Advertising on SL has been something of a minor theme on this blog of late. Most recently, I returned to the idea of LL using machinima collaboratively with users (via a competition) to help promote Second Life to the world at large. Prior to that, and paralleling Ciaran Laval, I’ve touched on the topic of the SL websites being perhaps a means for the Lab to leverage revenue through advertising as a means of helping to offset falling tier revenue – something which the Lab actually embarked upon recently.
The move has been met with mixed feedback from users, with many objections being raised (unsurprisingly) and some mistakenly believing they were somehow “milking” their own userbase – as if the revenue generated from the ads was coming directly out of their own pockets. Some of this negative feedback may have been driven by the initial ads displayed on things like people’s dashboards to start with, although it is evident now that LL are seeking to more robustly curate the nature of the ads with show up – not always successfully, but the improvements are there to be seen.
Some of the backlash against the new move appears to be on the grounds that advertising somehow devalues the SL brand. However, as Gywneth Llewelyn points out, the SL web properties potentially offer a rich vein of revenue flow which could significantly assist LL (with a potential beyond anything I admit to imagining).
Obviously, given my own stance on the matter, I’m supportive of the move – and have actually suggested it should be broadened to incorporate other SL web properties such as both our profile feeds (which already advertise SL in a case of “preaching to the converted”) and the Marketplace. The latter is something some have drawn the line at, alongside the use of people’s SL dashboard. Although objections to the use of former have been given with caveats, the idea of excluding either would appear to be counter-productive to the aim of helping to generate revenue for LL – simply because of the amount of traffic they generate.
Possibly in response to the wider negative reaction to the move, and in confirmation that LL very clearly see their web properties as a valuable source of revenue generation, the Lab has issued a Featured News blog post on the matter, covering both the current advertising and the moves to expand it, confirming that as of the 12th March, advertising will encompass the SL marketplace. The post reads in full:
As you may have noticed, we recently added some banner ads to SecondLife.com. Today, we’ve also added them to the Marketplace, and we’ll soon expand the program to other Second Life web properties as well. The placement of these ads is designed to be unobtrusive, as we don’t want them to interfere with your Second Life experience on the web, and we’re taking care to keep the content appropriate.
These ads are a great opportunity for advertisers to reach the large, global audience that visits the Second Life web properties every day, and we want to extend that opportunity to Second Life merchants as soon as we can. For Merchants, advertising on the Second Life web properties will be a new way to get their offerings in front of potential customers, while at the same time making the ads extremely relevant to every Second Life user who sees them.
We have some work to do before we can make the ads purchasable by Second Life business owners, and it’s too soon to say precisely when we’ll be able to, but we wanted to let you all in on this plan early on. We’ll blog again when we have more info to share, so keep an eye on this space!
That the ad spaces will be expanded to include user-run business should amount to good news, and help mitigate objections relating to ads appearing on the various SL web properties. Allowing SL businesses to use the capability (assuming they are in a position to do so) brings both added relevance to the ads and helps SL businesses promotion themselves to SL consumers across an even broader front.
Obviously, with regards to the Marketplace in particular, some careful consideration needs to be given to how advertising for SL business will sit alongside existing aspects of Marketplace promotion, such as listing enhancements. If merchants using the latter feel that the advertising option is undermining the listing enhancement options, then it is likely that there could be a wider withdrawal from the latter than has been experienced in the past when the scheme has hit problems.
Some have called for those with Premium accounts to escape the advertising. There’s actually some merit in this – other websites offer “advertising opt-outs” on payment of a fee, so given that Premium members have already paid out, then automatically opting them out from any advertising campaign of this nature is liable to go down very well (and potentially make Premium accounts a little more attractive than offering-up cars, boats, planes and other trinkets). Certainly, I wouldn’t be against seeing the ads vanish from my views of the various SL website – although I don’t actually see them as actually impinging on my SL experience as it is.
Whether such an “opt out” could actually be easily achieved, however, is perhaps a matter of debate. As we’ve seen in matters of logging-in etc., the various SL web properties are perhaps not as well-integrated as they first appear, making any attempts to “ring-fence” Premium accounts from the advertising, even were LL so minded (which I actually doubt) potentially harder than may first appear.
Given the initial reaction to the advertising move, it’ll be interesting to see what the response to the news that the programme is being expanding is liable to be.