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Monday, July 23, 2007


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sean percival

Yea I got this in my mailbox as well, I keep skipping over this article unsure if I really want to read it.

Wired you changed man! You changed!

Harle Armistice

This really outline the divide between those who are 'in the know' and those who aren't, for me. Wired magazine of all publications really should be capable of providing an unbiased, reasonable assessment of a 'website' (to mock Time).

Is Second Life really that mystifying that a technology magazine can't even figure it out? It's fundamentally the same concept as something like WoW; it's a virtual world where a lot of people spend a lot of time. And even though some journalist/economists don't 'get' it doesn't mean that the marketing people for companies wouldn't sell their soul for a chance to market their product on World of Warcraft.

So yes, you can badmouth the software, you can cite poor marketing conditions(even erroneously), but that isn't going to change the fact that Second Life is an easily accessed online world filled with a lot of people with predictable interests and of predictable demographics. This is a marketing dream, or it certainly seems like, and I think that's why the marketing people for these corporations haven't given up.

They can see that it's a great opportunity, they just don't have the know-how to properly advertise in this unique environment. It took ages before corporations en masse began opening websites. It took them a long time before corporate websites were even useful. And now that Second Life has come around, a lot of the marketers are figuring they will simply throw up a 'site' on Second Life and it will accomplish the same goals. But that's not how it works. Second Life is not the internet where you can just toss up a website. It's possible to market well there, but most of them just aren't doing it properly.


Yes I stopped subscribing to wired long ago for just this reason.

Doug Randall

The problem with properly advertising and marketing in Second Life is actually very similar to the problem of properly advertising and marketing using a persons email inbox or cel phone.

Many avatars, particularly the ones who aren't consulting wannabees or marketing professionals, are likely to react to advertising and marketing in SL exactly the same way they react to telemarketing and spam.

I saw a proposal in a blog a while back to have a listener script scan the conversations of nearby avatars. It would then advertise based on the detection of keywords. Let's imagine how this would work on a cel phone call. You're talking on the phone to your father about a problem you're having with your girlfriend or wife. The manufacturer of Viagra butts in to your conversation to offer the perfect solution. How would you feel ? And what's your solution for doing this "properly" ? Wouldn't trying this in Second Life be very similar ?

Markus Breuer (Pham Neutra)

Hi Hamlet, I agree, that the WIRED article makes a few assumptions about marketing in virtual worlds, that are more than a little bit naïve. This is no surprise as there is a flood of badly researched articles writing off virtual worlds (and especially SL) these days. I try to look at that as a typical example of the Gartner Hype Cycle at work. It seems that not even a magazine like WIRED is able to resist the temptation to follow the herd.

Your prominent counter example for a successful corporate site in SL, T-Online, might not be such a good example, though. T-Online uses camping chairs rather extensively, to attract customers. :) This is successful from a numeric point of view but debatable when you want to use "traffic" as a real key performance indicator - which might be not such a good idea, either.

Simply dismissing the medium as “not suited” because some early projects don’t perform that well according to the KPIs of established media is utterly naïve, of course. Oh the other hand, marketing in a Virtual World IS a field, where most advertising agencies (I guess, the term "Madison Avenue" targets established ad agencies) have little experience and some of the projects really *might* be less successful then these agencies and their clients expect. The more successful projects share more similarities with “branded entertainment” than with “advertising”. This is not to say that advertising, tasteful and well placed billboards for example, is completely useless in SL. Depending on the brand, product and target audience even advertising has its role in SL and other virtual worlds, no matter what the old time residents think about the topic.

The coming years will see many forms of marketing in virtual worlds; some more successful, some less. It will be a while until standard patterns will emerge, which will be used widely and successfully. This is nothing new. It took marketing professionals at least some 5 – 8 years until the current patterns for marketing on the web were established.

Hamlet Au

"T-Online uses camping chairs rather extensively, to attract customers"

Yeah, that's why Tateru and I decided that she wouldn't track it in her Headcount. At the same time, though, sitting in a camping chair isn't all that different from web advertising strategies like requiring viewers to watch an ad before getting "free" content, or to enter a contest, and so on. Whether or not visitors are truly engaging T-Mobile's ad (something you can also wonder with web-based ads), it disproves Rose claim that advertising sites in SL were empty.

