COSMOGIRL, THERE, AND MARKETING IN VIRTUAL WORLDS
MARCH 24, 2008
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Welcome, everyone, to another session of Metanomics for
another Multi-World show. Some of our audience is in Second Life as usual, but our guests
are here with me in There.com. So hello to the Thereians in the audience with us here. Hello
to Second Lifers on CMP Islands one, two, three and four. Our regular viewers know
Metanomics presents an interview or panel discussion on business and policy issues in
Virtual Worlds every Monday at 11:00 A.M. Pacific time. And this is a rather unusual
Multi-World edition, which is a little harder to pull off than usual. So kudos to our team at
Second Life Cable Network, to CMP and to There, all of us working together to make this
As always, a tremendous thanks to our sponsors SAP, Cisco Systems, Generali Group,
Saxo Bank, Kelly Services, Sun Microsystems and, of course, my own institution, Cornell’s
Johnson Graduate School of Management, for supporting me in this weekly show.
I’d like to remind everyone that Metanomics has a Facebook group and a Twitter account,
both called Metanomics. And you can get information from our website metanomics.net.
Well, we’re delighted to be back here in There again. Our three guests today are
Morgan Brooks, associate promotion manager of CosmoGIRL, which is a Hearst
entertainment property; Michael Wilson, CEO of There.com; and Mary Ellen Gordon, of
Market Truths. Welcome, everyone, to the show.
Before we jump into the show, I just want to mention that I do all sorts of things in preparing
for Metanomics every week and, when we go into a new World, I try to hang out and have a
little fun and see what people are doing. So I came here to CosmoGIRL Village and met a
couple people doing much what we are doing now. They were filming a TV show right here
So now, as my T-shirt says, you can see I am a fan of the BlackRose Show, which is a
Thereian talk show for all members of There. It’s hosted by a couple people sitting out in our
audience right now. Hopefully, SLCN can get the camera on them. They are SaphireRose
and DamnEdge. And so what they do is, they go around, they meet new faces, they
discover talent, they cover designs and just have a lot of fun. You can see their stuff on
YouTube. Just search for the BlackRose Show or DamnEdge, which actually is spelled
D A M N E D G E, but pronounced, I understand, “Damage.” At least that’s what I’m going to
say on Metanomics, which is a PG show, much like There.com.
So anyway, thanks Saphire and DamnEdge, for showing me to an amusement park today,
taking me for an incredible spin down a mountainside. And it was also nice to see you all
wearing the clothes that you’re set to wear for this week’s upcoming prom hosted by
CosmoGIRL and Acuvue Contact Lenses. And it really is the reason that we’re here on the
So I’d like to start off by talking with Morgan Brooks from CosmoGIRL about what you’re
doing in There and, of course, about the prom that’s coming up this week. So welcome to
MORGAN BROOKS: Thank you very much. Yeah, so we’re very excited about our first
annual CosmoGIRL virtual prom. It really is sort of innovative for us, and our readers love
the prom. We have a special prom issue in March. We also have a special totally prom
issue that goes on sale as well, and it’s available on a newsstand. So it seemed sort of a
natural fit for us to have a virtual prom since we have this There.com partnership, and it’s
been really successful, and we just have grown the number of people that come to the
CosmoGIRL Village. So it’s taking place on Thursday, with our partners Acuvue and ABC
Family. You see their billboards are up. It’s just a great event for members to come to. We
also have a couple of pre-prom events leading up to the big night and sort of getting people
engaged and excited about the virtual prom. And we hope to have a really good turnout.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Well, I can attest just walking through, actually not just
CosmoGIRL Village right here, but also when I was going around to some of these other
areas in the World. People are talking about it. People are wearing tuxedos and prom
dresses and tiaras and all sorts of things.
So you mentioned that you’re doing this prom to take advantage of the partnership you have
with There, and so I thought it might make sense to just start with that partnership for a little
bit. What is it exactly that brings CosmoGIRL into There instead of, I guess, for one thing,
doing more traditional non-Virtual World activities, and, for another thing, why this World
instead of others?
MORGAN BROOKS: Right. Well, at CosmoGIRL we always try to be where our readers
are, and our readers are obviously reading the magazine, but they’re also using their cell
phones. They’re also online. And the next big thing has been the Virtual World and the
social community that people have really thrived on and getting to know one another and
making friendships and relationships. So we saw that that was happening, thought it was a
great opportunity for us to go. Our readers are already there. Our readers are already
participating in these social communities so it made sense for CosmoGIRL to be there as
well and have sort of a CosmoGIRL hangout for all of our readers, as well as members in
the Virtual Worlds.
