SEO News
Search

The Revenue Stream: or, "You gonna pay for that porn, boy?"

korman-avril
by , Comments

A few weeks ago, my friend Mickey said (via twitter) 'wish LL would just drop banner ad on mismatch & eharm advertising virtual dating, sex & club med resorts - problem solved!' I told her honestly that wasn't a half bad idea, actually.

I can't recall whose commercial it is (it's either EHarmony or Match.com) that states that 20 percent of all relationships now start in an online environment. Second Life already has the reputation (for good or bad -- whether it's truthful or not is up for grabs) as being a place where people meet for sex, dating and love. As happens I'm told those sites don't actually do banner advertising. But I'm sure other online dating services do, so the point is still valid.

Now I learned a long time ago that as a general life principle, you can either work with what people believe (true or not) or try to fight what people believe (true or not) to achieve a desired result. The former is a hell of a lot easier than the latter. Just sayin'.

If your goal is a combination of traffic and money (and in an online environment that's usually what it comes down to), what Mickey suggested really isn't a bad way to go about it. It plays into what many people already believe, and further what a not insignificant portion of the population actually want.

romance

The Innocent Years

Prior to March of 2009, land was rated for content in two ways- PG and Mature. PG is basically self explanatory, and Mature was... well everything else. But after that, things began to change.

It was announced by the Lab that all fully adult content on the mainland (all the land that is not held as private islands) was to be migrated to a new mainland continent called Zindra. In addition, a new land maturity rating was to be implemented- Adult- and the old two would change from PG and Mature to G and Moderate, respectively.

Though the Lab delicately danced around the reasons why they decided to make these changes by saying 'it has become clear that some Residents are interested in pursuing certain 'Adult' activities in Second Life that others would rather not casually encounter.', anyone with a lick of common sense could tell right away that this was really a Cover Your Ass move, designed to dodge legal action by taking 'reasonable precautions' to prevent underage users (who, let's be technical, should not have access to the adult grid in the first place) from viewing pixelated sex.

Rather than bursting out laughing at how utterly ridiculous this notion really is (as actual porn is not by any means difficult to come by on the net, and for free- without a massive download required) and telling those clutching their pearls to get stuffed, Linden Lab in one fell swoop decided to ghettoize sexual content. In order to access this new Adult rating, residents would be forced to verify their age with Linden Lab.

But even in the initial post, there were parts that weren't clear. For example:

'How does this apply to combat sims, can you provide examples of what would be allowed? Combat sims are mature, think R rated movie. If part of that is lots of blood and gore, that would be considered Adult. Again, the precise definitions are something we're still working on and would welcome your input in the forum thread devoted to this topic.'

The Gnashing of Teeth and the Rending of Garments.

As with all sudden and sweeping changes made to the Second Life platform, residents with a vested interest in this issue got very upset very quickly, as they pointed out (and rightly so) that whatever 'adult' may be, whatever that is provides a huge chunk of the Second Life economy, and to be ghettoized in such a fashion was a pretty big insult.

But the Lab couldn't risk potential legal action, and rumors began that the Australian government was planning to ban virtual worlds like Second Life outright on a country wide basis. So much like... well let's face it, everything else the Lab does, it steamrollered on ahead, no matter who or what got caught up under the wheel.

However, defining 'Adult' is not so easy. Whilst some things are fairly obvious, far more are in a gray area not easily defined. This became even more complicated when you took into account land not on the mainland, but privately owned.

While the official position of the Lab was one that essentially boiled down to 'we won't force you to change to adult, but you know, if someone reports you, we're going to crawl up your ass with a microscope...', (which sounded an awful lot like extortion to me) many people erred on the side of caution and changed even if they were really unsure as to whether the content on their land truly qualified as Adult.

Besides, all it would take was one jackass with a grudge (and I don't know of a single club on the grid that hasn't run into at least one), and your entire sim could wind up going poof. Better safe than sorry often ruled the day to the absolute gutting of traffic and profits, because people simply didn't want to age verify their accounts.