Gxeremio Dimsum

The pile-on continues. What a disappointment to see that WIRED has joined the fray on the wrong side.

The traffic ranking thing is a total joke. Look at the Alexa Top 500 Websites - how many of those are corporate sites where people go just to interact with a product or service? Very few. Usually, like in SL, the most popular sites are ones where people go meet friends, gather information, or do something cool (like play games) and their interaction with advertising is a by-product, not the goal of their web surfing.

Some of the criticisms in the article are justifiable, like concurrency in a sim - but as you point out these critiques are not new. Remember, MSM, SL is really an extended beta test of something that will go open source and can be used on private servers in the future. It's not the final product!

And the general thesis of the article, that companies who pay more per-eyeball to maintain an SL presence than they pay for a web presence, ignores the core demographic of SL and the KIND of person who's using that eyeball. I think it's fair to say a typical SL resident is more tech-savvy, more willing to try new things, more affluent, more likely to pick up on and spread buzz through social networks, blogs, and other means, than the average web user. Don't compare it to a website. Compare it to setting up a booth at a giant, continual convention of early adopters. If your product is worthwhile, it's a good investment.

Markus Breuer (Pham Neutra)

I am not questioning that there are techniques comparable to camping chairs in established advertising, Hamlet. There are many ways to get more traffic to your website, for example. And the long term benefits for the bottom line of the company are questionable with some of them, too. :) I am not adverse to advertising in virtual worlds, neither - if used sensibly.

I am just not sure if your current emphasis on "traffic" on corporate site - and the better ones certainly get their share of traffic - is the right way to restore Second Life's reputation as a marketing medium.

Just now Second Life - and every other virtual world - is not very well suited to "straight advertising" campaigns where you are just looking at the reach of your campaign (traffic). Judging by this indicator alone, virtual worlds are way behind TV, Radio, Printed Advertising etc. Treating virtual worlds as "just another channel of advertising" is just plain stupid. The strong point for virtual worlds is not the number of eyeballs you can reach, but the intensity of the involvement (or, like you phrase it: "a long tail of less intense but regular activity.") You don't have any involvement, when you have no visitors on you site, of course ;) So traffic is not un-important.

Tateru's numbers show that some of the better corporate sites do quite well in comparison with popular resident created businesses. But one should never compare a web campaign - or an RL event - directly with one in SL just based on traffic. The attempt to do this is probably the WIRED articles biggest fault.

Most people who don't understand virtual worlds will make similar errors when judging this phenomenon, though. The reason is, that many sites and activities in virtual worlds mimic sites and activities in RL rather closely. And in RL a mall, which only has a few thousand visitors a day, or a concert with only 120 fans showing up, WOULD be a failure. Explaining why something in SL, which looks similar to something well known in RL, must be judged differently - because it WORKS differently - is not an easy task.

Frank Rose

I’ve been late responding to this post because I’m currently on the road in California reporting a new story. It takes a lot of work to get things as wrong as you claim my Second Life story is. Except, of course, that your claim is utterly bogus. Your critique of my supposedly “error-ridden” article is itself rife with mischaracterizations, half-truths, and distortions. I’ll start at the beginning.

First, the idea that my “gravest error” is claiming that there isn’t much to do in Second Life: This is a matter of opinion, of course, and clearly there are those who like Second Life enough to return again and again. As the usage numbers clearly indicate, however, the vast majority do not. I very much enjoyed Wired’s guide to Second Life when it appeared last year, but there’s a difference between a hopeful assessment of a new phenomenon and a more sober view several months on.

