Monday, June 25, 2007

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Nbadetail The July 2nd issue of Forbes has a fascinating article (reg. req.) about failed marketing efforts in Second Life, but not for the reasons its author, Allison Fass, intended.  Instead, it’s the latest example of a larger trend: if 2006 was the year of inaccurate, over-hyped Second Life coverage, 2007 is the year of equally inaccurate counter-spin. “Sex, Pranks, and Reality” is 714 words long, yet contains at least ten errors or omissions, many I've spotted in other publications; given Forbes’ reputation, however, these memes are now injected even deeper into an unresolved issue.  The irony is that there are numerous limitations to SL as a marketing platform-- it requires a client download, advertising is easy for users to ignore, and so on-- but Forbes fails to mention any of those.  (If they're even aware of them, but that's not at all clear.)

But leave that to one side.  I’ll just point out the mistakes, and let readers draw their own conclusions.

- No, Second Life is not “a Web fantasy world”, it runs from a downloadable non-Web client.
- It does not have “a population of 7.1 million registered users”, that’s just the total number of created accounts—regular unique users are now closer to half a million
- No, concurrent log-ins aren’t “more like 30,000”; from February to April, they were closer to 36-39K during prime time; by May, they’ve grown to over 40-48K at peak. 
- And sorry, but helicopter crashes in SL do not cause “dead bodies”, because avatars are indestructible.  (This is such a painfully obvious goof I’m guessing Ms. Fass has little first-hand experience in Second Life, if any.)
- It’s doubtful American Apparel’s SL site “attracted more critics than shoppers”—the company itself reported 4,000 total sales last September, while protesters numbered in the dozens, if that.
- The comical “Second Life Liberation Army” protests Fass mentions were not anti-corporate per se, but part of a bid to demand avatar-based voter’s rights.
- It’s true that Starwood Hotels is selling its SL-based prototype hotel, not for lack of visitors, as Fass writes, but because it was always intended as a short-term marketing research effort.
- Wells Fargo never had any direct connection to Second Life the world—it merely licensed the underlying technology from Linden Lab. 
- And while Lenovo marketing VP David Churbuck did opine that “there’s nothing to do in Second Life except… get laid”, he based that assertion (he later told me) on a brief, scattershot survey of the world. (Sexual activity is reportedly designated on less than 18% of SL’s total landmass, actually.)
- Finally, when a company buys Second Life land, it’s very much not true that “this leasehold doesn't fence out troublemakers.” Most or all incidents of anti-social “griefing” Fass mentions (flying penises, gunfire, etc.) could have been prevented, had the site owners used the access/activity restriction tools available to landowners.  (It’s like a real world storeowner leaving his shop unattended with the doors wide open and the alarm disarmed—then blaming the landlord, when the place gets trashed.)

So do these copious errors mean Second Life is a marketers’ paradise? For mass eyeballs, definitely not—several virtual worlds which allow outside advertising are much larger.  As a boutique effort to a demographically attractive audience?  Maybe, depending on expectations and investment. No one knows for sure.  It’s why I’m still hoping a top-flight business magazine like Forbes does the research to generate some meaty answers.

But that’ll probably require a reporter who knows what happens when a virtual chopper explodes.


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» Forbes Gets It Wrong, Too from reBang weblog
In a blog entry today (Link), Jaffe Juice relayed frustration with the author of a Forbes article covering Second Life. The piece, Sex, Pranks and Reality, written by Allison Fass, is posted on the blog for our review, so lets see... [Read More]

» Forbes and the "Real" Marketing Potential of SL from Kotaku
It seems like everyone and their grandma is setting up shop in the marketing utopia that is Second Life with uncharted success, but it just can't be that easy. According to Forbes magazine, it's not. And not just for the... [Read More]

» Low And Behold: Forbes and the "Real" Marketing Potential of SL from Gaming news
It seems like everyone and their grandma is setting up shop in the marketing utopia that is Second Life [Read More]

» The realities of virtualmarketing from walking without rhythm
Terra Nova featured a Forbes article that highlights how some companies are grappling with the realities of marketing in Second Life, and asks if this is the start of a media backlash. Theres a knee-jerk response on New World Notes, but I think ... [Read More]

» Comparing Second Life Analytics with Web Analytics from WebMetricsGuru
I read WIRED AND THE LONG TAIL OF SECOND LIFE MARKETINGtoday in New World Notes and found an interesting comment from Gwyneth Llewellyncomparing Second Life visitors to Website Visitors.One of the benefits a Virtual World Island Launch has ... [Read More]


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Excellent response to a load of ill-informed vitriol from a publication that should know better.


