SLentrepreneur Profile: Steve Cropper, Virtual World Entrepreneur

December 17th, 2009  |  Published in SL Entrepreneur Profiles  |  1 Comment

By Sigmund Leominster

Since its inception, SLentrepreneur Magazine has profiled residents of the Second Life® virtual world who have built in-world businesses. Typically their aim is to provide services or products to Second Life inhabitants and, in doing so, generate a profit. But Steve Cropper is working on taking his Second Life business back out into real life in the form of his online TV show, Life On Line©.

Based in the Sydney, Australia, Steve’s real life company is Reputation TV, which was created to help people and organizations add to the richness of their content using video and social network websites. Reputation TV produces web TV programs of its own such as Life On Line and PRTV as well as a range of corporate videos, documentaries, and specialist training programs for clients worldwide. His background is in corporate public relations, politics, and broadcast journalism, which makes him an ideal producer for online TV.

SLentrepreneur Steve Cropper

I first met Steve last year when he invited me to take part in his new virtual show as the resident newsman. Now he’s reaching out further into the internet and I decided to take this opportunity to talk to him about his past and his plans for the future.

So what brought Steve into Second Life?
“After seeing a not actually very flattering item on TV about Second Life, I came into SL to see for myself. Soon after, I logged onto other virtual worlds; Twinity, Entropia,, and Kaneva.”
During his Second Life experiences, he met up with Robustus Hax and the staff at the Metaverse Broadcasting Corporation. As a media man in real life, Steve saw an opportunity to have a more active role in this virtual world.

“After about a year in SL, I was cast as the host of a TV chat show about virtual worlds called The Late Show on Metaverse TV, which ran throughout 2008.”

The show was a mix of commentary, interviews, and entertainment, with Steve being keen to play the role of musical impresario, actively seeking out in-world talent and showcasing them. In his Second Life persona of Angelico Babii, Steve had performers such as Space Junky, the Jax Streeter Band, and Allister Westland appear on the show. He also had Second Life author and blogger, Hamlet Au, make an appearance. And it was the success of The Late Show that gave him a new idea.

“We received a lot of viewer feedback about The Late Show. It turned out that we were attracting many viewers who were not actually in virtual worlds and they told us that they wanted a broader perspective on happenings on the internet. I was keen to develop a format that would be much wider than the Metaverse TV show, so the concept of Life On Line came about. This was to be about what people do with their lives on the internet, and the role of the worldwide web on our everyday real-world lives.”

With this broader remit, Steve assembled a cast of regulars and the first official episode of Life On Line aired on February 15th, 2009. This inaugural episode appeared on seventeen different websites and was broadcast as an avatar-based operation for over seven months. Then Steve decided to change the format.

“Whereas a large chunk of our audience was into virtual worlds and appreciated the machinima avatar format, after six months of Life On Line, we were still receiving emails from viewers asking to see the people behind the avatars. Those viewers told us they couldn’t really relate to a talking avatar. So the new series has migrated to conventional TV and so far, the response has been encouraging.”
With the first few episodes now running, Steve revealed a little more about where he sees Life On Line going.

“Our plans are to continue with the program in its present format and experiment with content and the look-and-feel. One key element we’re adding involves viewer content. We’re inviting viewers to provide their own material, in text, pictures or video, a question, a comment, a short film or they can compose their own reports for the show if they like. It will all be presented on our viewers’ group website ( but we’ll run the best of them on the program itself.”
Technically, Steve feels that creating an online offering can be achieved relatively easily and with little cost, but the more professional you want to be, the more resources are required.

“A very simple little program can be produced for the cost of a camera, editing software and an internet account – plus one’s own time, of course. And if the program is avatar-based, there is no cost for a camera. So it can be done very inexpensively. YouTube is overflowing with such items that cost the producer next to nothing. At the other end of the spectrum, one can produce a program every bit as elaborate as a regular TV program, requiring a budget for studio, crew, FX, equipment etc. Such budgets could range into the hundreds of thousands for a 13-episode series, depending on the talent (who fronts the show), the need for shooting on location and the level of technical sophistication required.”

I asked what business model, or models, worked for online TV.
“One of the more popular business models adopted by virtual worlds producers so far has been the sponsorship model. A virtual business is recruited to pay for the show (that is, pay the producers some money in return for boosting their public profile). The cost of this is ordinarily in line with the size of the program’s audience – but not always. There are also examples of larger corporations such as Microsoft or Sony funding development of a program and using that program for their own marketing purposes both in virtual worlds and the real world.
“Another model is advertising. We experimented with this model during series one but have since abandoned it because the revenues were too tiny to justify the intrusion of ads in the program. Viewers objected.
“A third option could be click-through static or dynamic advertising on the program’s website – assuming there is one. This is more in line with conventional text-based internet advertising. Any of these models might work depending on the nature of the show, the synergy with a sponsor or advertiser, and the hit-rate of a website. I don’t think any model is necessarily better than another.”

And the future of online TV?
“In many countries, we are witnessing a concerted effort by some conventional media to get to grips with the online media space. As people increasingly turn their TVs off and log onto their favorite websites, there is concern in many TV and radio networks and newspapers that they are at risk of being made redundant.
“Another question might be; will the online media space be conquered by conventional media or will it be occupied by smaller, independent program makers? I suspect the more alert and capable media organizations will successfully consolidate their presence online, but many will act too slowly and will go the way of the sailing ship. From my perspective as an independent producer, I am particularly interested in the opportunities of online TV for smaller operators because there are so few barriers to entry. The injection of new thinking, new formats and new content by new producers, who are not acquainted with the idea of limitations or failure, is already triggering a growth-spurt in online TV and I think its future is vibrant and exciting.”
Finally, I asked Steve what advice he would offer to entrepreneurs in the Second Life environment.

“Whilst I’m not much of a businessman, so not really qualified to give anyone specific business advice, I have discovered that it is best to avoid getting locked into just the one virtual world. There are new worlds coming online every day. The metaverse is enormous, so it makes sense to explore. And as in the real world, businesses that have a unique offering will do better than copycats.

“I would also suggest that people harness the marketing power of the fledgling virtual world media. There are a growing number of text, audio, and TV media emerging across the virtual worlds and they are attracting ever-increasing audiences. During Life On Line’s first series for example, we got up to a global audience of more than 100,000 across 60 sites web-wide.”

Key Points
• Don’t just focus on one virtual world – remember the metaverse as a whole
• Harness the power of virtual world media
• Provide something unique

Further information
• Life On Line website:
• Reputation TV:


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