Pooky Amsterdam on 5 Reasons to Use Second Life as a Media Platform

Today's guest post is from the Second Life media guru and Treet.tv staple Pooky Amsterdam. In her post, Amsterdam argues for the expanded use of Second Life as a platform for ambitious virtual media operations.

Amsterdam, who needs no introduction, is the host of Second Life's "The 1st Question," a machinima producer, and an advocate of machinima and Second Life as emergent platforms for engaging both business and entertainment.

2nd_Quest-_Pooky_2_b Filming a live broadcast program for the internet where people can log
in from all over the world and participate is riskier than Formula 1
race car driving, so agreed Richard Bartle, the father of the MUD.

It
is very rewarding, and I am breaking the virtual ceiling with it, as my
show every Tuesday night, The 1st Question attests. It is an
increasingly popular weekly phenomenon.

Giving people rewards for
engagement is a trend likely to continue as you win peoples hearts and
minds when you give them something palpable to play with and of course
watch.I am also on the forefront of real time Multi User Virtual
Environment (MUVE) entertainment, and my company PookyMedia is award
winning for the machinima (Cinema done on machine) we produce.

Continue reading below the fold!

I use Second Life as the platform upon which to produce, and know like
days of yore when Television began live, that this is indeed The Golden
Age of the Internet. In these heady days of social media marketing, the
very real time MUVE of Second Life is rarely mentioned.

Understanding
how to use Second Life has more to do with how you use it, and is more
complicated than using 140 characters at a time or how to increase the
number of people who follow you peripherally. It can be used for very
cost – effective, targeted and relevant marketing. It is somewhat of an
art form, as advertising is also an art form and has taken years of
production experience to develop what I, and my team know.

The
failure of business to really connect here is due to a lack of
understanding of the real marketing potential inherent in Second Life.
It is what takes place around the companies virtual presence that will
enhance the brand. It is about building a community.

Many brands are
trying to do that now, jumping in, and using any one of the social
media sites such as twitter, facebook, MySpace. I also found it was
futile to resist and have accounts on all 3 of those. However the
platform I know and breathe and produce real content on daily is Second
Life.

In order for a company to take full advantage of what this
has to offer, they must have expert advice which can not be found from
most marketing people or even social media faddists who have limited
exposure and understanding of what Second Life is.

Any marketing
experiment can fail. Budgets are being slashed because they have.
Companies are taking this into their own hands and to be honest this is
a great thing as the company really understands their own product.
Companies however do need to know how to negotiate Second Life and more
importantly, how to use it with great effectiveness. This is my
platform and I do share.

Below is a description of just how I have made use of this, with video examples.

Overview

Second Life as a media platform is encompassed in a variety of ways

1- To construct entertainment to show on websites.
2-
To create branded communities which will appeal to marketers, consumers
and companies, offering the setting / backdrop for ongoing video series.

3- As a platform for films, story boards and training films which can be made for a fraction of outworld cost.
4-
As a platform for entertainment for inworld audiences who can log in
and participate in live online viewer entertainment which can also be
filmed and archived for later watching by web audience.

5- As a
platform for entertainment which can be viewed outworld through live
streaming, which is Chat Bridge enabled allowing the audience to engage
right along with the show.

The Spy Who Lives Here

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zdVwkUcuxmk

In
order to construct entertainment here, one has to understand how to use
this platform for it. And how to film upon it. It means also
understanding the strengths which Second Life has and playing to them.

Visually,
set construction is a huge plus, the ability to create or recreate
major structures, whether of fantasy, or from reality is great– as we
see in the above example using a virtual Big Ben. Architecturally using
Second Life as a backdrop or set with the help of expert builders is a
great strength, it just looks terrific and is very cost effective to
build.

Entertainment is of course different for different
people. PookyMedia likes to create videos which have broad appeal.
Video content is increasingly important for any site, and to be honest,
having just a flat page with text is no longer acceptable for any
serious website’s product or service.

We are trained visually to accept
standards of not only production value but also of content. Perhaps the
“YouTubing” of our multiple generations has elicited this effect, but
we expect to see moving pictures. First it was “OMG I have a picture on
the internet” (remember how long you were willing to wait for one to
download!) – then it was “OMG look at this flash effect its moving!”
and now its- I don’t want to watch unless it is moving and is
entertaining or informative. And relevant.

