Cloud
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5/1/2007
02:31 PM
Tom Smith
Tom Smith
Commentary
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The First Slam-Dunk Second Life Strategy

In recent months, InformationWeek's Mitch Wagner has immersed himself in Second Life, chronicling much of the time he's spent there and positing many potential business applications for the virtual world. While he's argued persuasively to our readers and to his coworkers that SL has near-term business utility, I've been something of a skeptic.

In recent months, InformationWeek's Mitch Wagner has immersed himself in Second Life, chronicling much of the time he's spent there and positing many potential business applications for the virtual world. While he's argued persuasively to our readers and to his coworkers that SL has near-term business utility, I've been something of a skeptic.I'm not a regular user of SL, but the time I did spend there left me with serious questions about where big companies would ever get any return for their investment. My experiences at high-profile SL sites including Circuit City and Toyota fed my view that SL may be nothing more than this year's Internet fad.

While most of those questions linger, the light bulb went on for me when I read Mitch's latest SL installment, about a major push being made by the National Basketball Association. The NBA's the first example I see where SL is a great extension of its existing business model. Pro basketball is the very definition of a multimedia, cross-platform business that depends on the involvement and interaction of its audience/fan base, and where there's already an extensive set of options to "participate" in the NBA through multimedia products (think NBA games for the PS2, XBox and so on, to name just a few).

So it's not a leap to think about visting the NBA area in SL and using a virtual basketball court (H-O-R-S-E, anyone?), a real world-like shop where you can buy NBA gear for your avatar, a real-time feed of NBA scores and news, video lounges, avatar photos with the NBA championship trophy, an online video game and more.

I see other indicators that the NBA is doing SL right: corporate sponsorships that are undoubtedly underwriting parts of a very big investment and pulling key business partners into the strategy, plus the league commissioner's comment that it must rethink how "fans consume NBA content." Thanks to the Internet, we live in a content-driven business world. Basketball games are just another form of content, and the NBA is staking a leadership position in using SL as a means to make its content accessible to another audience.

For his part, Mitch weighs in with a blog entry on how the NBA is doing better than most in terms of appealing to fans and building out its community through SL. All his SL blog posts are archived here.

Can the NBA give SL the credibility it needs with business? Will the NBA or other established forms of entertainment get you to jump into SL? Share your view below.

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