, working from their computers and spending their leisure time in front of them as well, it means a quicker turnaround time and the creation of a sense of “community” around a specific product. All in all, although many might prefer the fixed PDF layout, I think it was a rather good move.

An interesting bit of trivia: they’re using the Typo3 CMS, which is growing in popularity in Germany as an alternative to the drama-infested Mambo/Joomla/Drupal crowd. I’ve tried Typo3 before and did a serious evaluation of it. I certainly liked it much more than the philosophy behind the Mambo/Joomla/Drupal school. It is, however, not for the faint of heart, but a professional platform to develop high-end, complex-content websites. In my case, I’m stuck with WordPress and prefer to tweak it to do what I wish and have a clear, simple, streamlined process of adding articles, that even a child knows how to use 🙂 But it’s nice to see new CMS projects emerging and grabbing a hold on the very competitive (but short-lived) open source CMS market.

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