Ads that run on
websites with related content are 61% more likely to be recalled than
ads running on sites with unrelated content, according to Condé Nast
and McPheters & Company, which released additional data from an
earlier study about ad effectiveness in various media. This means of
course targeted advertising, and video advertising is among the most
important.

According to a new study by Frank N. Magid
Associates, commissioned by Meta Cafe, the report finds that consumers
are finding online video as entertaining and engaging as traditional
Television spots in some cases. The number of people watching is
growing exponentially. According to TechCrunch in June, the real number
of streams/day, is above 1.2 billion/day worldwide.

That pretty much
means everyone on the Internet, on average, is watching one YouTube
video per day. Video is beyond important at this point; indeed it is a
way of life.A study from comScore concluded that “Adding this human
touch gives the user confidence in the web site and company, increases
trust in their brand and turns visits into inquiries.” Now a hallmark
of professionalism, as well as effective customer integration, video
has become extremely important.

Creating good looking avatars
for film parts and as spokesmodels too is a great strength of the
platform. I recently was looking at style.com surfing the fall fashion
shows for 2009, and saw that Vera Wang had a Sitepal face talking- much
like a talking head, I couldn’t help wonder if this done on Second Life
wouldn’t have been so much better looking and engaging.

I also
recommend prototyping an expensive movie or commercial first using
Second Life. Storyboarding that saves time, money and creates a visual
impact which can not be easily or as cost-effectively seen otherwise.

Advertising
follows the eyes. Outsell Inc., a media research and advisory outfit
revealed its most recent annual marketing study which predicted $65
billion will be siphoned away from traditional advertising channels in
2009 and spent instead on companies' own Web sites and Internet
marketing. To scale that, compare the total U.S. TV and cable
advertising revenue for 2009, which is about $66 billion. The marketing
dollars companies now spend on their own sites is equivalent to all TV
ad revenue for the year.

More than $80 million poured into
Internet TV startups in the first quarter of this year, new marketers
are jumping into the world of Web programming and online video is one
of the few mediums that will grow this year.

Obviously video is
optimizing very quickly, what will the content be? Production value is
important and branding is important too for companies who want to get
the customers attention. The question really is how to get them to
interact with their brand?

Beer Break

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8rpYjHKPCpY

Another
way to use Second Life as a media platform is to engage the customer
with the brand. A few years ago JWT CEO Bob Jeffrey was quoted as
saying “Time is the new currency. Our job is to ensure that more people
spend more time with our client’s brands. We need to create ideas that
people want to spend time with. The better the idea the more time
people spend with it.”

This was repeated recently by Jon Gibs,
vice president, media analytics at Nielsen Online when he released a
report a few months ago and noted importance for marketers has to do
with time spent. "Measures of advertising online should be time-based
measures rather than impression-based measures. Instead of buying 100
million impressions on a Web site, it would be buying X% of a person's
time."

The next step, according to Geoff Ramsey, co-founder and
CEO at eMarketer, "is to overlay the data that is unique to the online
space and provides a digital footprint measuring how the consumer is
engaged with the brand over a period of time." Again a measure of how
the consumer spends time with the brand, where they interact and that
will illuminate much. Where is the best place for customers to interact
with a brand? Virtual worlds offer a tremendous opportunity for this in
a variety of ways.

After you watch Beer Break, think of this as
I make the point that branded communities are something I can author
for a company in a significant way on Second Life What can be
accomplished with a Site such as Second Life is the shared experience,
and beautifully done so as well. Advertisers are missing out on the
opportunity here to allow their customers the chance to really interact
with their brand. And by that I don’t mean just throw up a mall, or an
empty building filled with stuff and hope people find it.

I
propose to give people a targeted reason to come onto Second Life,
using film and create a program, a tournament, a sponsored competition
(surfing?) and / or happening for people to go to on a regular basis.
Being represented by avatars, people can say, “Look! That is me, my
avatar on that program or commercial.” Compelling and interesting, this
is part scripted show and part Virtual reality TV. (And yes if they are
being filmed there has to be a TOS understanding at the event that this
will be filmed)

If the live event is taking place on a regular
basis, people will tune into it. We are still version 1.0 Human. We
will embrace “Appointment Internet.” We will embrace the predictable
event- TV has made that happen when at 8PM Sunday night in the US we
all tuned into….What?