And There.com was the perfect sort of synergy for us because it is PG-13. Everything is
clean. It’s just very CosmoGIRL friendly, you could say, and so it just made sense as a
natural partner for us. And also, we do a lot of consumer events, a lot of events where our
readers can come and sort of experience the magazine. And There.com has allowed us to
have virtual event space and has allowed us to create events where CosmoGIRL readers
across the globe and around the country are able to really sort of participate if they couldn’t
attend a Real World event. So that’s been great for us.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: And can you talk a little bit about, I guess, on your end, how
many people are involved in this at CosmoGIRL. I mean, is this sort of something you are
pulling off on your own, or do you have a pretty good staff focused on this?
MORGAN BROOKS: We do. Our entire marketing staff is onboard, excited about it and
literally something we talk about every day. So everyone in the CosmoGIRL marketing staff
works on There.com and the CosmoGIRL Village. We’re all learning together, learning more
about the Virtual Worlds, learning about avatars and the differing modes that they have. So
it’s been a great experience for all of us just getting our feet wet and learning more about
this Virtual World which we know is going to continue to be huge.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Well, there are a lot of people who agree with you on that one.
Let me ask, when you’re going to pull something like this together, you’ve got to convince
the corporate higher-ups that this is worthwhile, that the money that you’re spending on this
is going to provide something of benefit, either an immediate short-term benefit, iBalls or
ROI or a longer-term benefit. And so can you talk about some of your specific objectives for
this partnership and, I guess, for the prom that’s coming up as well?
MORGAN BROOKS: Well, for us, and sort of we’ve learned this from There.com, as I
mentioned before we just want to be where our readers are. And, since they are here, that’s
where we wanted to be, and we’ve learned that, through There.com, in terms of success, it’s
time spent. It’s time spent in the Village. It’s time spent with the billboards, interacting,
shopping on There’s Central and sort of experiencing all that it has to offer. So that’s what
we were looking for, in terms of success and getting people interacting with the CosmoGIRL
brand, as well as our events.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: And so you’re actively tracking all those metrics?
MORGAN BROOKS: It’s really too early to tell, in terms of numbers, so we’re still waiting to
figure out sort of the metrics part out.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Now on the prom that coming up--so you’re talking about getting
people engaged, so you obviously want a degree of engagement and also the numbers.
And it sounded like you had a fairly interesting way. If the numbers are greater than a single
region in There can handle, you’re actually opening up additional identical venues. Do I
have that right?
MORGAN BROOKS: Well, you mean the layers. We’re actually on, I think, the fourth or fifth
layer right now. What we’ve been able to do for [AUDIO GLITCH] we’re doing for the virtual
prom is opening up several layers, and they all will look exactly the same, and that allows
more people who can’t--I think each layer has a certain maximum number of people that
could attend. So this way everyone gets the same experience. You don’t feel like you’re
missing out, because you’re not on the first layer, because the second layer will have sort of
the same activities, the same visual images. Everything will be the same, so it allows a
larger amount of people to experience the prom.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Okay. Michael Wilson, CEO of There. Thanks again for letting us
have an episode of Metanomics filmed here in There.
MICHAEL WILSON: Why, thank you very much. We love to have you.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: So I’m wondering if you could sort of give your side of this
partnership. I know that There works quite closely with their--well, I guess I don’t know--what
do you call them, corporate partners, corporate clients--and can you talk a little bit about
what it is that you guys do to provide CosmoGIRL with the support they need to pull off
MICHAEL WILSON: Well, first of all, we’re very excited about the CosmoGIRL partnership.
We’ve known for a long time that their property would be an extremely valuable addition for
us, and we’ve been so excited ever since we opened the Village. It’s actually one of the
hottest places in There.com right now. Almost any time of day or night that you go into the
World, you’ll see it’s at the top of the list of hot places to go. And you go, and there’s always
a crowd, and that’s pretty exciting. That’s one of those self-evident truth things. And, by the
way, this is something that I’ve always known about There.com, its demographic, that if we
could attract this audience or find an opportunity to interact with this audience, it would be a
hit. Again, because of the PG-13 and because of the nature of the environment and also, to
some extent, the fact that you don’t need a high-end computer to run our platform. I think
while many teenagers probably have computers that are 18 times better than their parents
ever had, many of them have also gotten the hand-me-downs. And having a platform or a
product that will run on more computers, I think, has been very valuable not only for There,
but also for CosmoGIRL since that means more of their members can actually experience
this. In terms of--did you speak. Were you saying something?
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Go right ahead. I was just going to prompt you to say what I think
you are probably going to, which is talking about providing the support to CosmoGIRL for
events like this and their larger partnership.
MORGAN BROOKS: Oh, I’m going to talk about [AUDIO GLITCH]. So they’re our partner.
