Second Life Reality Check

From reading the trade press, you’d think every marketer was falling over themselves to get on Second Life, thinking the site’s popularity is exploding. But over at Valleywag, Clay Shirky parses the claimed numbers of “residents” and “logins” and finds huge discrepancies. He also suggests that reporters have simply parroted Linden Labs’ inflated numbers without question in their gushing profiles of Second Life.

This is the state of business reporting in an age when even the pros want to roll with the cool blogger kids. Got a paragraph that contains only two numbers, and they don’t match? No problem! Post it anyway, and on to the next thing.
The prize bit of PReporting so far, though, has to be Elizabeth Corcoran’s piece for Forbes called A Walk on the Virtual Side, where she claimed that Second Life had recently passed “a million unique customers.”
This is three lies in four words. There isn’t one million of anything human inhabiting Second Life. There is no one-to-one correlation between Residents and users. And whatever Residents does measure, it has nothing to do with paying customers. The number of paid accounts is in the tens of thousands, not the millions.

About Dan Goldgeier

Blogging on AdPulp since 2005, Dan Goldgeier is a Seattle-based freelance copywriter with experience at advertising agencies across the U.S. He is a graduate of the Creative Circus ad school, and currently teaches at Seattle's School of Visual Concepts. In addition, he is a regular columnist for Dan published the best of his columns in a book entitled View From The Cheap Seats: A Broader Look at Advertising, Marketing, Branding, Global Politics, Office Politics, Sexual Politics, and Getting Drunk During a Job Interview. Look for it on Amazon in paperback and e-book editions.


  1. I’m still amazed at the hype level of Second Life (and I say this as someone in PR) given how low the numbers are relative to companies at similar hype levels such as YouTube and MySpace.
    However, Second Life does tap into a futuristic vision so many people want to see happen – a truly virtual world. SL is, after all, a place where you can run a real business (on a real economy), create a life as you want it, and socially interact with only real people. Numerous books and movies have been created to tap into the desire to see this type of world happen.
    No, this doesn’t excuse the reality check on actual Second Life users. But it may explain why so many people want to see it as a huge success.