CNN has just joined Reuters and the BBC by opening a news outlet in Second Life (SL). The Cable News Network will create a variation of its "i-Reports," which is what CNN terms its method for the average citizen to contribute eyewitness reports. CNN will equip Second Life citizens with kits enabling them to transmit copy and photos. In-world, you will be able to get the latest news via kiosks scattered throughout the synthetic landscape.
As I have said, there have been many lessons for marketers to learn as they take their first steps into synthetic worlds. American Apparel and Starwood Hotels, two brands that established a presence in Second Life, have closed them down. Visitors at other marketing spots are sparse. As for whether Second Life will generate news events, I would not be worried. Many of the visitors to the synthetic world include regular TV news making personalities like Bono, Elvis Costello, Judge Richard Posner, Mia Farrow, U..S. military strategist Thomas Barnett and Newt Gingrich to name a few.
Meanwhile, research company The Yankee Group recently produced a report on Second Life detailing a "pronounced" decline in usage. Senior analyst Christopher Collins said Second Life's claims of more than 10 million avatars skewed perceptions of its popularity. "The people that are active there tend to be very active," Collins said. On the other hand, many users come to Second Life and are "frustrated, confused and don't find it immediately compelling," he added.
I am not certain of the total value of the Yankee Group's report. I don't think they have caused any serious revelations on the part of academics or financial analysts. Today, synthetic worlds serve certain social media needs. And media outlets may be over-hyping audience expectations for their experiences in these destinations. The real value of Synthetic world's have yet to be realized from a socio-economic and cultural perspective. But, the presence of these news outlets means more adoption and as a result the further convergence of meaning for events in the both the synthetic and natural world. Cool stuff.