Reuters is Dead: Eulogy Given

by Alphaville Herald on 01/12/08 at 7:49 am

by Sigmund Leominster

There is a world of difference between the real world press and the Second Life press. Forgetting this can be fatal, as is evidenced by the recent departure of two journalistic organs, the Avastar and Reuters Second Life. The Herald reported the arrival of Reuters back in October 2006 and its departure in October 2008.

Sigmund Leominster delivers eulogy to empty house on Reuters island

Since then, Eric Reuters, aka Eric Krangel, has moved on to write for Silicon Alley Insider, a move that many in the blogosphere have used as proof that the entire Second Life virtual world is about to shuffle off its mortal coil and leave to join the choir invisible. A smaller number of writers in the same blogosphere – including this one – see nothing of the sort. The decline or otherwise of life-as-we-know it is a different issue than the closing of Reuters Island and the un-embedding of a reporter.

So why did Reuters actually leave? Was it some kind of protest against the policies and procedures of Linden Lab executives or could the reason be much more mundane? Curiously, Krangel’s most recent – and much quoted/vaulted article, Why Reuters Left Second Life, And How Linden Lab Can Fix It, doesn’t actually tell us anything about the why. In fact, all it does is tell us part of why Eric Krangel left, and what Eric Krangel thinks Linden Lab should be doing, whether or not Reuters has a presence in-world or not.

What’s curious is how many real world reports have been written using this single article as the ultimate reference point for “the Truth,” as if Krangel has some special insight into the workings of the whole of Second Life. But of all the reports I’ve read, no-one seems to notice he doesn’t actually explain WHY Reuters as a corporate entity pulled out. All he says is “So what happened? Is Second Life dying? No, but the buzz is gone.” That’s it. He does outline a list of four points that he thinks Linden Lab should address in order to improve, but these are, in fairness, not new.

It’s clear that postings to the Reuters site had been tailing off for a long time. Anyone who had been following the Reuters’ site was very aware that the posts were becoming menopausally irregular. Count ‘em. 29 news posts since July 2008. Was this because corporate Reuters wasn’t interested or that Eric Reuters wasn’t? After all, he did say that, “As part of walking my ‘beat,’ I’d get invited by sources to virtual nightclubs, where I’d right-click the dance floor to send my avatar gyrating as I sat at home at my computer. It was about as fun as watching paint dry” and “I didn’t find it compelling.” We could speculate that Reuters Second Life was always a ‘side project’ that Eric was allowed to do as-and-when, so long as it didn’t interfere with real work.

And what about the notion that, “The buzz has gone?” The issue with SL is simply that for many “residents,” it has become just like real life; tedious, repetitive, and punctuated by occasional fun things. One of the general issues with “news” in both real life and Second is that for 99.9% of the time, life is dull, mundane, trivial, and simply not interesting. After all, “drama is life with the dull bits cut out.” And there are certainly dull things that need to be cut out of Second Life existence.

Take a peek at many of the blogs dedicated to Second Life and you’ll read about how Cutiepie Wishmaker bought a divine new scarf that matches her awesome Armidi jacket, and how her boyfriend, Lovemuscle Hunkeyman, is such a sweetie and loves to take her dancing at Frank’s. Honestly, how interesting is that?

News of a meatier variety has to be chased and investigated just like in real life. The 0.9% of the time when shit DOES happen depends on the SL journalist pounding the beat, making connections, and gathering data. Then the text has to be turned into something interesting, something that beats “watching paint dry.”

Second Life reportage has to be a blend of topics because the audience is small and varied. You’re writing for a niche, in the same way that the editor of Quilting Weekly is – although the target audience is larger than that in Second Life. Depending on whose statistics you want to use, the target audience for Second Life residents remains small. Very small. Even if you assume everyone in the virtual world reads the SL press, it’s small. If the income from having an embedded reporter doesn’t pay that person’s salary, a decision has to be made. And one of the most painless ways of cutting people is “natural wastage” – folks leave. Krangel’s departure would provide an opportunity for corporate to discontinue embedded coverage.

The daily sturm und drang of Second Life cannot reach the level of real life. Nobody gives a monkey’s toss what happens in the virtual world unless it involves kinky sex and real life divorce.

So Reuters left SL for the oldest reason in the world – a small market that provided little return on investment. No conspiracy. No chicanery. No Second Life mafia offers that cannot be refused. Simple economics. Sure they intend to provide continued coverage as part of their general technology remit, but for now, Reuters’ Island remains an auditorium that ultimately proved to be a castle in the air.

12 Responses to “Reuters is Dead: Eulogy Given”

  1. epitaphs

    Dec 1st, 2008

    The Herald assures us that: “Nobody gives a monkey’s toss what happens in the virtual world unless it involves kinky sex and real life divorce.” Remember that line…

  2. Blah Blah Blah

    Dec 1st, 2008

    What the?!?! An interesting, well written article in the Herald? I must be smokin crack. Someone tell me I’m smokin crack!