..and Then Came the Whining

Asking people to age verify may as well have been asking them to walk across desert sands without water. Now in the case of international users, this makes some degree of sense, as the process was really a hassle and a half. Linden Lab (being based in San Francisco) truly had no facility to determine what was valid, legal ID for every nation on the planet.

The resultant morass of red tape just to prove you were, in fact over 18 (when reminder once again, you were supposed to have been over 18 to be on SL in the first place) was not something a great many people wanted to deal with. But even users in the United States largely refused to age verify, citing fears of identity theft. Even though the Lab was quite clear that the data, once used to verify age was not in any way stored, and truly, by itself was sort of useless to begin with. Anyone actually determined to steal your identity could do it with much less.

But whoo boy gang, you'd have thought that they were being asked to cut off a body part. I got IMs for months when my sim changed to Adult which essentially boiled down to 'But whyyyyyyy?' in a long, whining dragged out petulant tone that no explanation (no matter how reasonable or honest) could stop. I can only imagine what order of magnitude larger the cries were, being directed at the Lab itself.

Two Birds, One Stone.

Recently, Linden Lab finally did what they've been threatening, er... planning to do. They have changed the account signup process doing away with the Firstname Lastname system that has worked for the past seven years (Helloooo Tinfoil Hat Theory!). Now signups are one name only. At best the new accounts are given the charming last name of 'Resident'. But with the new signup process has come something else, too. Check this out:

OHAI

Once you verify a new account, you are greeted with the above splash screen. Take note of that business on the right.. You can't miss it. I've even drawn a handy arrow.

At best, it's a misleading bit of advertising which seeks to prey upon the ignorance of new signups, by tying premium (paid) SL accounts to the ability to access adult content. It's a lie of omission -- the old methods of age verification as of this writing still work just fine, with no premium membership required. For that matter, there's actually two lies of omission here -- this makes it seem you need a premium account just to have a $L balance.

At worst, it's the first step in knocking off two problems at onc -- lackluster premium account numbers (which obviously both look better on paper and generate more revenue than free accounts), while using paid membership signups to alleviate the age verification problem. When you sign up for a paid account, you must have a payment method, like paypal or a credit card. These payment methods would already have your age verified in the process of obtaining them in the first place. So in essence, Linden Lab piggybacks on the payment system to alleviate their age verification issue.

Even if it is only misleading, and not an actual change in policy, it still amounts to the same thing. There's no small amount of people this lie of omission would actually fool, and in the process the Lab would gain added revenue in addition to boosting age verification numbers at the same time.

Those Pesky Teenagers.

Boosting those age verification numbers is becoming an increasing concern for the Lab. At the end of December, Teen Second Life will close.

At that point, 16 and 17 year olds will have access to the main, (previously presumably adult) grid. Even though their access will be supposedly strictly limited to G rated areas (which is sort of adorable, since I don't know of any 16 or 17 year olds with G rated lives, and goodness knows I didn't have one back when dinosaurs roamed the Earth in the days before the internet), it's in the Lab's best interest to get as many adults registered as possible, to head off at the pass any howling against letting the teenagers have access to pixel porn (which once again I'll note is available in unlimited quantities on the internet without needing an SL account of any kind.)

However the real worry is actually something more legitimate: that underage users might find themselves in very adult situations with residents who are over 18.

This is a real cause for concern for Linden Lab and they as a business have an obligation to protect themselves from any allegations of encouraging such a situation by exercising reasonable care to avoid such a thing from occurring. So while it may be that for now, the old verification methods still work for the low, low price of free, in the very near future age verification and adult content access *will* in fact be tied into a premium account.

It's sort of a Scorched Earth Method of verification, but hey. It's the only way to be sure.


SES LondonOptimising Digital Marketing Campaigns with Search, Social and Analytics
At SES London (9-11 Feb) you'll get an overview of the latest tools, tips, and tactics in Paid, Owned, Earned, Integrated Media and Business Intelligence to streamline your marketing campaigns in 2015. Register by 5 December to take advantage of Early Bird Rates.

Recommend this story

comments powered by Disqus