It's like these big ass companies (Forbes included) just can't be bothered to do their homework before launching into SL. They've got little understanding of the medium and therefore the wrong approach. Then when it doesn't work they decide it's the fault of SL or its users. (And besides, what do all these people have against getting laid anyway?)

Laetizia Coronet

"...what do all these people have against getting laid anyway?"

There's a Bible story (Daniel chapter 13 in the Roman Catholic Bible - other denominations might not have included it) about a girl taking a bath and some elders at the same time drooling over her and condemning her. To say that it's an old story would be an understatement. People love it - and love to condemn it.

Nobody Fugazi

If Wells Fargo licensed the technology, is that a roadblock for opening the servers?



Well, maybe Forbes does not have it wrong at all. I have been in and out of SL and kept up with the changes to the software for many years now and actually my conclusion - my personal conclusion - is that SL is not much better than any pyramid scheme you might start - actually in my opinion it is worse than that because i dont even think SL has any real reason for existing. It was touted as a replacement to the web - a 3D internet - with the ability for people to earn a living and go to work in SL instead etc etc. - and yet from the number of registered accounts there are only a small TINY fraction of people that actually make any money and only 1 or 2 people (maybe 3-4 people) that make six figures.

The whole thing is a waste of time. Glad you are reporting on Forbes articles OUT OF SL and in the RW now.


sorry but not a fan of SL and not convinced it is any good.

Gando Thurston

Regardless of if you think Second Life is worthy, we all should demand better research from journalists, or even bloggers. Don't write with authority about stuff you don't have a clue about - simple.

exSLresident: Interestingly, your arguments about SL are similar to early arguments about the web.

-- no one will make money from it.

-- it's a waste of time.

-- it's all about sex (ok... I added that one).

My conclusion: too early to tell if it will catch on like the web; however, it is already useful for some people -- because people are using it.

And when you start saying things like: out of all the users, only a small number make money, and only a smaller number make six figures... well, that does sound like the web.


That Forbes' article is, as you pointed, uninformed rumbling. But, beside the chopters that crashes into buildings and killing avatars, there remains a question is second life good for marketing. At the moment I'd tell it is not. But it is not the mistake of second life, Linden Lab nor the residents. Most of the "guilt" falls on corporations that, just the same as Forbes, didn't get the feel of the metaverse. It is not the television! The marketing approach in SL should be different if they want to make any results. And, once they got it, it will be for the benefit of both corporations and customers. My two cents about Forbes' article and the marketing in second life: Pay attention to reader's comments, a lot of usefull info about residents can be found there. It just take a bit of listening, and that is what successful marketeer starting point always is.


Thank you Mr Thurston for your response. I suppose to a certain extent you are correct in that SL could be similar to the web when it first started.

I do believe that there will be a 3D interactive internet that will replace our current page web (2D structure), but I do not believe it will be SecondLife.

The reason is that SL comes across as a little country ruled by an elite class - the Lindens (whoever they are) and instead of feeling empowered by them, I feel used, abused, and second rate to them - and through the direct actions of the Lindens.

I am not here to complain about them and hope for a solution, I am simply pointing out that web1.0 did not have an oversite body that just seemed so over the top authoritarian.

As for making money in SL, I am pretty sure that the whole thing is more hype than reality. I was ready willing and able to invest 50k into SL for a software program that I would sell to the residents, but the ROI was not there - it cannot be there - SL is still too small.

Sorry for the long post.

Have a good day - and thank you for engaging me in this debate.

Muliana Mills

Regardless of skeptics the simple facts are:

1)people log on to SL
2) companies invest in SL

As long as those continue to grow new business models will emerge. I've been doing market research for awhile now trying to decide if SL is ok for a company to get involved in. In fact it is becase of these reasons:

a) IBM's independent development of it's own metaverse (epredator's blog eightbar or whatever)
d) low risk

Even if the platform turns out to be sh*t what have you, or any coproration really lost? Next to nothing from a corporate standpoint. I know it sounds daunting to the individual investor, but if IBM is doing it you'd better jump on board, because if you don't they'll be ramming it down your throat in two years time.

Your thoughts?

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