  3. Witness X

    Dec 1st, 2008

    The answer is obvious to anybody with two neurons to rub together – Reuters left SL because Erik Krangel left Reuters, and coverage of SL was his pet project.


  4. YES!

    Dec 1st, 2008


  5. Mony Markova

    Dec 1st, 2008

    You are smoking crack.

  6. Darien Caldwell

    Dec 1st, 2008

    Well, I like Eric’s article. I think he does have insight, just as any user of the service has. What’s amazing is that Linden Lab doesn’t have this same insight. They seem completely blind to their own failings.

  7. Anonymous

    Dec 2nd, 2008

    Basically Reuters saw the failings of SL, and like a rat deserting a ship, they got smart and left before the passengers realized the ship was sinking. Linden Labs knows that they’re slowly failing, and expect to see them start taking drastic and desperate measures to try to reconnect with their users. You don’t hear too much about the g-team being overzealous anymore, you see more attempts at linden lab trying to get more attention on the mainland, making themed builds for people to inhabit, trying to make owning private land harder, etc. They’ll do everything short of actually doing what the customer actually wants.
    What people wanted as a virtual world where they can express themselves and create things. They wanted a huge sandbox, and like any sandbox, you’re bound to dig up a load of shit occasionally. Linden labs is too busy trying to sterilize their little sandbox and keep it too clean and neat so outsiders can look at it and go “okay, nice sandbox..” and when that fails they make it out as some capitalist utopia, attracting the lowest common denominator of customers. Scam artists, sleezebags, and people who would otherwise be slumlords with few people who actually just want to have fun. Naturally this brings a overly serious element to a platform that otherwise should be fun. Then you get those who see that these people who take a game as seriously as real life, and decide to fuck with them to no end. You get griefers and trolls, many who wish to nuke the system just for the sake of pissing off the serious business types. To prevent these “bread and butter” types that the company now sees as part of a cashflow and as part of their marketing, they crack down on everyone who don’t share the new super serious view of the game, they manage to get the griefers and the trolls banned for a few minutes, but the people who did nothing are now banned without question and cant get back in. They had to have owned something or been a marketing draw to be even taken seriously. Then the company decides to use these people they appeased by alienating the old customer base and original vision, to draw in bigger fish: corporate interests. To attempt to appease these entities, like the original customers, unless they have substantial investment in the game, they can easily be ignored, mistreated by new policies aimed at appeasing the new customers, or banned because they broke some obscure rule that can be interpreted in many ways intentionally. During all this, you have groups that form to “help” the company for their own gains, in the name of “security” when they really wanted a piece of the action and controlling what people can do or say for their own insane, depraved reasons. This helps alienate even more customers.
    The large companies, actually having some sense and seeing secondlife as nothing more than a quick advertising oppurtunity, get their use out of it, and leave in droves, leaving Linden Labs a scorned lover asking why the relationship ended. Now Linden Labs is doing an about face and trying to win back its abused customer base, but doing it in the worst manner possible through even more abuse and vindictive means.

    This is why Reuters left SL, they saw it as a way to get some advertising and hits in, and Eric may have gotten hooked on the Linden Kool-aid for a while, but after a while the taste got dull and he realized that it’s all an exercise in futility and left for greener pastures. Linden Labs needs to focus on building a world, not an economy or a real estate business. The people who still play it need to realize it is just a glorified chat room and not an alternative to life.

  8. Truth B Told

    Dec 2nd, 2008

    @ Anonymous

    Well Damn! Talk about nailing it on the head!

    Well put there Anony! Bravo!

    ///the crowd roars with appreciation///

    Finally some valuable insight and eloquence on this rag of a site…

    Pixeleen ~ you could LEARN a boat load from a single response/entry like this.

    Read it!

    Learn it!

    Know it!

    Live it!

  9. Sigmund Leominster

    Dec 2nd, 2008

    @anonymous: Some interesting comments there. I think there’s merit in the notion that the “large companies” will “leave in droves” because there is a very large difference in scale between a real world economy and the Second Life one. The return-on-investment expectations of big companies are..well.. big! The Second Life in-world market is small. The folks who do well in Second Life seem to be OK with (relatively) small returns. One clothing designer can make $100,000 per year and be happy with that, but a big company would not be interested if the cost to generate that was employing someone for, say, $60,000 plus the cost of nay benefits.

    And I agree that there are different types of people wanting to get different things out of Second Life. And if you were to look at how much money those people generate for themselves, you’d see a bell curve with a few folks at the “I got lots of money” end, an upper-middle class who “make something but not enough to quit the day job”,” and a bunch of the rest in the “who cares about making money, I just want to have fun.” There is, of course a group of “I sure want to make money but damn it, I suck at .”