Period. The end. We don’t have any other words that go around it. And we actually have a
[AUDIO GLITCH] of CosmoGIRL that you would normally like an account team, and it
consists of representatives from the community group, the engineering staff, the QA staff,
the operations staff, literally representatives from all parts of the organization. [AUDIO
GLITCH] internally we call the pod, if anybody cares. And what this group is, and, Morgan,
I’m sure you’ve interacted with them or gone to their meetings, is they meet every week at
least, if not more, and talk about nothing but CosmoGIRL. That is the entire focus of their
existence. And we think that that’s pretty key towards making sure that we have a great
MORGAN BROOKS: Yes, we talk literally like every day.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: In There?
MORGAN BROOKS: No, we actually do conference calls, but we have met within There as
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: And so, Michael, what are your objectives initially? I’m thinking
about specific metrics. When you decide that you’re going to take on a partner like
CosmoGIRL, do you have specific goals that you are tracking to see how things are going?
MICHAEL WILSON: Well, those goals come from our partner. As I’ve said before in other
discussions, when we do one of these partnerships, our view is, we are film. And, in many
ways, this is CosmoGIRL wanting to make a movie, if you will, in a Virtual World. So what
we do is, we go to CosmoGIRL, and we say, “Well, what do you want to get out of this
relationship? What do you want to get out of this partnership?” Probably the same thing they
recommended in their advice columns in their magazine. Anyway, they come back and they
tell us what they want to get out of it, and then they may ask for suggestions, and we’ll talk
about engagement and impressions and things like that. And working together, we actually
come up with [AUDIO GLITCH].
Let me give you a specific example. If you look over there, you’ll see that I see at least a
couple of people that are wearing CosmoGIRL attire. And the really cool thing is not only is
that CosmoGIRL attire giving an impression to that individual when they wear it and when
they buy it, but every time they wear it somewhere, anywhere in There.com, they’re
delivering a CosmoGIRL impression, or they’re delivering the CosmoGIRL brand. And since
that shirt was designed to basically fulfill CosmoGIRL’s brand [AUDIO GLITCH]--I hope;
you’ll have to tell me--it’s a way of basically putting their brand on wheels, virtual wheels, if
you will, and showing it throughout the World. And, Morgan, you should jump in if I’m saying
something that’s not true.
MORGAN BROOKS: No, definitely. That’s exactly sort of what we’re going for. We love the
fact that there’s our branding, and people are buying our CosmoGIRL T-shirts. The boys are
buying the iCandy T-shirts, which is an extension of an editorial element. So that definitely is
a goal of ours.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Can you elaborate on the iCandy tie to CosmoGIRL content?
MICHAEL WILSON: I haven’t gotten my issue this month yet so, Morgan, you’ll have to do
MORGAN BROOKS: It’s actually sort of iCandy is for the CosmoGIRL readers. Obviously,
it’s female so our iCandy is editorial section where we feature sort of a hot guy. And so in
order to bring that to the Virtual World, we have sweatshirts and T-shirts that say iCandy.
That way any member of There.com can be one of those hot guys that we feature in the
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: So there you’re actually taking the content then from the
magazine, giving it some sort of in-world, whatever, legs to really walk around. Have you
seen anything come back, things that you’ve done in the world coming back into your copy
MORGAN BROOKS: I think it’s too early to see if we do sort of have that from the Virtual
World back into the magazine, but that is something that could happen in the future. And
also, for the girls, it’s a big trend for them sort of to bring the trends from the magazine to the
Virtual Worlds with a lot of the wardrobe that we offer for girls.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: So this is clearly a very synergistic partnership in the sense that
There is providing a way for CosmoGIRL to reach its audience. And CosmoGIRL is
providing content for the residents of There, who mostly came here for other reasons and
are looking for things to do. So here’s my question: Who pays who?
MICHAEL WILSON: Well, I don’t think we’re at liberty to talk about the financial
arrangements here. I mean what I will say is, I think everybody benefits in terms of what we
get out of this relationship. The synergies--I think one thing I wanted to bring up, and I’m not
trying to dodge your question, but we talked about having both ABC Family and Acuvue
involved in this prom thing. And that’s an absolutely amazing bit of synergy. Acuvue can
actually now have, if you will, contacts that people can model virtually and get an idea of
how they look. I mean it’s not photorealistic, but it’s a pretty amazing opportunity, and I think
that’s actually pretty cool.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Yeah, and I thank you for mentioning ABC Family, which I forgot
is also involved with the prom, as well as Acuvue. Now I mean they’re just regular clients of
CosmoGIRL and are being brought in through CosmoGIRL, is that right? Or are they also
working directly with There?
MORGAN BROOKS: Yes, they’re one of our advertising partners that we had brought them
in because it made perfect sense that they have this new show which just aired last
Monday, America’s Prom Queen, so there you go right there. It’s a natural fit, plus we’ve
been integrated in the show, and it made perfect sense for them to be a part of the virtual
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: And so on the show, they’re actually going to be talking about the
MORGAN BROOKS: Oh, not on the actual show. I’m sorry. I meant one of our CosmoGIRL
editor-in-chief is actually a judge on the show, so we have that integration. But not with the
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: I’m sure you’ll figure out some way to get a plug in because it is a
fascinating event concept. So let me ask, can you talk a little bit about the challenges or
surprises that you’ve faced? I mean certainly in every technological endeavor it seems
much easier to pull off until you actually try to pull it off. So, Morgan, what have been some
of the surprises and sort of logistical hurdles you didn’t expect?
