Changing direction

The world seems to have hit a tipping point when it comes to immersive environments, and the pace of change is exploding. These changes have been dramatically reflected in the readership of this site over the past couple of months. My life is about to change dramatically as well.

So this is a good time for me to think about what I am doing with Hypergrid Business — and to adjust course, if necessary.

This is going to be a long article, so here’s the quick summary: Same amount of OpenSim coverage, a bit more about VR gadgets and apps, and no more enterprise technology coverage. Ads will be free.

What is enterprise coverage?

I’ve been covering enterprise technology for nearly 20 years now. It’s about how businesses, non-profits, educational institutions, and governments use technology. It’s a good field for a journalist to be in because the stories are interesting, there’s always something new to write about, you feel like you’re making a difference and helping make the world a better place. Plus, there isn’t much competition — you wind up writing about legal issues, compliance, statistics, finance and a lot of other heavy-duty topics while most other tech journalists would rather write about games and cool gadgets.

During the course of my career, I’ve been a staff writer at Computerworld, ran a business news bureau in China, and, most recently, covered cybersecurity for CSO magazine.

When I first heard about Second Life, I thought it was the coolest thing ever. The ability to easily design a virtual world — and have other people visit it — seemed amazing. I logged it, like it, but couldn’t see any practical use for it.

Then, back in 2009, I had just returned from China and was lamenting the fact that travel budgets were being cut everywhere due to the stupid financial crisis and I wasn’t being sent out to attend conferences anymore. I love going to tech conferences, and dialing into to earnings calls just isn’t the same thing, not even if they also show some slides while you listen to the presentation and get your one question queued up.

But IBM was holding a conference in Second Life, so I dusted off my old Second Life avatar and went in. And it was remarkably like attending a real life conference. You got to schmooze with the other attendees and introduce yourself to the speakers before the event. Then, afterwards, go up to them and ask follow-up questions, exchange contact information, schedule follow-up interviews.

It’s was eye-opening — but it got even better. The topic of the conference was OpenSim, and I learned that there was an open source alternative that enterprises could run behind their firewalls, and, if they wanted, allow users to teleport between different worlds, owned by different companies.

So I went and tried to find out more, and discovered that nobody was really covering this space. So Hypergrid Business was formed, and the idea was that I would write about enterprise applications of this, get to know everybody doing anything in this space, and when it exploded, I would be the leading journalist in this space. Plus, if there were any business or investment opportunity, I could grab them first. I’d be rich! Rich, I said! Bwa ha ha ha ha!

Where we stand now

Since Hypergrid Business first launched back in mid-2009, we’ve published 2,824 articles by 203 different writers, columnists, industry experts, and other contributors.

And our readership has grown from 2,821 unique monthly readers at the end of 2009, to 178,707 this past December.

Unique monthly readers. (Google Analytics data.)

But the focus of the publication — and reader demographics — have also changed over the years.

The first change was that there was a great deal of interest in coverage of OpenSim social grids. People wanted to hear about rankings, social events, ownership changes, where to find stuff and similar issues totally unrelated to enterprise technology. They wanted polls and surveys, and wanted me to run press releases and announcements.

As I kept repeating over and over again, this wasn’t what I was personally interested in or wanted to cover. But nobody else was doing it. Other blogs would come and go, or only post occasional stories, and nobody was doing actual reporting. The kind of reporting where you pick up the phone and call people and ask them to say things, on the record, under their real names. Where you cover the bad news and the good news. Where you try to get both sides of the story — or, in the case of OpenSim — ten or more sides of the story.

Not everyone liked what I was doing. Several vendors have threatened lawsuits. Some tried to organize boycotts. People called me in the middle of the night on my phone and yelled at me. (You know who you are!)

I got more grief from my OpenSim coverage, with its tens of thousands of readers, than for the stories I was writing during the day, where there were millions of readers. Well, except for that one story where I said that Linux was a big flop on the desktop. A lot of folks got mad about that.

In fact, as I write this, I’m getting grief from a grid owner who wants to have prior approval of any quotes of his I publish. Nope, can’t do that. If there’s a mistake, I’ll fix it. But nobody gets to read articles before publication for “review” or “proofreading.” At least, not until Trump revokes the First Amendment.

Then, over this past year, the demographics changed more dramatically than ever before.

It used to be that readers were pretty evenly distributed between those who read the OpenSim-specific articles, those who read articles about business and education, and those who were looking at generic pages like the home page or the “About Us” page.

