Forbes Gets It Wrong, Too

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 let’s see if Forbes is any better at writing about Second Life than BusinessWeek (reLink).

Marketers have flocked to Second Life since it went live in 2003.

Incorrect. It wasn’t until I quizzed Linden Lab in a series of forum Hotline posts requesting clarification on whether a real company could enter Second Life’s main grid that a firm answer was provided. This was in October 2005 and I posted about it here (reLink). It was only afterward that companies began trickling in to the main grid… and quite a bit later. Believe me, from my own experience talking with Marketing VP’s and Directors, marketers weren’t “flocking” anywhere. Truth is, most didn’t have a clue what I was talking about.

Second Life boasts a population of 7.1 million registered users

Here we go again. Someone give Clay Shirky a link so he can slap Ms. Fass around a bit (figuratively speaking, of course). There are 7.1M registrations. How many of those registrations represent a unique individual is unknown since for a very long time it was to a person’s advantage to have three registered avatars. If these people would bother to research Second Life to understand it instead of reading other faulty MSM articles, they might get it right.

It’s cheap: Linden Lab, the site’s creator, charges $1,675 plus $295 a month to occupy an island.

A blank virtual island is one thing. Paying for someone to create the custom content can run a very pretty penny; sometimes $30,000+. Still cheap by some standards {okay, most standards *}, but not exactly entry-level PC cheap.

But this leasehold doesn’t fence out troublemakers. It turns out that avatars seem more interested in having sex and hatching pranks than spending time warming up to real-world brands. “There is nothing to do in Second Life except, pardon my bluntness, try to get laid,” blogged David Churbuck, Web-marketing vice president for computer maker Lenovo.

And why would people want to spend time with real-world brands? Hello? As for Churbuck, he sounds pretty ignorant to me. I look forward to using this quote in the future.

Such antics are called “griefing” in Second Life parlance.

…and in many other parlances as well; it’s not unique to Second Life and goes back a ways (does Ms. Fass sound like a total noob to anyone else?).

Some marketers are disappointed that there aren’t as many people cruising the site as they’d expected. The number of residents who logged in over a recent seven-day period is 360,000. At any given time it’s more like 30,000.

That’s because journalists like Ms. Fass don’t accurately report the numbers, what they mean and how they can be misleading (see above).

American Apparel, the first retailer to set up a virtual store on the site, in June 2006, is all but shuttering its Second Life shop, which attracted more critics than shoppers. Not long after it opened, a group called the Second Life Liberation Army–its members are grumpy about commercialization on Second Life, among other things–shot American Apparel customers with virtual guns. Rasmus Schiönning, Web director for the company, says the retailer is disappointed by “insignificant” sales from the site.

One of the companies that apparently was misled by sloppy journalism and jumped into Second Life for the wrong reasons. No doubt the heavily-controlled vLES will give them more opportunities to limit choice and grab more eyeballs. Too bad the internet doesn’t offer similar control mechanisms, eh?

Wells Fargo stopped using Linden Lab’s clunky technology to run the financial company’s virtual Stagecoach Island (from its own Web site) four months after setting it up in September 2005. It no longer has any connection with Second Life. Laughs Erik Hauser, creative director of Swivel Media, Wells Fargo’s digital agency: “Going into Second Life now is the equivalent of running a field marketing program in Iraq.”

Again, Wells Fargo was never part of the Second Life community. This infers that Wells Fargo was part of the grid for four months; that’s not true.* (See earlier posts for more: reLink 1, reLink 2) {And include this one as well: reLink 3}

Not quite as bad as BusinessWeek (reLink), but certainly not the quality journalism one expects from Forbes. Or maybe my high expectations were unwarranted.

{Note *: For clarity, with regard to Wells Fargo, saying “from its own Web site” is sloppy. It sounds like they were hosting the grid on their own independent, isolated servers or something. They weren’t. Furthermore, it means nothing in the context of being a gateway to their pseudo-disconnected island, when people can embed SLurls that allow users to log in from a website and be transported directly to a specific location within Second Life. I have one on the sidebar. Lastly, it would have been more accurate to say Wells Fargo no longer has “any connection” with Linden Lab.}

{Update: Just a quick mention that, in addition to Centric (Link *), New World Notes has also jumped in – Link}.

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