MORGAN BROOKS: I think for a lot of us on the marketing team it’s new technology that--
we may have not been so familiar with the Virtual Worlds. So even just learning to make our
avatar walk or jump or dance has been--it's a learning curve, a learning process and
learning how to change out billboards ourselves and sort of learn the technology. It’s just
like anything else when you’re starting something new, just those simple things to try to get
used to everything.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: And, Michael, on your end, have there been things that you didn’t
expect that you’ve had to figure out how to make work more smoothly in this partnership?
MICHAEL WILSON: Oh, I think the only thing that we didn’t expect was just the absolute
sort of deluge of good ideas from CosmoGIRL. The only thing we wish we could do is
implement more of them or implement them faster. I mean I think that’s something we
constantly are like, “Wow! That’s a great idea. Can we do that?” And it’s like there are only
so many days in a week. But as we both learn more about how our systems work, we’re
ramping up faster and faster.
MORGAN BROOKS: Yeah, I think it’s been so great to have There.com sort of help us sort
of learn what things we can take from Real World events and apply those to virtual events
and having them give their expertise in the Virtual World and what the members really are
engaged in and making those happen for us.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Now let’s talk a little bit about the audience that you guys are
trying to reach. As I understand the demographic of CosmoGIRL, these are women in their
early teens to early 20s. I’m wondering how well that fits with the current demographic of
There and really what sort of research you’ve done on the demographics of the World. So I
guess, Morgan, could you start just by clarifying a bit the demographic of CosmoGIRL?
MORGAN BROOKS: Sure. We reach girls 12 to 24 so we have a broad range. Our average
age is 18-1/2. So we are looking around that demographic, but, yeah, I think that fits in with
There.com and believe average age is about 22, but, Michael, you could probably confirm
MICHAEL WILSON: That’s about right. I mean our audience at There.com has a huge
range [AUDIO GLITCH]. But like all Virtual Worlds, we’ve seen this enormous shift towards
younger [AUDIO GLITCH] over the past year or so. So it just happens to be right up the
alley there. Though, again, it appeal to people of all ages. If you go and talk to people you
find out in the Village on any of the layers, you’ll see you’ve got people from all walks of life
and all age groups.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: And so, Michael, do you have demographic research going on in
There to understand not just sort of age but the motivations of why people are in the World
and what they’re hoping to get out of it?
MICHAEL WILSON: Yes, we do. We are actually just concluding a study that we’re doing or
we had done by an external firm that I’m going to get the results of in the next week or two,
which is going to reveal a lot about what people look at. I can talk all day about what I think,
but I think it’s really valuable sometimes to use outside firms and have them tell us so just to
make sure we’re not drinking our own Kool-Aid.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: And luckily we have on the show with us a woman who has been
doing extensive demographic research in Virtual Worlds, although not in There. But,
Mary Ellen Gordon from Market Truths, welcome to Metanomics.
MARY ELLEN GORDON: Thanks.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: So now you’ve been doing demographic research primarily to
look not just at things like age and socioeconomic status, but you’re actually looking at the
motivations and the types of people in Virtual Worlds defined by what it is they’re hoping to
get out of them. Can you talk a little bit about how you are breaking down Virtual World
populations? And then we’ll take that back to the CosmoGIRL-There partnership.
MARY ELLEN GORDON: Sure. Just to clarify a little bit. In hearing people talk about things,
we tend to think of demographics as being things like age, gender, income and that kind of
stuff and psychographics as being a separate thing. So psychographics are the things like
personality and motivations and those kind of things. And the Virtual World developers
usually have pretty good demographics about who’s participating in their World, like Michael
was just talking about in terms of the ages and things like that. But what we find has been
less available up until now is psychographics of the Virtual Worlds participants, and that’s
quite important. Because, if you look at other forms of media, like magazines and TV, they
tend to have a pretty good handle on the psychographics of the people that are participating
as well. So what we’ve been working on for over a year now is developing a system of doing
psychographics that’s appropriate for people in Virtual Worlds, but also can be used with the
non-Virtual World population. Because a lot of the clients we have want to compare and
contrast and see what sort of people they’re getting on the web, reading a magazine,
watching TV or whatever, and also what they’re getting in-world. So we wanted to be able to
do that comparison. We also wanted it to work across different Worlds, and we wanted it to
be able to work for people across different countries because, of course, these Virtual
Worlds are very global. So we were trying to achieve all of those things.