Last year that all changed.

Hypergrid Business readers in 2016. (Google Analytics data.)

According to Google Analytics, more than three-quarters of all page views last year was for articles related to consumer virtual reality — headset reviews, app reviews, and the Google Cardboard QR Codes page. Only 11 percent of our page views were specifically for OpenSim articles.

Then I looked at how many articles we wrote each year in each category.

OpenSim articles accounted for about a third. Consumer VR was about 41 percent. But a quarter of our time was spent

Hypergrid Business articles published in 2016. (Google Analytics data.)

But a quarter of our time was spent covering business and education aspects of virtual environments.

Meanwhile, except for the very rare ad we occasionally run for something OpenSim related — the Dreamland Metaverse ad is a trade for grid hosting — our revenues last year were pretty much completely from the consumer VR stories. Apparently, reading about virtual reality headsets makes people want to run out and buy one, while reading about any of the other topics we cover doesn’t elicit the same kind of shopping desire.

So we are dropping our enterprise virtual reality coverage. Nobody reads it, people don’t seem to care about it much one way or the other, it costs us money, and it doesn’t bring in any revenues.

For those 6 percent of our readers who are shocked — shocked — to see this happen, all I have to say is that every technology publication out there today is now covering virtual reality. So you don’t need Hypergrid Business any more. Just set up a Google alert for “VR” and the name of your industry vertical and you’ll have more news than you’ll know what to do with.

What will we do about OpenSim advertising? It is a pain in the butt to run OpenSim ads, to be honest. We have to set up a new advertiser account with our advertising platform, Google’s DoubleClick. Then we have to set up the billing. And then try to get the advertisers to create an ad that people will actually want to click on. And then deal with them threatening to pull the ad each time there’s a story — or a comment on a story — that they don’t like.

So here is what I’m going to do about ads. The ads will be free. If you have something that you think will interest our readers — a cool new thing on sale on the Kitely Market, an exciting event, what have you, and we like the ad, we’ll run it for a month.

Here’s how to get the ad: Send me an image 300 pixels wide by 250 pixels high, and a link to a webpage. That’s it. I’m at [email protected]. Put “Free Hypergrid Business ad” in the subject line.

If the ad is ugly or seems pointless, we won’t run it, and you can’t complain because it’s free. So make it pretty and give people a reason to click.

I’m also going to put up a “free land” page similar to our vendor listing or the QR Codes page. Everyone loves free land, and it’s a great way to give people a reason to try out OpenSim. Email me with your offer — anything from parcels to full regions is okay, and it’s okay to ask people to check in a certain number of times a month to keep the land, but no other strings, please. I’m also going to email all the grid owners and let them know, and will promote the new page heavily on the site. I’ll keep the current vendor listings up, too, with no charge for any of this.

And then if you want to contribute anything to helping keep our OpenSim coverage and pay our freelancers — David Kariuki did an excellent job these last couple of days on that content story — I’ll put up a PayPal support button or some other kind of voluntary funding option.

… and on a personal note

As of this summer, both my kids will no longer be depending on me. My daughter is going off to graduate school, where she will be researching quantum physics and alternative energy sources, and my son is going off to work and, possibly, start a local farm.

I will take this opportunity to move to New York City, which I love. I’ll take the smog and asphalt any day over all these trees and fresh air here in Western Massachusetts.

If anyone out there knows New York, and can recommend places to live that are tech-friendly and international, I’m all ears.

The other thing I’m going to do is write my novel. Becoming a novelist has been my goal in life since I was a kid. I initially went into journalism, and war reporting in particular, because all my previous attempts at novels were too deathly boring to read. I wanted to have some life experiences, so I’d something to actually write about.

I’m going to have some time now, and I’ve got twenty years of reporting on everything from local school boards to war crimes to international finance. And lots and lots of practice of writing for a living.

So I’m going to give it a shot. And I hope the OpenSim community here will be kind enough to take a look at what I’m doing. The novel I’m currently working on is about virtual worlds, so you guys might be interested.

Stay tuned.

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Maria Korolov

Maria Korolov is editor and publisher of Hypergrid Business. She has been a journalist for more than twenty years and has worked for the Chicago Tribune, Reuters, and Computerworld and has reported from over a dozen countries, including Russia and China. Follow me on Twitter @MariaKorolov.