Yes Ed Sullivan- one thing I will digress for
a moment upon is the observation that having edited and valuable and
well produced content will never be irrelevant. YouTube is great, it’s
not going away, but could you imagine Ed Sullivan (or even David
Letterman if you are not old enough to recall ED) letting the first 5
people on air that night who showed up outside of his studio? Of course
not- Professional entertainment is professional.

Sure people can get
lucky and get hundreds of thousands of hits or more with a kitten or a
baby biting his brother’s finger- but to be honest- to be professional
means delivering a quality product, on time and on a regular basis.
Instead of scrambling for the next accidental video hit, companies need
to build their consumer alliances, delivering value for their customer
today, they can count more on the customer delivering loyalty to them
tomorrow.

So to be considered a professional marketing
environment- the company needs to establish a location for their
audience to visit- they need to establish an activity for that audience
to engage in, and they need to offer a compelling reason to return.
Community, other people, fun things to do, prizes and the possibility
of it being filmed and shown where one can say- “Hey, I was there!” has
tremendous pull. Anyone who wants to attract potential customers has to
provide something that will engage them, make them want to know more
about the product and give them a reward for positive engagement with
that product.

For example- if you were a Heineken drinker all
your life and there was a game called Bowling for Budweisers which was
fun to play, on Second Life. There could be a bowling alley and you
could get a great 50’s retro style outfit to wear for free and you
could bring your date there, you would begin playing, and have fun.
There might even be a leader board there and you could win something
cool if you were the top score that month. I don’t care if you have
drunk Heineken all your life, you will eventually pick up a Budweiser,
because it has become a part of your life and part of your play.

And
let’s say there was a webisode series also filmed around the people at
a bowling alley sponsored by Budweiser. Filmed weekly, with script, set
and regular characters this would give people also an entertaining
series, filmed for a fraction, I mean a fraction of what an outworld
produced series would cost.

You have activity, you have an audience not
only spending time with your brand but actively engaged with it. And
they are also able to come to the set where the series is filmed. They
do not have to travel to Universal Studios to see it. The entire
webisode series becomes part of the identification process people have
with the brand.

A few companies are doing targeted webisodes,
but not yet out of Second Life – Nestea is doing one, so is Alloy
sponsoring one called “Privates” based on a teenage detective style
novel 6 -7 minutes long, it will be available on the web only.
Webisodes of under 10 minutes are flourishing, they also cost $25,000
an episode to film and edit. PookyMedia can do this for $7,500. Cost
effective is a very important part of anyone’s marketing strategy today.

There
is the terminator series on machinima.com which is being paid for by
Warner Bros Terminator Salvation: The Machinima Series follows Blair
Williams, across a post-nuclear Los Angeles in six original episodes.
It is the first long-form dramatic machinima series produced by a major
studio.

That’s great and Warner’s is saving big bucks- but
what’s missing?

I see the opportunity for them to create “Terminator
Park” somewhere in a MUVE where people who like the Terminator
franchise can roleplay around it, and possibly become part of an
ongoing community around the product. For the amount of money Warner’s
spends they could buy an island in Second Life for a year and for
roughly $25,000 they could have their own Terminator development module
here, invite people in to film for a competition or design new
costumes, assets etc for their next series- a lost opportunity for
gaining great user generated content. Okay maybe not lost I’ll get my
people call their people.

I do not think anyone is now
discounting the value of games played online as a potential for
reaching customers as it is predicted that spending on ingame
advertising will reach 1 billion by 2014.

Here is a way to
engage ones customers right literally and figuratively where they live
& where they play – this is an important point because it also
shows us that the marketing community is becoming more and more
comfortable as the consumer leads them to what they are comfortable
with- cartoon like images and small representational characters are
well within the realm of the accepted senses and this should not be
ignored.

So indeed Second Life can offer a great platform upon
which to build a branded community for a large variety of products and
services.

And to market any of this will not take any additional dollars but be a piggy back on existing advertising.

