Before jumping in for fear of missing out, it’s important to pause and take a look back, says Joe Hyrkin, CEO of Issuu. There are lessons to be learned from the industry’s first attempt at virtual reality (VR) in the early 2000s. The question is: are we ready to listen this time?
Interest in income opportunities in the metaverse is growing; it is expected will be worth $800 billion by 2024. Its allure is hard to avoid – many publishers now face added pressure to get involved.
Let’s start by talking about where it all started. News flash… the metaverse is nothing new. It was originally invented in 1982 in Neil Stevenson’s novel, Snowfall. Twenty years later, second life, which is often credited as being the first popularized, was launched in 2003. While there are key technological distinctions between the Metaverses of the time and the current version, the concepts are not really that different. In fact, there were agencies then, like Electronic Sheep and Millions of Us, that only served brands in virtual worlds.
The idea of virtual reality has always been exciting, and the increase in computing power and cryptocurrency certainly adds new promise, but the lack of success of previous attempts to establish virtual worlds was not limited computing power or a universal currency. These metaverses faced the same challenges as today: scale, sustainable user growth, and interest.
Platforms like Second Life have also been plagued by security issues, vandalism and intimidation. When publishers consider the problematic social media behaviors displayed by many younger generations today, will these challenges be a concern of the past? Or will this new and current metaverse only serve to exacerbate these problems? Moreover, are publishers really ready to solve all the unseen and unsolved challenges of the virtual world?
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The pressure to join the metaverse
There’s huge industry pressure to take advantage of new metaverse experiences and be the first to do something original. However, in the race to “not miss a thing,” many publishers can do just that – fall victim to efforts that turn out to be costly, distracting, and overall not very productive for the business. With virtual real estate valued at up to a million dollars, the investment is expensive to consider.
Plus, the idea that Meta controls and manages the metaverse should give every editor a reason to pause. In the past, Meta has always created access to its platform for publishers with the promise of access to Meta users, but each time it has diminished opportunities for revenue sharing and algorithmic distribution. Meta has repeatedly lured publishers to its platform and still hasn’t delivered on its promises. Remember Mic.com?
And to say that brands quickly reach a large audience. Is this number sustainable? Content can become very expensive for a small niche group – just look at the rapid decline of clubhouse after arousing a mass appeal. Setting realistic goals and expectations is the first step. Virality is not yet a business model, so expecting huge growth and raising funds at huge ratings will prove fruitless in the long run.
Expansion in the Metaverse
The best business model is one that leverages the metaverse and various platforms instead of relying on them. Brand publishers need to create a three-to-five-year long-term plan that includes content creation, user growth, and monetization that goes beyond Met from the start. Use insights gained from creating content for Meta, but don’t rely on it as your sole business model.
The metaverse offers brands and publishers the opportunity to reach new audiences and tap into different niches – as is the case with Hyundai’s Mobility Adventure, designed to reach younger, tech-savvy audiences in a space like the proven Roblox, but brands shouldn’t focus all of their efforts on platforms that aren’t representative of their overall audience. Brands need to ensure long-term sustainability and ultimately the ability to generate revenue with the platform they invest in.
Ultimately, editors will soon learn that they need to determine their path and realize that it is likely different from the path they would choose in the physical world.
Publishers can also consider taking a step back to decide which new opportunities and verticals best fit their scope before taking bold steps. For starters, some verticals are likely to fare better than others, such as real estate, health and safety. For example, the Metaverse offers interesting and engaging experience opportunities for home design. In fact, retailers such as Houzz are already using virtual reality to allow consumers to virtually design their rooms in an effort to increase sales.
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Think before acting
All in all, this explosive business is one with many opportunities, but it is best to proceed with caution. Now is the time for publishers to: think about what they want out of this experience, who they’re looking to reach, and how they can do it effectively, without getting caught up in the hype. While the virtual future is vast and unknown, we can learn a lot from the experiences and failures of the past 25 years in this space.
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