37 Responses

  1.' Da Hayward says:

    Good for you Maria, grab the opportunity.
    Hope to see your novel when its done

  2.' Ilan Tochner says:

    Good luck Maria. Doing a Pareto analysis of your business is always a good idea. Focus on what can make your website live up to its potential and I’m sure both you and your readers will benefit from it.

    •' Minethereé says:

      In economics classes I took decades ago, One aspect was about the cost of opportunity…which seems similar in spirit to this pareto analysis I just looked up.

  3.' Minethereé says:

    “I will take this opportunity to move to New York City, which I love. I’ll take the smog and asphalt any day over all these trees and fresh air here in Western Massachusetts.” That amazes me since I found country living wonderful and life-affirming.

    There must be something good about it, though, since so many people live there (or they are just all insane)…hugs

    Nice the kids are getting out and about…it is the most cherished thing to me, raising children who turn out “ok”…that is the hardest thing to attain in the world, imo, and the most wonderful thing to behold.

    • I love fresh air and greenery in short bursts… for a vacation, say. The rest of the time, I like to be able to order Indian take-out in the middle of the night. 🙂

      •' Minethereé says:

        To each their own, and thank goodness for that. The very last time I drove into Houston, the noise, the stink, the terrible drivers, the masses of people had become not worth it to me anymore.

        I love my quiet forest of life-)

      • oddly Maria, I can totally relate. I live out in the wilds and love nature but I miss the convenience of the larger urban centres. It’s not that you “will” order take-out vs that you “can” that makes the difference.

  4.' Pam Broviak says:

    Maria – I love and appreciate what you’ve done over the years and hope you and your writing and work will always be there for us to enjoy and learn from in one way or another. Wishing you much good luck!!

  5.' Linda Kellie says:

    Maria I have always had respect for you even though there have been times when I got snippy with you. Not enough to ever call you and yell.

    You have given me good advice throughout the years that I didn’t want to hear. But 90% of the time you were right. If you tell anyone I said that I will deny it.

    I wish you luck in New York. My parents used to live on Staten Island and it was just far enough away from the city to be quaint but close enough to just hop on a ferry to get to Manhattan.

    I laughed when I read “If the ad is ugly or seems pointless, we won’t run it, and you can’t complain because it’s free.” because you are fooling yourself. People will complain even if it’s free. Believe me…. I know lol

    It occurs to me that I haven’t expressed my gratitude enough for all that you do in keeping us informed and educated. So “Thank you for that”.

    • Funny you said that! At that very moment, a grid owner I shall not name sent me a request for a free ad — followed by a profanity-filled email about something I had no control over and telling me never to contact him again or he’d file charges. Seriously, dude? It’s a free ad on a site visited by more than a 100,000 people a month. Chill out! Also, you’re the one who contacted me. You know, asking for a free ad.

      Also, if you want me to recommend your product or service to readers, I want to be at least somewhat confident that you would treat them well.

      Advice for anyone who has problems keeping their temper: everybody has their flaws. I certainly do a lot of stupid stuff. But try to find ways to work around it. For example, if you fly off the handle easily, let someone else handle your PR and social media outreach. Not pointing any fingers here any anyone, a sitting president, say… but don’t post comments when you’re mad.

      Meanwhile, Linda, I don’t thing enough people express gratitude for what you do. As I said on the InWorld Review earlier today, your contributions have probably been one of the biggest factors — no, the biggest factor — in helping address the copybot problem in OpenSim. Grids cleaning up their freebie stores full of “donated” “no questions asked” merchandise were now able to replace them with yours. It was a huge deal. People are still writing me thanking me for referring them to your OAR files for when they set up grids for their schools or other projects.

      I don’t know why they’re thanking me, but it’s better than being cursed, so I’ll take it!

      •' Linda Kellie says:

        LOL that didn’t take long. Sorry that you had to go through that. And I won’t say “I told ya so” (pause for dramatic effect) too loudly.

        And LOL @ “Not pointing any fingers here any anyone, a sitting president, say… but don’t post comments when you’re mad.” The only bright side of that is that every day I am entertained by stupidity.

  6.' Serra Royale says:

    As someone who grew up in NYC if you can afford it I recommend middle village in Queens. If you enjoy pizza there is Carlos pizzeria on Woodhaven by Saint Margaret’s. HGB is your site, run it how you want to and enjoy my hometown

  7.' Joey1058 says:

    Wow, this is kind of surprising! But I have to admit, I did start reading for the business contentent. Being from Chicago originally, myself, I escaped city life. But I do miss it on many occasions. Especially the flavors and foods. So good for you in that respect. This will be an interesting change of direction for everyone that reads. Cheers!

