Dan Pacheco seems to be spending a lot of time worrying about Second Life. And Reuters, of course, has set up shop there. I want to be as progressive and forward thinking as the next guy, but is this really good use of scarce new media resources? I mean, what’s the future of Second Life? Sure, it’s a popular web site and it might get you a little more brand exposure, but will it really lead to more traffic and greater participation on your web site? OK, greater participation with your brand, maybe (and only maybe), but segregated from where you really need to aggregate audience as a basic fundamental business model.
And Second Life is a product with no guarantee of survival (as popular as it is today). What if it’s just a fad, or the technology gets so fundamentally broken as to be useless, or a competitor disrupts and swamps SL? Doesn’t all that proprietary investment in SL goes down the bit drain? Risk is inherent in business, and especially in web business, but it needs to be risk that makes sense.
Second Life is not likely to become a platform or transcend the web in any way that bodes well for long-term ROI.
Building a media property on Second Life just feels more like playing than pursuing a business strategy. Now if you could get Second Life users to do something creative and organic with your content and brand for you, with little work, energy, investment on your part, now you might be on to something. But making it a focus of development? I can’t see it right now. I can think of a lot better things to do with my business time.
There are so many things for digital media companies to do and mobile is crying out for attention — I’d deal with those priorities before wasting mental energy on SL.
Tell me if I’m wrong. I’m not a Second Life user, so maybe I’m missing something. Maybe someday I’ll get an SL account, get involved and retract everything I just said, but for now, consider me skeptical of the business or audience development value.
UPDATE: Flying home tonight I thought just a bit more about this post. First, I think I should make this clear: I have nothing against SL. If I had more time, as a hobby, I could see myself really getting into it. It is the kind of thing that can interest me. Second, I’m not sure I’ve been clear enough about looking at this as a business decision and how to manage resources. That’s the main point I’m trying to get at. I think experimentation is good and necessary, but it needs to be smart, balanced experimentation with clear objectives. Third, I can’t believe SL will ever be more than a niche vertical. I can’t believe that for most media comanies it will ever grow enough virtual audience to generate direct revenue. But again, I’m open to evidence that I’m wrong.
(Disclosure: I used to work with Dan.)