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  ‘LivePlanet’ Bumbles Into ‘Second Life,’ ‘Warcraft’  
Posted 2007-08-13 by Tony Walsh
"Are virtual worlds ready for a CNN to call their own?" The Hollywood Reporter asks, pointing to mainstream media venture LivePlanet which intends to embed reporters in virtual worlds Second Life and World of Warcraft.

Yes, virtual worlds are ready for "a CNN" to call their own--in fact, there has been a thriving "native" media scene inside Second Life for years. Wagner James Au was the first embedded writer in Second Life, followed soon after by myself (less embedded than external) and dishy tabloid The Second Life Herald--we were the first wave of writers alluded to in a recent Columbia Journalism Review article on journalism in Second Life. Since then, a legion of in- and out-world publications and broadcasters have been covering Second Life. It also bears mentioning that nearly every attempt to broadcast regular video reports from Second Life has failed, including the corporate-backed Grid Review. Why LivePlanet thinks it has a chance of success here is beyond me.

Second Life may be a challenge to cover because there's no need for another news agency, but Warcraft has its own issues. Primarily, there is no unified "world" in which a single group of players reside. Warcraft's player-base is so vast that dozens of individual instances of the world run simultaneously--what happens in one instance has no effect on any other. The events of the world don't affect all of its inhabitants in the same way as Second Life, and that's why we don't see more active in-world media coverage of Warcraft. Again, LivePlanet doesn't seem to know what it's getting into here.

My prediction is that LivePlanet bombs within a year, if not sooner.

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Comment posted by Urizenus
August 14, 2007 @ 12:23 am
They forgot to say they were the *1st* media outlet in SL. Or maybe they did and I missed it.

Anyway, Tony, I agree with your assessment. First, on the WoW beat, I think consumers are only going to be interested in their own shards, which means you would have to shard the news coverage as well. That's doable if you have enough bodies, and you can also syndicate stories that might be of interest in other shards.

I'm not at all clear on what they can add to the SL media scene -- note how the German Tabloid "Bild" set up their idea of a virtual tabloid and it was never heard from again. I also take your point that The Grid Review didn't set the world on fire.

Packaged video media is problematic because it can't help but look like push media in virtual worlds, especially since we have plenty of SL video content on YouTube already. Do SLers really want to sit down in their virtual dens and have someone package video for them because they don't know how to find SL videos on YouTube?

Beyond this, my sense is that the SL media consumers are all about dissecting every single word and commenting on it, correcting it, riffing on it, linking to it, etc. There really is a kind of literary dimension to these worlds that shows their roots in the MUDs and MOOs of yore.

More problematic though is what exactly you can convey about virtual worlds in video. A talking head report won't work, and most of the topics are hard to represent visually (although not impossible). Outsiders see the eye candy and think that's where the story is, but of course the real stories are in the social dynamics of the space and those elements are very very difficult to record and successfully communicate in video format.

Still, I think an effort like this is fine, since the more robust the media ecology of SL becomes the better for all of us. I just think that if these people plan on making money (or recouping even a fraction of their investment) they may be in for a rude surprise.
Comment posted by Hamlet Linden
August 14, 2007 @ 1:03 am
Bring tha pain, Zero!

I really do think WoW could use its own reporters, and I don't know if shards are such a big issue, ultimately. Lot of great sociological drama going on with clans and guilds and such, I think WoW players will still be interested even if it's not happening on their particular shard. In fact, I'll bet better stories will make certain shards more popular than others.
Comment posted by Gary Hayes
August 14, 2007 @ 1:23 am
Also worth mentioning what IMHO is proving to be a successful foray into this space namely ( ) - who are producing better and better interviews, magazine style shows, event shows and so on.

I personally think there is a future for video from inworld out (especially now that voice is becoming ubiquitous and groups of individuals can provide far more dynamic and innovative content than bringing over formulaic old media news forms into the mix. So I suspect anyone who comes into any Virtual World expecting to run it like a TV station should not bother, those who are here to R&D;and pioneer new forms, especially synchronous Mixed Reality, you have my blessing - blesses himself ;-)

Comment posted by Tony Walsh
August 15, 2007 @ 11:43 am
Thanks for the informative commentary, folks. Sounds like we're all pretty much on the same page here. I think video reports from SL or Warcraft could be a great bridge from "gamer" to "mainstream" culture if done right, but I don't think many people are doing it right yet [cross-referencing with Uri's "More problematic though is what exactly you can convey about virtual worlds in video."]

Hamlet, I totally agree WoW could use its own reporters. I have seen some mock video reports filed from in-world and I think players would be interested in reports on a per-shard basis. The pity with WoW is that it's non-trivial to move one's character between shards.

Gary, thanks for the SLCN mention, I should have cited them in the article as an example of a video effort which has survived longer than expected.
Comment posted by Wiz Nordberg
August 22, 2007 @ 6:40 am
Thanks for the mention, Gary!

IMHO, you can apply big media metaphors to virtual worlds quite successfully, but not big media marketing and measuring. This is a market of well-connected communities whose activities revolve around special interests. The opportunity is to use big media metaphors while creating segmented small-market programs that connect small groups such as building groups, sports groups, educational groups, warring factions and virtual politics.

While there may be an "out of world" audience for virtual world news, it can't last. There is no mass market for this stuff yet. People are becoming bored of hearing people ranting on and on about virtual lives. Instead, very small media efforts need to focus on ways to monetize across small special-interest groups and reach those who ARE well-engaged with small, but measurably successful programming.

It sounds a lot like community television. I avoid the comparison because community TV is perceived so negatively by many. But, if there is any model out there for virtual worlds TV, that's it.
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