    I don’t think there is anything wrong with wanting to make money from SL. And so long as there are fun-loving folks inhabiting the world who want to use their Amex accounts to buy virtual world stuff (land, houses, clothes, sex etc.) then all is well. And if you can have fun making money, what’s the problem? I personally think that people who pay $50 a time to walk around a field using funny sticks to knock balls into holes are crazy! So you can get a ball in a hole in 4 hits… whoop tee doo!

    How people “play” is very individual. And it’s curious to note that folks find it real easy to laugh at how OTHER people play, but try suggesting that THEIR way of entertaining themselves is weird and they go all defensive. Bass fishing? Man against fish? And the fish often wins? Stupid! And try watching “Extreme Cage Fighting” with the sound down – two hot, sweaty men rolling about entangled in each other and wearing only speedos? That’s like gay sex without the penetration. Yet there are “men” out there who would punch you in the face if you were to suggest that watching this is one step short of moronic idiocy.

    Mmh, I seem to have wandered a little from Reuters to gay sex. But hey, that’s why we read the Herald, yes?

  10. 2 cents

    Dec 5th, 2008

    Employers cut 533K jobs in Nov., most in 34 years
    Friday December 5, 10:41 am ET
    By Jeannine Aversa, AP Economics Writer
    Employers ax 533,000 jobs in Nov., most in 34 years; unemployment rate rises to 6.7 percent
    *Yahoo Finance

    2 Million lost jobs in the U.S. of A. this year – in reach!

    ///job losses speak for themselves///

    BRENT CRUDE FUTR (USD/bbl.) 39.660 -2.620 -6.20%

    Filling up at the pump to be a heck of lot cheaper going into 2009 – but where you gonna be driving – to the unemployment offices? Plus shit, your SUV is gonna get repo’d any day now – so – so much for $1.05/gal gas huh?

    ///the value proposition of everything is getting turned upside down///

    Retail bankruptcies on rise as consumer spending takes dive
    By Mae Anderson
    Tucson, Arizona | Published: 02.21.2008
    *The Associated Press

    And this was back in February. You still dumping spacebux into the Linden Research ass-trap when you could be storing up cash or paying for life’s “real” necessities?

    ///where’s your money going?///

    GM to lay off 2,000 more workers at 3 factories
    Friday December 5, 11:28 am ET

    AT&T to cut 12,000 jobs, 4 percent of staff
    Thursday December 4, 10:49 pm ET

    Factory orders drop more than expected in October
    Thursday December 4, 10:37 am ET
    Factory orders plunge bigger-than-expected 5.1 percent in October, sharpest drop in 8 years

    ///where’s your money coming from?///


    ///sorry to say your virtual escape doesn’t pay the bills///

    If you’re a paid account holder you’d better ditched the credit card relationship before 12/31/08 and make sure you call “billing” to get a written confirmation of that closed account status! Then, call your credit card company and make sure to block “Linden Lab” from further transactions – it’s the only way to be sure ya know and only takes a few minutes on the phone.

    Reliable inside sources state that “the cashflow crunch” for the Lab already started to get serious back in late September/early October…

    Don’t get stuck with your ass hanging out!

  11. 2 cents

    Dec 9th, 2008

    Sony to cut 8,000 jobs, 4 percent of work force
    Tuesday December 9, 12:09 pm ET
    By Yuri Kageyama, AP Business Writer
    `Back at square one’ — Sony to cut 8,000 electronics jobs, close plants

    Novellus Systems to cut work force, CEO’s salary
    Novellus Systems will cut work force by 10 percent, cut CEO’s salary as revenue declines
    Tuesday December 9, 2008, 10:33 am EST
    *Yahoo Finance

    More Layoffs: AT&T, DuPont, Credit Suisse, Belden, Viacom, Adobe
    AT&T (T) said it will layoff 12,000, 4% of its total workforce.
    DuPont (DFT) said it will layoff 2,500 full time and 4,000 contractor positions, with more to come in 2009.
    Credit Suisse (CS) said the company will layoff 5,300, 11% of its total workforce, primarily from its investment banking division.
    Belden (BDC), a St. Louis, MI-based manufacturer, said it will layoff 1,800, 20% of its workforce.
    Viacom (VIA.A) said the company will layoff 850, 7% of its total workforce.
    Adobe (ADBE) said the company will layoff 600 people.

    Gannett launched what is likely the biggest mass layoff in newspaper industry history yesterday, slashing 655 jobs by early this morning, in an increasingly desperate bid to return the troubled 102-year-old publisher to prosperity. The final tally could run into the thousands.

    Many more layoffs are expected today and tomorrow across the 85-daily community newspaper division, plus USA Today and the Detroit Free Press. As of 1:25 a.m. ET, only 17 papers had been accounted for, based on published accounts and Gannett Blog reader reports.

    ///where’s your money coming from?///

  12. Moggs Oceanlane

    Jan 16th, 2009

    nods at the article, reads the commentary with interest and bounces off.

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