And, through a long process of testing with thousands of people, we developed a system
that segments about 85 to 90 percent of people, whether that’s the general population of
Virtual World participants into one of six psychographic [AUDIO GLITCH]
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: I’m sorry. I think I lost your sound.
MICHAEL WILSON: I lost her too.
MARY ELLEN GORDON: Sorry. I was just talking about the segments, but I can explain a
little bit more about each of those.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Yes, if you could just walk us through those, that would be great.
MARY ELLEN GORDON: Sure. There are six segments. One of them is called Team
Players. These, in the U.S. general population, are disproportionately women. They’re
people who are not particularly competitive, but what they are, are first of all very
extroverted and also it’s very important to them to make connections. They really like to
express themselves to other people and also connect with other people.
A second segment is called Connectors. They’re a little bit like that Team Player segment in
that connection is very important to them. But what makes them different is, they are not at
all extroverted. And so they really like Virtual Worlds because it’s a way for them to make
friends, which is important for them, a little more easily than they can in the Real World.
They might be shy. They might be in an area where they’re not near a lot of people, so they
just find this a little bit easier.
The next group is Chameleons, and they’re an interesting group too. What makes them
unique is that they’re quite elusive. And what I mean by that is that they’d be perceived
differently in different situations, so they might be perceived one way at work or at school, a
different way with their family, another way in a social group that they’re involved in. So
even though they feel like they’re the same person, they feel that people in those other
situations perceive them differently, and that can be quite stressful for them. So one of the
things that they like about Virtual Worlds is that they can come in and just be whoever they
want to be and kind of get away from some of that personal stress that they experience in
The next group is the Apprehensives, and that group also has stress, but their stress is for
different reasons. They really worry about some of the issues that face society, so they
worry about things like climate change. They worry about the power that big corporations
have over individuals. They worry about their privacy and lack of it in today’s modern age.
So what they like about Virtual Worlds is the ability to come in to a place like this and just be
free of all of that, just be silly for a little while, kind of be a kid again and get away from all of
The next group is Entrepreneurs. Some of them are entrepreneurs exactly as you’d think.
They like to come in and start businesses and things. But some of their characteristics are
they’re really, really competitive. They’re fairly extroverted, but they’re also quite elusive,
and they like to solve problems. So all of that does fit with our image of a traditional
entrepreneur. All of those things are quite good for somebody who’s trying to navigate in a
new environment and start a business. But Entrepreneurs, also many of them come from
kind of hardcore gaming backgrounds because, when you think about it, those
characteristics also make you really, really good as a gamer.
The next category of people, the last one is Competitors. Like the Entrepreneurs, they are
competitive, but that’s kind of their main driving characteristic. They’re not so interested in
connections with other people or anything like that. They really just like to win, and that
might be at a game, but it also might just be kind of in life, in the sense that they don’t really
like it when other people have things that they don’t. That makes them feel uncomfortable.
They also feel uncomfortable if people have better things than they do, so they’re really
interested in what they can have. And they gravitate in Virtual Worlds to things where there
are point scoring and things like that because they just wouldn’t see the point of doing
something where there wasn’t a winner or a loser. So that’s the kind of thing that they’re
interested in and also things like do they have a better avatar, do they have more money,
that kind of thing in the Virtual World. So that’s kind of a summary of the six segments.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Okay. Now I have to say I’m taking some flak from the audience
in Second Life right now. I had Richard Bartle, a game designer, on the show a few weeks
back, who had his four types of gamers. Then Nick Yee talked about his five psychographic
segments. Now we’re up to six, so you know, I’m being told in the World this may not be
But what I’d like to ask you to do, Mary Ellen, if I could, is you’ve heard what it is that
CosmoGIRL is trying to do with There in There. How is it that these psychographic
segments are going to be useful to them? Do you see some natural types of
recommendations of how they could put those categories to work to improve the partnership
MARY ELLEN GORDON: Yeah. Well, often when we work with clients, [AUDIO GLITCH] a
psychographic target basically that they’re going for. Maybe not as specifically as defined as
what I’ve just described. But, for example, from what I know about CosmoGIRL, this is going
back to when I read Cosmo as a girl, which is a long time ago now, I’m guessing that the
segment that CosmoGIRL maps most closely to is the Team Players. They’re
disproportionately women. They’re outgoing, and they like to connect. And it seems to me
that that’s pretty close to what the CosmoGIRL brand would be about. So some of the things
that we’ve done for other clients that I suspect would be similar to what they would be trying
to do is look at, well, okay, if that is their target psychographic, let’s say, first of all, how
many of them are present within There? What proportion of that 12 to 24 age group is in that
psychographic category of the participants here? And assuming that psychographic
segment is here, then comparing and contrasting the attitudes of those who encounter the
CosmoGIRL brand here compared to in the magazine, compared to on their website and
compared to just girls that are in that target age range that maybe haven’t encountered
them in any of those places. Because what you would expect and what you would hope for
certainly if they’re doing something like this is that encountering them in a place like this
would improve certain brand perceptions. And what those brand perceptions are might vary,
like some clients would be looking for things like increased awareness maybe among a
particular group of people. They might be looking at things like increased liking of the brand.