Second, your claim that during June “the top ten corporate sites were attracting about 40,000 weekly visits total” is highly misleading. The numbers actually ranged from 32,000 to 46,000 on a weekly basis, but more importantly, as http://nwn.blogs.com/nwn/2007/06/taterus-mixed-r.html>Tateru’s post itself noted, ‘Headcounts do not factor in returning visitors, so assume that the total number of unique Residents are likely to be significantly less than the estimated total visits.” I would argue that 10% of 400,000 is insignificant enough, especially when it’s spread over X number of corporate builds and doesn’t factor out return visitors. But the numbers reported for individual companies are dismal indeed: IBM may have gotten 10,000 visits per week, but less-trafficked islands in the top ten (like Microsoft and Nissan) got fewer than 3,000 each. Other corporate regions not in the top ten were lucky to hit triple digits.

Third, you state that “in June, one of SL's very most popular sites was T-Mobile,” an assertion you describe as “one of those inconvenient, thesis-destroying truths.” Sorry, but this is not a truth, thesis-destroying or otherwise. For starters, it’s not T-Mobile, the multinational wireless carrier, but T-Online, the German ISP. Worse, the http://nwn.blogs.com/nwn/2007/06/taterus_monday__1.html>post you cite points out that the reason T-Online is so popular in Second Life is because it pays people to park their avatars on deck chairs. As the post itself notes, “Does a crowd of virtual bodies matter, if nobody cares who you are?” Nonetheless, you go on to claim that Second Life’s supposed success stories “do not depend on massive popularity, but instead, depend on, dare I say, a long tail of less intense but regular activity”—and to suggest that I might want to consult The Long Tail, the best-selling book by Wired editor Chris Anderson. Please. The idea that any article in Wired would somehow have been assigned, written, edited, and published without Chris’s involvement is naïve in the extreme. And in any case, there is no long tail of ineffectual marketing techniques, in Second Life or elsewhere.

Finally, there’s the claim that, at least in my case, “fundamental inexperience with SL can compound into a series of errors that congeal into incoherence”—the supposed errors in question culminating in my assertion that Second Life consists mainly of disconnected and largely invisible regions that can’t handle more than 70 avatars at at a time without crashing. To counter this, you offer a laundry list of quibbles capped by the observation that by holding a Second Life event at the intersection of four regions—the very definition of a kluge—you can cram “some 200+ avatars” into the one region. Wow! A whole 200+! Thanks for making my point: That Second Life is a leaky Metaverse held together by virtual baling wire and chewing gum.

I’d take your critique more seriously if you yourself showed more concern with accuracy and if you hadn’t carved out a career on the dubious proposition that Second Life is worthy of full-time reporting—a proposition that will soon lead to the publication of your 288-page book, The Making of Second Life: Notes from the New World. A word to the wise: Unlike Wired, publishing companies don’t employ fact-checkers. You might consider hiring one of ours.

Gando Thurston

Saying "there isn't much to do in Second Life" is very misleading, as that statement could be construed to be a fact, not an opinion.

There is a lot to do in Second Life. For the life of me, I can't figure out why someone technically minded, or anyone who is half-geek, wouldn't find design, building, scripting and other creative pursuits to be interesting.

Social creatures that we are, I'm puzzled by why people don't enjoy the many social events in Second Life, including live music shows, fantasy role playing (go ahead and lump sex in there), games (sailing, skydiving, car racing, puzzles, board-games,etc).

And as creative as the residents are here in making interesting things, why is it that people don't find the simple act of exploration enjoyable?

Perhaps learning, creating, exploring is too hard? Is it just too hard to find the fun things in Second Life that I have found? Perhaps I'm cut from a different mold and would rather create and explore than sit and watch TV or surf the web?

When talking about Second Life traffic, why not lump in non-corporate native sites? Native sites, for the most part, have little backing or resources when compared to large corporations, are kicking complete ass in Second Life traffic ratings. The single top native site has more visits than Playboy, Microsoft, Nissan, and IBM combined. The resources of any one of those large corporations should allow for better draw than the top 20 native sites combined. Does this imply that corporations are doing something wrong in Second Life?

When counting traffic shouldn't returnees be viewed as more valuable, given that products change, and returning visitors can be educated about new products? I'd rather not count the people who come in and never come back -- much like some do when they count the number of people who visit Second Life, but never come back.

Of course, one could keep track of unique return visitors and determine what is happening. Why don't people do this? Is it a privacy issue or something?