  8.' Talla Adam says:

    Best of luck with the move and the novel, Maria. And thank you for all your coverage over the years of Opensim. It’s been an interesting journey for all of us I’m sure.

  9.' Alex Ferraris says:

    Hey Maria I will buy you a NYC hot dog.. on me! Your choice of drink too! he he! looking for a dark handsome hero for your novel just let me know. Only thing you will need to put hair on my head…Maybe I can be like Bruce Willis! So no hair needed!

    •' Da Hayward says:

      ROFL. Was just going to say are you buying a wig?
      Thumbs up

    •' Linda Kellie says:

      My uncle used to say “God gave some men hair and to the others he gave brains”. That would have had more impact if he were smarter lol.
      I’ve been with my husband for 25 years now and he has been bald since I met him. I think it’s sexy. Hair is way overrated.

  10.' Christine Cochran says:

    Congratulations on reaching the point in your life where your life is yours! As someone who reached that point not so long ago, I wish you all the joy and happiness that living for yourself has to offer. I can’t wait to read your novel. You have a lot of experiences to draw from, so it should be a fascinating read.

  11.' Rene says:

    Wow, congrats on a deeply thoughtful analysis and reasoned change in your life and your site. My best friend (passed away years ago), was a self-described city rat. I ventured to the forests, off-grid high tech living, but definitely away from cities. We used to laugh at each other’s life choices but deeply respected that we each made reasoned choices on our paths.
    So yes, for you NY, NY! A stimulating place indeed.
    About consumer VR, you clearly know VR (as in face hugger immersive virtual reality) is in a huge hype cycle and a number of companies are lingering in the trough of disillusionment. This is the 3rd incarnation, and though the equipment is finally accessible, it still remains a rarified, expensive high end gamer category. Furthermore, VR platforms and content are not nearly ready for mass consumption. In the coming few years there is going to be a reckoning, no idea yet which companies live or die, but it will certainly create many column inches writing about it, and I look forward to reading your articles.
    All the best!

  12.' Marianna Monentes says:

    Yes Maria good for you! Sounds like a very exciting time in your life with positive changes. SoHo features upscale boutiques and restaurants out of a foodie’s dream that attract a combination of young creatives and celebrities, it is a bit pricey though. Best wishes 🙂

  13.' Carlos Loff says:

    If you publish mire VR than OS, analytics will of course reflect more views on VR

    • Agreed, which is why “the world” is talking more about VR and less about other things… it’s not that more people are interested in reading about it it’s simply a matter of people writing more about one topic over another. Most people I know still love 80s music but you won’t see streams of articles about them. If you did a check 80s music would probably be way down the list. It doesn’t mean people don’t like it it just means that the mainstream writers don’t think people want to hear about it anymore. I personally couldn’t give a rats patootie about VR glasses and end up digging through 75% content VR just to find those few OS articles I want to read about. I say write about both but make it easier for both groups to find articles they are interested in.

    • My point was that the number of new readers coming in for VR stuff was a much higher percentage than the articles I was writing. The number of VR articles increased, but the number of VR readers increased several times more.

      The charts I posted were an average for the entire year of 2016, but the trend is very much in one direction.

      In December, for example, in the 28 most-visited articles, none were about OpenSim. Number 29 was the actives grids list. The first OpenSim news article doesn’t appear until number 35 on the list. Of the page views in December, more than 90 percent were for VR. People aren’t reading more about VR just because I’m writing more about VR. People are mostly reading more of my VR articles because they’re sharing them a lot more, and Googling for them a lot more.

      Folks aren’t sharing or Googling for OpenSim articles. Or at least, new readers aren’t. We’ve got a solid base of 25,000 or so regular monthly OpenSim readers here at Hypergrid Business. That number has grown very slightly over the years, in line with the overall growth of OpenSim. And I don’t expert that growth rate to increase, no matter how many OpenSim-related articles I write, because there aren’t more users of OpenSim to read them.

      And it took me seven years of a lot and lot of work to get to that point.