New
research from Affinity confirms that magazine ads with URLs are more
likely to drive readers to advertiser websites overall, as well as
across a range of genres. Even if "drive to web" is not the goal of the
advertising campaign, including a URL to boost web visits is a benefit
most advertisers will appreciate. All a company needs in any of their
ads which already exist is a line of drop out type that gives the name
of the URL, the type of event and the happening. On Second Life this
means cost effective and valuable and community building it also
answers the very important requirement of time spent with the brand.

The Association for Corporate Growth / Merrill Datasites

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SAkTrBP6d8s

Another
way for Second Life to be used as a marketing platform is using it as a
backdrop with which to film cost effective and targeted training films.
Not only films which espouse the benefits of using Second Life for
business, though of course this is a valuable use of platform but to
use it to tell the story to the corporation and the public they wish to
reach. Yes and here we see an example of a video created for a well
known corporate entity that used it as an actual filming platform-

We
were able to recreate parts of Las Vegas and film this for a client
saving them 10 to 15 times in real money what this would have cost.
Even more because as you will see we were able to recreate as avatars,
people whose appearance fees alone would be several times what the
entire video cost to make- Cost effective, as well as green, no
frequent flier miles were spent in the making of this video, and the
electricity we used was based out of our local utilities alone. Money
and fuel is saved in the making of this video as no one had to get on a
plane or into a car to make this video happen.

It shows exactly
what the client wanted it to show. For the person attending the
conference for the first time, it gave them a virtual video playbook of
what was going to happen that weekend. It completely prepared them for
what to expect, and even gave them clues as to what to pack. The
benefits of preparedness for a high level conference is a direct return
on the investment for those business professionals, and for the
sponsors of the conference.

As one can build 3D models of not
only buildings, but also of product, engines, machines, fashion and
anything that exists in the world, Second Life offers the tremendous
ability to create videos for training, for informational purposes and
for exposition.

The Dating Casino

http://blip.tv/file/2153569

Another
way that Second Life can provide a media platform is for something I
hold very dear to my heart- I produce 2 live shows here, The Dating
Casino which is on hiatus until September, and the 1st Question which
will film its 60th episode this week.

I believe it is time for
the world of marketing, which is fueled by advertising and products, to
take a deeper look at Second Life which provides a perfect opportunity
for people are able to get there for free, from anywhere in the world,
any time they want to and enjoy the social experience of real time
interaction. What the marketing community must realize is that Second
Life is a social media platform, and that in order to tap into this
they must offer something to spend time with.

The Dating Casino
has 3 men and 3 women reveal their likes, dislikes and needs to know
regarding the opposite sex. Through the use of a matrix board which is
technically scripted to record points when a match is made, points are
accumulated throughout the game.

This is yet another strength of the
platform. These are great boards and set show pieces which are
developed by my team and used in broadcast to “light – up” and be part
of the set’s ongoing visual activity. “The Matrix Board of Love” shows
where the points are being accrued. The podiums before which the
contestants stand have their answers on them when they are asked, and
the questions and the multiple choice answers are also on a fabulous
looking graphic board for the audience and viewer at home to see.

The
set looks fantastic. The Dating Casino also encourages the audience to
reveal their preferences to the questions asked as the contestants also
answer in real time. They play along with the game and have a lot of
fun doing so. Development of cool visual tools to further the game and
the show is very important in having the broadcast look great.

The
Dating Casino is one example I would like to see picked up by a major
sponsor, and then incorporate the sponsor right into the show in the
best traditions of The Golden Age of TV. No pre roll, mid roll or end
roll. The sponsor is part of the show itself, and the people watching
don’t stop as it is seamlessly incorporated into it.

And I will
acknowledge that sound is one of the big issues for Second Life and
being able to negotiate this is a critical part of doing an effective
on air show. The good news is that sound has been improved greatly
through the use of Skype for broadcasting and recording. This will only
get better.

The 1st Question

http://archive.treet.tv/1st-question-golden-anniversary

I
produce shows that people are thrilled to be a part of. The 1st
Question has a weekly audience which loves playing along as the show is
taped, yes live. They watch it in video archived on the site
afterwards, and it has become very popular. It is the Quiz Show to The
Stars! The audience interacts as if they are also the stars, and to be
honest, they are. It is a fast paced hour with the audience voting
along, and guessing the answers to the questions in real time as it
happens.

I originated this kind of viewer log in entertainment
on another MUVE, HabboHotel and can attest to the popularity among all
age groups of being able to take part in live entertainment. But it has
to have merit, it has to be well produced and it has to have content in
order for it to be viewed and for it to grow an audience.

