Newsweek hypes the virtual ghost town

A year late to the party, Newsweek has discovered Second Life with its usual laughably bad timing. Its cultural speedometer fatally tuned to a slower-moving society, the weekly magazine has lavished the 3-D virtual world with gushing praise at the exact same moment that Wired, one of the first to hype Second Life, has abandoned it. In the August issue of Wired, media writer Frank Rose dissects the disastrous failure of corporate advertising in Second Life, as major brands used to measuring audiences in the millions find themselves lucky to count their Second Life audience in the hundreds. More highlights from the Wired piece — and lowlights from the Newsweek article — after the jump.

Newsweek hypes the virtual ghost town

Newsweek gets one thing right, at least — that the people who are determined enough to endure Second Life's buggy software and sluggish servers are those who are after the virtual sex. But in typical pinched-nose-Puritan fashion, it takes a while to admit it:

The people who are coming to this online universe aren't just socializing, however. They're also doing business, collaborating on research, teaching courses, dating and even having sex.
Wired's opus is less prudish:
Linden's in-world traffic tally, which factors in both the number of visitors and time spent, shows that the big draws for those who do return are free money and kinky sex.
Newsweek swallows wholesale Second Life maker Linden Lab's line that the virtual world is an advertising medium:
The multinational companies are using Second Life in a different way: some are holding staff meetings where avatars representing employees can discuss ideas via instant message, e-mail or Skype, in a souped-up virtual office. Others are using it to connect to customers.
Wired, meanwhile exposes the real reason why big brands are on Second Life:
"It had a lot to do with hype," admits [Coca-Cola's worldwide head of interactive marketing] Michael Donnelly.
And the very best part: Wired tacitly admits that its own infatuated experiment, which involved hiring San Francisco consultancy Millions Of Us to build a Second Life presence and running a 12-page guide.

Now that Newsweek has discovered Second Life, and Wired has uncovered it, can we bury this failed virtual world for good, please? Reuters, CNET, call home your correspondents. Speculators, cash in your Linden dollars. And someone, please, shut off the lights. Whatever's still going on in Second Life is something we don't want to watch.