Improved perceptions about certain aspects of brand personalities, so maybe they want
their brand to be perceived as fun or cool or trusted. Those are the kinds of characteristics
of brands are also often looking for, and I suspect might be appropriate to a brand like this.
So does the dial move on those things if you’ve encountered them in-world compared to if
you haven’t? Certainly client we’ve looked at this kind of thing for, it does. It does have that
kind of effect.
Something else that they might be looking for are things like involvement. So that’s how
relevant do you think the brand for you? And for a lot of girls that age, a brand like
CosmoGIRL would be very relevant. But if they’re interacting in a place like this where they
can have a very interactive relationship with a brand, like Morgan was talking about before,
they could try on the clothes, wear the dress that they saw in the magazine or wear the
T-shirt, that should, you would think, increase involvement with the brand. And so you’d be
looking at things, like with people in that target psychographic, do you see that movement in
increased involvement with the brand as a result of encountering it in the Virtual World. And
then also does it change their purchasing of the magazine? Are they more likely to buy it at
the newsstand or subscribe? Does it change their attitude toward any of the other sponsors
like Acuvue? Does it increase the likelihood of using their products? Does it increase their
word-of-mouth about the brand? Are they talking more to their friends about it? So those
would be the kinds of things that you’d be looking for.
But if you just look at them overall, you can kind of lose things in the picture because, of
course, with something like CosmoGIRL, maybe you don’t care so much what boys think. Or
maybe you don’t care so much about those other psychographic groups. You would want to
look at that by psychographic category to see how it’s doing with you target audience, as
well as how it’s doing overall, just in case you have a lot of other people mixed in with your
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: While you were talking, the questions for all three of you are
actually just piling in from the Second Life backchat channel. And actually I encourage
anyone who wants to, to send those along. I am tracking the Metanomics channel, so if you
want to ask questions, just type them in there. But, before we go to those questions, I guess
I’d like to ask what your reaction, Morgan, is to hearing the types of ideas that Mary Ellen
was just describing. Does that seem like a direction that you guys maybe already are going?
MORGAN BROOKS: Yeah. I think Mary Ellen was dead on in what she said in terms of
interaction with the brand and girls being able to sort of have that CosmoGIRL experience
while they’re in the Virtual World. That definitely is our main objective when we went and
created the World and how we can engage our readers, and that is exactly what she was
saying is definitely correct.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: So first I actually would like to start with a follow-up for
Mary Ellen, which is, Curric Vita was hoping you could talk just briefly about a couple of the
methodological issues when you do psychographic research in Virtual Worlds. So one
question here is how you actually collect data and how you ensure that people are truthful.
And this is a stream running through a few questions. We know a lot of people come in to
Virtual Worlds to be someone that they’re not. So how do you know whether you’re actually
getting who they are as opposed to someone they’re pretending to be?
MARY ELLEN GORDON: Sure. I can talk about that briefly. We do a whole lot of things, but
I’ll hit on some of the high points. In terms of methodology for the psychographic research
that I’m just talking about, we did a whole lot of research with a whole lot of different
samples. So as some people know, we have our own research panel within Second Life.
And, for that we, first of all, require that people had been in Second Life for at least 30 days.
Second of all, require that they have a verified account. So that already reduces some of the
potential--you figure, if you’re going to be griefing and that kind of thing, you’re probably not
having a verified account so that controls some of that. We also do a lot of quality control
checks on our panel to check for exactly the kinds of things that people were asking about.
We don’t want people that are going to be untruthful with us. It’s a bit like virus detection, in
the sense that I don’t want to tell you too much about that because it would make it easier
for people to do it in the future. But we run a whole lot of different checks on our panel, and
then, for each time we collect data for a new project, we run some additional checks.
For this particular project, we’d be sampling from that panel so we don’t have anybody
anyway. We’re doing a bunch of different samples so different people in each sample. And
we’re looking to see if we’re getting the same results across samples because that would be
another indication if people were just making stuff up. It’s hard to do that in a consistent way
where you’d be getting the same answer all of the time. I used to teach market research at a
university so I’m really good at checking when people have made up data, and that’s proved
to be helpful in this regard. So we do a lot of that kind of checking to see if the data is valid.
We use a lot of different samples. For the psychographic categories, there’s a lot of
multi-varied analysis behind it. We’re using fact analysis, cluster analysis and discriminate
analysis, so we’re also running different algorithms to see if we get answers different ways.