I will only chime in as a reader of every issue of WIRED since no 1... and one who isnt as sure anymore;)

1. Iv'e been noted in wired 3 times over the decade, ONLY the time in issue no 3 or 4 i think were comments made about my work even checked with me before or after print. The two other times - one being about SL -3d printing issues published on wired online btw--- were done so without any contact with me - before or after. I saw no care from wired editorial as to the truth or fallacy of what blogger quality "reporters" had written about me or my products:)

2. Now the real shame of Wireds current quality and why i will take all this pompous "journalist" blogger stuff with little grain of salt...

About 6 months ago(last year?), Wired published a cover story about DO IT yourself and green energy folks... sounds great right?...

So im reading the magazine and see a long story about a man and wife selling/developing a green car engine-fuel thingamagy in nevada.. they are covered as any WIRED mag superstars of tech to be..lol..fancy imposing photos and all...

Well i look at the photo and say to myself- "wait this guy looks familiar"-- and then right there in BW is his name.. BOB LAZAR.... and NO mention of anything about him other than his "miracle engine and wired godness"

I expected to see ANGRY responses in the next WIRED issues ERRATA.. none showed. are we all that dumb.?
Where was Wired. lol Editorial and fact checking oh yeah the editor was selling books on talk shows and advertorials for GE....

bob lazar... do the googling folks.... look for yourself and heres a hint.. "Area 51"....and "Brothels"....lol

heres a guy that might be a great guy, even have invented perpertual motion as covered by wired..lol

but then again.... maybe not...

so. BOB LAZAR and WIRED today....


enjoy the lohan time.:)


komuso tokugawa

"there isn't much to do in Second Life"

I disagree with this one obviously, as there is quite a lot to do - especially if you are a content creator.
And actually you don't even need 200 or 2000 or 20000 avatars for a good event...40 to 70 is actually a perfect number for a performer to be able to interact with, especially for a live music performance.
I've always said that live gigs in sl are a cross between intimate small bar performance and busking - and there is nothing wrong with either of those styles for connecting closely with people.
SL is perfect for the small group experience, and trying to bend it beyond that is just plain silly.
Unfortunately, and you have to agree with him, ~88% of people who do try SL don't like the experience - FACT!. Whichever way you try to spin it, that is an extremely high churn rate for a service all the SL boosters are pitching as ready for prime time.

Well, fact is, it's NOT.
So to me his other points are quite valid.

You don't need 4 sim kludge's with all the associated performance hassles [I've done a number of them and they DO suck], and you certainly don't need to roll them out as a good example.
And it's not "many" events doing this as hamlet suggests, I would suggest the majority of events in SL are still single sim. And his points on the generally sad corporate b2c invasion and subsequent retreat by some are correct, more or less. He does ignore the early research into b2b use which is a success, however, and IBM is a shining example of this. c2c speaks for itself...it works and sl works for the ~12% early adopters because of it.

I am being civil here...I also think he has quite a valid criticism of you in terms of better fact checking and being such an obvious booster for LL in the majority of your articles.

I really do think you would be a much better writer if you adopted an impartial reporting pov and just went for it...warts and all. You could be much edgier in terms of writing too. Anybody with half a brain knows where we are in terms of the TALC with these platforms, and more honest [even funny!] reportage of the evolution of this amazing push into the early metaverse is needed.

To close I'll reprint a recent para from one of my posts on http://www.sonicviz.com/blogs/
"All that aside, I love SecondLife - I've drunk the Koolaid at the Metaverse fountain by the gallon, especially in relation to its potential as a performance medium for new technologically savvy artists willing to learn and experiment instead of being spoonfed by the usual suspects.
But it does not stop me being critical of the platform and associated development issues, or projects that ignore the obvious risk factors due to an unstable technology and fail to design for or around them, or excessive marketing hype that ignores reality - virtual or otherwise."