      Meanwhile, I gained something like 150,000 new VR readers over the course of just a few months with a relatively small number of articles and a QR Codes reference page. It was totally by accident — I just like playing with VR headsets, and was annoyed that I couldn’t find the QR Codes anywhere. So it was weird, unexpected, unplanned for, and I’m now trying to figure out what to do with it.

      •' Carlos Loff says:

        How do you classify a VR reader ? I believe it is because he/she opened a VR article from the main page, nopes ? Or are those the ones that set their favourites to the VR section only ? I believe when anyone hits your website homepage he/she is still not yet classified as VR reader or OS reader, not by analytics, right ? Than only when he/she opens an article to read it in detail you will classify him/her as VR or OS reader if you are following analytics, nopes ? So again, more VR articles more VR readers, nopes ? How is one given reader that gets to HGB classified as VR Reader ?

        • I’m more thinking of taking the total unique reader number and subtracting out all the people who look at OpenSim articles. So, 175,000 total, about 25,000 OpenSim readers, leaves 150,000 who are here but not looking at any of the OpenSim stuff. This is a rough estimate. The charts in the article go by exact page view counts.

          Maybe you’re thinking that there are OpenSim users who come here and just read the VR articles, throwing off the stats?

          The increase in OpenSim users over the course of the year is just 2,400 new active users (, to 35,692. And that number includes duplicate activity when people have avatars on multiple grids, or hypergrid teleport to multiple grids.

          So pretty much everyone in OpenSim already reads Hypergrid Business every month. (Which is very gratifying. Thanks, you all!) They can’t account for the giant spike in readership.

          Bottom line is that HB has hit the ceiling on potential OpenSim reader growth. And there’s no ceiling on VR reader growth. That doesn’t mean that I need to drop OpenSim coverage, but it DOES mean that there’s an opportunity for OpenSim to promote itself to a very wide audience as long as I keep everything on the same site.

          •' Carlos Loff says:

            Ok, now I see it, yes it makes sense – If they do not read the OS pages than the stats are faithful – I wonder how many of them will be using VR googles in a regular base in one year from now, but yes, definitely there is more curiosity about VR, JUST please do not forget OS, is where most people dive for real

  14.' Vinstor says:

    Thanks, congrats, and good luck! I’m sure we don’t say it often enough. Can’t wait to see what the future holds.

    “I’ve got twenty years of reporting on everything from local school boards to war crimes to international finance.” As a former journalist, I have to ask: There’s a difference? 😉

  15.' Allan Carr says:

    Good for you Maria! Can’t wait for the book.

  16. “Same amount of OpenSim coverage, a bit more about VR gadgets and apps, and no more enterprise technology coverage. Ads will be free.” I’d like to see a split on the main page, one half with your VR/tech stuff and the other with OpenSim. I could care less about VR glasses and choose not to read HGB at all vs sifting through piles of VR glasses blech just to find one or two OpenSim articles. Please think about breaking the main page in two some how. That’s all, thanks.

    •' Linda Kellie says:

      If I could have done more than one vote up on this I would have. Just sayin 🙂

    • I’ve been thinking about making changes to the layout. It’s a huge decision, though. There’s a lot of custom PHP coding on this site, so switching themes is a really painful process.

      Another option is to move the VR stuff to its own, separate site, and hope I can get the SEO to carry over okay. But that means that none of the new VR readers will get a chance to be exposed to OpenSim. Plus, it’s a lot of work. And I don’t want to be a VR gadget blogger. It’s fun to check out gadgets once in a while, but it’s not something I particularly want to do. If anyone out there does, and has any ideas about where to take it — email me at [email protected].

      • I’ve been thinking about it some more, and looking at the home page, and I’m thinking of making the left-hand column the “VR gadgets and apps” column, the center column the OpenSim stuff, and the right-hand column the ads, featured resources, videos, and stuff like that.

  17.' Sunbeam Magic says:

    Best of luck in NY and with all your new ventures! Sounds like a great change for you and as long as you’re Happy, that is what matters! HGB has been a staple in my VR life since the conception and you have done a wonderful job with courage, grace and integrity! Your stats and lists were top notch and to me very interesting! Looking forward to running into you from time to time and keeping in touch! Special best wishes for your novel writing venture, how very very exciting!! can’t wait to read it! HUGS ♥

  18. I had the same suggestion months ago (May 14 2016 to be exact) and was told that people wanted to read about VR and it was too much work to change it for the few who want to read about things other than VR… nice to see that attitude is being changed.