Monday, July 16, 2007

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RE-DEBUNKING SECOND LIFE MYTHS

Gigaom_debunking_2

I recently published a companion piece to NWN's recent "Forbes Flunks School of Second Life" for GigaOM: "Debunking 5 Business Myths About Second Life", a reference guide to the fistful of commonly recurring errors the mainstream press makes (and keeps making) when writing about SL. 

Right on schedule, the LA Times just repeated variations of four out of five of those, along with several other errors, omissions, and misquotes-- "I don't think [the Times] entirely got the drift of what I said OR my position," notes Urizenus Sklaar. (The author, Alana Semuels, wrote an equally dubious SL story for the Times in February.) 

As for the Times' reiterated goofs:

- "Even at peak times, only about 30,000 to 40,000 users are logged on" (Myth 1)
- "the sites of many of the companies remaining in Second Life are empty" (Variation on Myth 2, since the Times makes no mention of sites which do attract proportionally substantial visitors)
- "Angry avatars have taken virtual action [against corporate sites]..." (Myth 4)
- "Their interests seem to tend toward the risque." (Myth 5)

So unfortunately, the GigaOM guide may keep coming in handy.  Read it here.  (Also check out TechCrunch's great related conversation here.) 

And once again, none of this is to say Second Life is an ideal place for real life advertising in all or even most cases, certainly not as it exists now.  In fact, I'm seriously contemplating a follow-up guide, "Top Five Actual Legitimate Criticisms of SL as a Marketing Platform", in the hopes that some reporter out there is actually interested in writing a nuanced and in-depth article on the subject.  But then, that'll probably require a writer who doesn't immediately assume a few dozen people waving signs constitutes a widespread anti-corporate revolt.

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Laetizia Coronet

Every time, and I mean that without one single exception, I see any TV report about Second Life - whether it's a positive report or not - I see the reporter as a total newbie.
That doesn't prove anything of course - maybe they don't want their SL persona to appear on TV - but it does seem that a good deal of them has no real idea of what Second Life is all about whe they start.
You could compare that to a journalist going from the US to, say, Cambodia for the first time in his life to stay a week and write an in-depth article about the place. You're not going to get much further than 'Oh my God, they combine pork and shrimp'.

Myg

Holy mother of god, Hamlet. Do these reporters possess no Google skill whatsoever? Do they not look on the Second Life website at all? I think they really are doing all their research at the bondage ranch. What I need to know is, how do these folks get paid to write? If you can make a living making crap up and having an opinion based on a lot of hearsay, I want in!

Static Schultz

I think what they really need is a completely immersed reporter "in the field" so-to-speak to really get a grasp on what/how/why Second Life works or doesn't work. Wait. We do have that. Hamlet for the Times, anyone?

Muliaina Mills

"In fact, I'm seriously contemplating a follow-up guide, 'Top Five Actual Legitimate Criticisms of SL as a Marketing Platform.'"

I'd really appreciate such an article as my main focus in Second Life is gaining market insights on the corporate and personal demographic level.

MM

Doug Randall

I just read the most recent Alana Semuels LA TImes article.

What part of "[Big dumb RL corporations] find that avatars created by participants in the online society aren't avid shoppers" do people feel isn't accurate ?

I'm certainly an avid shopper it comes to Lilith Heart Plants, my Aubretech Psitech II, and E-Bay and Amazon outside of SL, but that's just not what the article is about.

When it comes to corporations like Coca-Cola, there's ->nothing<- here for them, they should leave, and there's nothing wrong with Ms. Semuels telling people that.

Also, how long did it take that hotel company to figure out that avatars don't need to check into a room at night anyway ?

I'd like to remind the bloggers here that many people come to Second Life specifically to get away from mass media, marketing, advertising, talking up brand names, and all that other big dumb RL corporation stuff.

Ignatius Onomatopoeia

Allow a once-ignorant noob say "Myg hit the nail on the head." Excuse what may be a slightly long reply to this thread.

When I wrote my first (paying) SL column for a local weekly, I was barely off Orientation Island. I had a nearly bone-stock av, had been approached for sex by an underage kid, and had been both dissed and teased by other avs. I hated how I looked and walked.

So it was easy, given my first few hours' experience, to be skeptical of the entire venture. I worried that we'd be losing our first lives in-world and I mostly saw SL's tawdry side.

That said, I stuck with it because I was convinced that virtual worlds of one sort or another are going to be a big part of our future.
As a college professor, I also had to learn a bunch quickly, b/c I had a class of 18 kids coming in-world for projects.

Only a week or so after my first column ran I began to regret it. I could see what was special about SL and began to write about that in my blog for Media General.

Item: I hope the virtual worlds we'll see will be the SL kind that permit residents the freedom to create their own content. It's the stunning difference not only between games and virtual worlds, but between SL and the competition.

Now my view of SL is more nuanced and I find myself, only 7 months in, helping newcomers. My current approach for Media General's local outlet is to point out (thanks, Doug) that "many people come to Second Life specifically to get away from mass media, marketing, advertising, talking up brand names."

You bet. I can see that crap IRL any time I want. But there's no Svarga out in our suburban hells.

Lately I've been wandering the Kula Sims looking at Creative Commons projects--that, friends, is what my fellow SL bloggers working for the old-media outlets need to consider. And if you think the LA Times piece is bad, stay away from Time Magazine's site this week...I yelled at the friggin' screen.

Zee Pixel

Well, you also need to dig deeper to try and see who's probably the root driver of the article. For instance the article about how Marketers are bailing out of SL, appears to be a thinly guised promotional piece for Millions of Us launching their work with Gia. It even had the classic look at this X% drop in users in June red flag that let's you know that the author just got on-line this year.

Internet traffic drops in June, and picks up in September, because... wait for it... school is out and college age users are away from the computers, people take vacations, etc... etc... yet every June some clueless dork uses the Summer drop as a benchmark of failure for whatever it is they're trying to prove.

Grrrr...

csven

"When it comes to corporations like Coca-Cola, there's ->nothing<- here for them"

I think it's far too early to make this claim.

I personally believe there is a place in virtual worlds for not only the Pontiac's and Nissan's, but also the manufacturers of mundane products. So far it seems to me that what we've mostly witnessed are old media efforts directed by agencies still mired in "push" - and shove down the consumers' throats - techniques.

Kami Harbinger

You can do good marketing in SL, but it has to be engaging, make sense in the world, and treat the residents like people.

Nissan's site works as marketing because the car is fun to drive in SL. It's not just a prop, and it's not just a stock Linden car script. That gives me a much more positive impression of the real brand.

American Apparel failed miserably because their clothes were boring, and they didn't do anything that would engage me. If they can't make interesting SL clothes, they should try connecting some other way. An unstaffed store selling sub-freebie-quality shirts doesn't impress anyone.

We don't drink anything in SL, so just selling a Coca-Cola bottle isn't meaningful. They need to figure out what the Coke experience is, and how to put that in front of an avatar in a way that'll improve their brand image. Sponsoring musical events, contests, or sporting events is probably the most Coke-like thing they can do. The "make a vending machine" contest was a good use of the unique elements of Second Life, but the conditions on the prize were somewhat discouraging.

Rickson

While there are literally & thousands of articles available on, there is only a few ones that attracts the attention. The credit goes to the authors who writes them. Thanks for presenting such a nice post about.

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