Shava Nerad/Shava Suntzu in SL

"I think there is a world market for maybe five computers"

-- Thomas J. Watson, president of IBM, 1943

Hey, maybe IBM learns from their mistakes? :)

What I said about the Forbes article is here:



I'd like to give my two cents to the discussion:

1. "there isn't much to do in Second Life" Well, it is neither totally true nor completely false. The point, which I guess is the one taken by Mr. Rose, is that there is much to do in SL, but only if you are enough experienced/skilled. It's not a secret that SL isn't properly a frendly, newbie-oriented GUI. I found that every one that joined Second Life for the first time almost always felt lost and dissatisfied by the experience. In my thought, the problem of Second Life, which negatively affects the churn rate, is that the steepness of the learning curve hampers the majority of users in getting aware of the potentialities of SL. This insight might also be a stimuli for directing firms' efforts: for example, firm's site might try to soften the steepness of the learning curve, guiding and trainig newbies.

2. "10% of 400,000 is insignificant enough, especially when it’s spread over X number of corporate builds and doesn’t factor out return visitors" That's absolutely true, and I agree that these numbers don't justify some big investments made by companies. On the other side, I cannot understand why companies don't try to maximize these presences through integration. How? For example, you could create machinmas involving your visitors, post them on video sharing sites and, moreover, on company's website. I wonder why, if a firm has its SL presence, there isn't any trace on the official website. It's simply unsavy to rely the promotion of SL on embedded communication, especially when every one is now aware that there are not millions of avatars simultaneously! Summing up, I believe that 40,000 visits are a too small audience in absolute terms; on the other side, it's a valuable capital to launch cross-promotional campaigns, bringing SL outside the grid thanks to other comunication channels.

Maklin Deckard

"To counter this, you offer a laundry list of quibbles capped by the observation that by holding a Second Life event at the intersection of four regions—the very definition of a kluge—you can cram “some 200+ avatars” into the one region. Wow! A whole 200+! Thanks for making my point: That Second Life is a leaky Metaverse held together by virtual baling wire and chewing gum."

Thank you, Mr. Rose! Concerned players have been TRYING to get this through to Linden Labs for ages....but we get shouted down by the player cheerleaders and the ex-Linden cheerleaders like (Mr. Au) that tell us everything is nice and wonderful...while Linden Labs shovels more and more chrome onto the collapsing infrastructure (windlight, voice, etc.) and trying to appeal to Joe Sixpack of the red flyover states with new morality laws (aka, fake gambling banned).

As far as traffic, I live next door to the IBM nightmare (extrodinarly future-tacky) sims...other than their sandbox, I see more folks in the CLUBS and RP sims I frequent than the IBM sims combined! Yes, such wonderful marketing...NOT!

Personally, I wish the corps and their ex-Linden cheerleaers would go away and quit interfering in SL...I am tired of being treated as a market opportunity / pair of eyeballs for advertising and do not frequent the corp sims for that reason.

Hamlet Au

Frank, thanks for taking the time respond. Some initial questions:

- You now say your claim that there's nothing to do in SL is "is a matter of opinion." But that's not how you characterize it in the article, which says: "Once you put in several hours flailing around learning how to function in Second Life, there isn't much to do." Do you think this accurately characterizes your statement as an opinion?

- You say "holding a Second Life event at the intersection of four regions—the very definition of a kluge". Actually, no, this is precisely how SL was architected from the beginning-- as a network of servers where data and avatars can move contiguously between each other. Holding an event at a four region intersection is the very definition of using SL as it was designed. And recall that you begin your description of sim activity with, "One of the things you never see in Second Life is a genuine crowd — largely because the technology makes it impossible."

- Related to this, a question: why do you think crowds per se are important to SL marketing?

- You now say, "I would argue that 10% of 400,000 is insignificant enough, especially when it’s spread over X number of corporate builds and doesn’t factor out return visitors". If that's your argument, what percentage *would* be significant to you? By comparison, recall that typical clickthrough for Web ads is .5 to 1%-- do you also consider that insignificant?

More questions for background:

- When you were writing/editing the article, did you know that IBM and several other corporate sites were getting regular traffic? If so, why didn't you at least mention it?

- When you were writing/editing the article, did you know that T-Online (a subsidiary of Deutsch Telekom like T-Mobile, thanks for the correction) was a top site in June? If so, why didn't you mention it, even if you don't consider camping chairs a meaningful engagement?