In this case, we’ve also used samples that don’t come from our research panel because we
wanted to just make sure, well, maybe that’s true for this group of people, but it’s not true for
others. So we’ve used Second Life participants that weren’t part of our panel. We’ve also
used people just from the general population, to make sure that those categories really were
robust. And, within all of that process, we do implement a lot of quality control checks so
that we can identify anybody who’s not truthful and get rid of them.
Without revealing the exact details of those tests, what I can tell you is that what we find is
that there is a small group of people who lie a lot and then a big group of people who just
don’t lie. So the people who do lie do it early and do it often, and the rest of the people are
pretty honest, which is the same as any kind of research I [AUDIO GLITCH]
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Well, and that probably makes it a lot easier to see through rather
than having everyone lying a bit.
MARY ELLEN GORDON: That’s right, and it’s certainly something we’ve worked on for a
long time. We’ve been perfecting those methods for detecting liars and cheaters on Virtual
Worlds for a couple of years now, so we’re definitely getting better at it as we go and more
confident in our ability to do that.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Morgan, a question for you and, I guess perhaps Michael as well,
on a similar issue, which is the fact that people are coming in to role-play. So someone in
the audience was asking whether you really are sure that you’re appealing to the
demographic you think you are here in the World. Do you actually have a number of women
in their maybe 30s and 40s who are actually maybe reliving prom days, but not exactly your
MORGAN BROOKS: I think that we think, because it’s PG-13, it definitely helps in sort of
getting our actual target audience. But Michael could probably speak to more in terms of--I
know that there is sort of a monitoring system, and they can pull people out if there’s
inappropriate things of that nature.
MICHAEL WILSON: So I think the question--and correct me if I’m wrong is--I guess, in
terms of the prom, what you’re asking is are we sure that we’re just getting people of prom
age participating in the event. Is that right?
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Well, I guess partly it’s prom. But more what I’m thinking is that,
as Morgan said out front, “We’re in There because we want to be where our readers are.”
And so I guess my question is: Can you really tell how effectively you’re targeting in a World
where everyone looks like their aged about right for the CosmoGIRL demographic, even
though it turns out I’m not quite as young and hunky as I look. But put me in a tuxedo, I’d
probably have a blast at the prom. I just don’t know if that’s the audience CosmoGIRL is
MICHAEL WILSON: Well, so I have two answers to that. The first answer is to really find
that information. You actually need to do multi-platform studies across the whole spectrum
of the advertising, which very few people have done, largely because it’s so expensive. I
mean actually being able to track somebody through traditional advertising, such as print
and video and other media versus what it takes to track someone in a Virtual World like our
platform, it’s much more expensive to do so in the older platforms than it is in There.com
because of the facts and all the psychographic information we throw off about the members
in [AUDIO GLITCH]. But it’s a very expensive thing to try to figure out.
The second thing is--and again you have to understand I’m not in the magazine business,
and I’m certainly not in advertising, so I could just be totally wrong here. My answer to the
other question is, customers are customers. And, if it turns out that somebody’s coming to
the prom that’s reliving the prom and enjoying the CosmoGIRL experience and enjoying the
CosmoGIRL sponsors, I actually don’t think CosmoGIRL or the advertisers are going to
object to that, in the end. So to some extent, it’s kind of a moot point.
MORGAN BROOKS: Right. I mean as long as they’re interacting in a tasteful manner and
not abusing any of the elements that are in CosmoGIRL Village, I would agree.
MICHAEL WILSON: Yes. And it isn’t like we’re going to have people running around with
rulers making sure that people are dancing the right distance apart.
MORGAN BROOKS: No, we wouldn’t want that. You want to have fun at the virtual prom.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: So another question that some had, and I apologize I don’t
remember who asked this, but it was a question about scalability. So let’s say that this
partnership takes off and you have a great prom. Well, actually, I guess part of this is a
technological question: How many people can you have in a layer? And how many layers
can you have going on at once for an in-world event like the prom itself? But then there’s the
larger question of just how would you see this--I mean let’s say this is a success--and in two
years you have much larger numbers and are trying to make a much richer CosmoGIRL
experience in There. I mean it seems like you’re likely to run into a lot of scaling problems.
Is this something you’ve been thinking about? Have you made any progress?
MICHAEL WILSON: That’s a great question. I guess since we don’t do a press release
about every line of code we put out in There.com, people don’t know about all the stuff we
have. One of the things we’re going to be doing is using, as Morgan talked about, is
layering, which allows us to replicate any area in the World as many times as we want to
support an event. So we’ve already gone out and created a bunch of layers for this event,
and we can create more as we need to [AUDIO GLITCH]. Now when you talk about scaling
on terms of how many people we can fit into an area, we find out our biggest limitations start
to become, if you will, social or physical. And what do I mean [AUDIO GLITCH]. Well, if you
look out here in this area, if we put more than 150 people here or something, it would
actually start to get crowded and be fairly uncomfortable. It would be like going to a bar
where there are too many people. Somebody decided to have the prom, but, due to a
last-minute emergency, it was held in a classroom instead of an auditorium. We find out that
that is actually more the limitation with our platform than how many people we can get on a
given shard or something. So what we find ourselves doing is making venues that are
designed to be enjoyable and intimate and good for social experience and then creating
layers of that rather than saying, “Oh, no. We have to be limited by this technology issue.”