Game
shows are cheaper to produce outworld as well- one game show cost
$90,000 USD to create, here I could do 20 shows for that amount. VERY
cost effective. 'The Price is Right' made its TV debut in November,
1956, over 50 years ago, and it is still on TV! Games shows are
obviously a very good & valuable entertainment commodity.

Pookymedia
is producing original game shows on the internet, with another 16 shows
that we would like to develop with the right sponsor and broadcast
partner.

The 1st Question is streamed live and the ability to
stream media is also huge here of course. Streaming video and music
will generate more than $78 billion in network-derived and
content-derived revenue over the next six years in the United States,
according to a recent study by The Insight Research Corp.

The streaming
market is projected to grow at a compound annual rate of 27 percent
over the next five years, driven by on-demand audio, on-demand video
and the accompanying advertising revenue. "Over the past seven years,
as we've tracked the developments in streaming it has evolved from an
esoteric niche to a mainstream market," said Robert Rosenberg, Insight
Research president. "What we predicted way back when is coming to
fruition. The advertising revenue that long supported traditional TV is
gravitating to this new medium, putting downward pressure on
traditional TV distribution schemes.”

The kind of live stream
shows that can be originated on Second Life are exciting and broad in
appeal. Live streaming also includes the use of a chatbridge which
facilitates a much larger audience and enables people to play right
along with the game. And viewer log in comments are a way to attract
and build an audience.

There are other audiences, whose needs
could also be addressed in this manner, including business and news
reportage. To stream a nightly business report with an expert panel and
offer people from around the country and world the ability to find an
open networking happening every night relevant to their business,
relative to their interests is huge. And would make use of the
expertise and personality of the people who know their field.

Connecting with the viewer is what we can now offer, in ways that only
the internet allows. Use of this technology will propel the shows and
sponsors who employ it. Second Life offers real opportunity for
programming, community building and branding.

In Conclusion

In
thinking about how people view video, it pays to think about how people
already view video. The experience of watching is certainly not new,
and there are loads to understand and appreciate about viewing patterns
inherent in the traditional TV audience. The screen has shifted yes,
but the same eyes remain firmly in place the species “video on the
Internet” is very different from “traditional TV programs” but the
species Human has not changed so very much, for example:

The
average number of TV channels that people actually watch has only gone
from 10 channels in 2005 to almost 16 channels in 2006, despite the
number of channels going up from an average of 41 to 104. The relevance
here is that people have “viewing habits” whether on the Internet or
television.

People will go back to the same thing again & again if
they get something they like there. The Internet caters to people’s
tastes and, according to PodTrac, a high percentage of Internet
audience members tend to listen or watch the same“station” (for lack of
a better word, or “site” if you prefer.) Think of yourself, what number
of different actual sites do you go to willingly? Do you tend to visit
the same sites over and over again? I think we all do. That’s why we
have cookies.

The beauty is there are so many ways to engage the
viewer, consumer and to benefit an interactive audience. The Virtual
World platform is unique. Second Life is all of this.

Here is an
opportunity to involve and entertain an audience on a regular basis,
offer compelling and cost-effective video product.

2 thoughts on “Pooky Amsterdam on 5 Reasons to Use Second Life as a Media Platform”

  1. Nice breakdown of all the different uses of machinima!
    I think slowly but surely, mainstream media is starting to see this as a viable source. If not ready to adapt it yet, new advances will surely make them reconsider. Technology changes so fast!
    I invite Pixels and Policy readers to research further on machinima. I do machinima with ALM Productions: http://www.alm-productions.net Hoping to share a few of our works:
    http://vimeo.com/4056788 That is an example of a storyline machinima IBM did to sell their software. they chose to go the narrative route- which was really effective! I had the honor of being machinimatographer for this piece.
    I also think mixed media projects work really well. A combo of real life and machinima. It’s a nice way to bridge the two worlds together. Hope it’s ok if I share this as well 😀
    http://vimeo.com/7055104
    Thanks Pooky for the nice article!

  2. The way that Pooky uses machinima is inspirational and really should be looked upon as an example when it comes to explaining its uses to those outside of the SL community.
    Her work and that of her group is always technically spot on.

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