- Most metaverse developers like Electric Sheep, Millions of Us, etc. do not base their marketing proposition on mass eyeballs per se, but on other metrics, such as length of engagement, quality of engagement, quality of potential participant (content creators, bloggers, etc.), longtail of engagement (via machinima, blogs, screenshots, etc.) and more. Even if you don't agree with them, how come you didn't cite any of these arguments?

Thanks again!

razen nefarious

Hi Hamlet and Frank,

As a marketer in Second Life, (I'm the creative director for Pontiac's Motorati Island) I've been following these posts very closely.

It seems readily apparent that the extreme love affair with SL that many journalists had earlier this year has worn off. We're now seeing the pendulum swing back hard the other way. Of course, neither approach is correct. (One that I make fun of on the Marketing Game Show I'm currently doing on our blog at campfiremedia.com)

Although I readily accept that SL has faults, I do think it's a perfect platform for what Pontiac set out to do. We wanted to create a community and reach out to an audience that might not consider us at first thought. I believe (and the metrics back us up on this one) that we've succeeded far beyond our initial expectations. As our campaign heads toward the end of it's first year we've seen expansive growth in many areas such as resident creations, avatar experience time, and unique resident created events. All of these lead people to thinking about us in new ways.

If either of you would like to approach the story from the angle of a marketer who's in the space and happy about it, I'd be more than willing to discuss it.

If not, then I look forward to seeing you two further the conversation. It's one worth having.

Brian Cain
Razen Nefarious in SL


That it still surprises many long time SL players that yes, "SL *is* that mystifying" to even a tech savvy user is an interesting symptom of the very problems Frank was trying to articulate. Frankly, I think part of the reason why it is mystifying, is that the PR machine for SL is not honest about what really succeeds and who really enjoys SL right now.

More fundamentally however, all SL users need to face the fact that they are wilderness explorers, - hearty adventurous souls who in an earlier age would have trekked west into the unknown and done without the comforts o civilization. Life in virtual "Wild West" may be exhilarating and offer unlimited freedom, but most potential users are looking for the Disneyland ride version. They want to logon and experience "Pocahontas's Canoe Ride" complete with cute and chipper attendants, not actually move out and live in flea infested hovel in the real "Deadwood". Do I overstate my point? Mildly, but denying Frank's criticisms seems to be the worst sort of head in the sand response.

That being said, I do think Frank missed a lot about what does work and what could work in SL. I think there's a fascinating story about how brands and businesses are just beginning to see the real opportunities in SL through the hype. If anyone is curious I was motivated enough to post a long winded account on my blog. It's also overstated and hyperbolic, but it's just my personal opinion. (^_^)



Before they harp on how many people try Second Life and never come back...

...How about how many try MySpace and never come back? Habbo? Facebook? Any of the other networking or blogging or corporate sites?

Yeah. Those places actually have lower retention numbers...

Gary Kohime

I read all the comments on this post. There are a multitude of varying responses. Therefore, the numbers go this way or that way. In my view the points of “community” are key, this has been the ‘long tail’ of the Internet since its been an Internet. You could also fish tail on another comment by saying that in RL it is the same…you have early migration and all the challenge of the “new” environment. Once the community is established, the marketers follow. The early one’s that embraced the ‘early’ environment become the long term profiteers. Virtual or Real makes no difference with respect to numbers. What does make a difference is the ability to create and to interact with a wide variety of people you would not normally, in ones lifetime, done so in RL. That in itself is a major human milestone. Given that the community can maintain a respectful order, then you will have a ‘new’ city, so to speak. The naysayer’s will become the “wish we had’s” and the “early adopters” or ‘quick to adaptor’s’ are the ones who stand to gain many rewards and most are beyond economic. I have been a reader of Wired since it was Wired. When it tried to adapt its ‘style’ to the Internet, is when it started going down hill. That’s not to say it should not have, but its to say, they have become the first “wish we hads” even before there are very few of you at this point in the evolution of virtual living. Wired, I’m disappointed, and will allow my subscription to expire, unless there is significant and accurate reporting of what ‘its’ really like. Oh, and thanks for playing too.


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