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: And so just to clarify, a layer is basically a shard?
MICHAEL WILSON: Yes, it is. I apologize. I use different [AUDIO GLITCH]. Now let me add
one caveat here because I’m sure There members will want to shoot me with paint guns. If
you’re on a lower-end computer and there are 50 avatars in the room with you and your
machine is trying to render all 50 of those avatars, certainly may not have as good an
experience as we would like you to. And that’s clearly understood. But nonetheless, I still
will say that we tend to design our events about how the space feels as opposed to how
many people we can support on a given layer.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Okay. Morgan, from your side, about scalability, if this event is
successful, is it simply a matter of running more frequent events, promoting them a little
more heavily and having more layers so you can fit more people in-world?
MORGAN BROOKS: Exactly. We definitely are looking to creating more layers, and I think
actually with the virtual prom and the fact that we do have all these pre-prom events, that
has allowed us to sort of extend the virtual prom past this one day. We have sort of almost a
month of prom where people are doing sort of prom-related activities, and that’s been really
great for us.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Okay. Well, let’s see. I see we are actually getting very close to
the end of the time for our Metanomics show. Before we do close down for the day, I’d
actually like, if I could, to ask Michael Wilson to comment on a few recent topical items. One
is recent changes in the management of Second Life and what that might mean for that
particular company and the industry as a whole. And second, the U.S. financial markets and
now also global markets have been hit by a number of negative economic shocks, and that
can tighten up capital, and so that could also affect the Virtual World industries. So, Michael,
would you be willing to comment, hopefully, on both of those topics?
MICHAEL WILSON: Well, sure. So I guess you’re referring to Phil Rosedale’s
announcement with regards to Second Life?
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Yes, that’s right. So Philip Rosedale, CEO of Linden Lab, has
announced that he will be stepping down as CEO and taking a position as Chairman of the
Board, and they will be looking for a new CEO.
MICHAEL WILSON: Well, I think that it sounds like what Phil thinks is the best direction for
his company, and I wish him luck in doing so. I think that everybody in the industry
recognizes Second Life has played a role in popularizing Virtual Worlds and helping to
define what the space is largely due to Phil’s vision. And I think that, if that’s the best thing
for his company and for himself most importantly, then that’s clearly what he should do. And
we all wish him the best of luck. We’ll, of course, continue to hear from him.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: And so do you think that this is going to be something the Virtual
World companies are going to be feeling over the next few years? And how-- [AUDIO
MICHAEL WILSON: Well, it won’t have any effect on [AUDIO GLITCH], but I can certainly
imagine that other companies may find their investors looking with a bit more--I’m not sure
what the word is--looking a bit more carefully at their investments and wondering when
they’ll actually see a return on them. [AUDIO GLITCH] But I’m not sure. I think that we’re
definitely on a rollercoaster here, and how it’s going to shake out in the technology world is
unclear. I know that it’s had tremendous effects on the, quote Web 2.0 World unquote, but I
think, to a large extent, Virtual Worlds, in many ways, has been a step beyond the whole
Web 2.0 hype. I mean maybe we’re even hypier than hype, but I sort of regard those as two
separate things. I mean I think Virtual Worlds are clearly on a path to gaining wider and
wider acceptance with the public at large, and I think that, to some extent, we’ve yet to see
the enormous, if you will, boom that you saw with Web 2.0 and other interactions, and we’re
actually coming up to that. And this particular economic event will probably not affect that
progress in any way. [AUDIO GLITCH] That’s a long answer of it.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: No, I appreciate it. Okay. So I guess we’ve pretty much run out of
time. so, first of all, I’d like to thank our three guests Morgan Brooks, associate promotion
manager from CosmoGIRL; Michael Wilson, CEO of There.com; and Mary Ellen Gordon,
from Market Truths. I’d like to wish CosmoGIRL and There the best success with their prom
coming up. And, who knows, maybe I’ll get that tuxedo and drop in and take a look myself.
I have to say it looks like there are a number of people that I’ve been getting IMs from in
Second Life, who seem curious as well. So maybe we’ll pop in on one of your many layers
of that party.
So again, Rob Bloomfield from Metanomics and Cornell University thanking you all for
participating in and watching another Metanomics event. And thanks again to
Michael Wilson for letting us conduct this event here in There. Bye, all.
Transcribed by: http://www.hiredhand.com
Second Life Avatar: Transcription Writer