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It's where avatars meet

Second Life's virtual world has offered businesses the chance to profit, advertise and grow by making anything -- and I mean anything -- possible.

While established companies like Nike (NKE) - Get NIKE, Inc. (NKE) Report and American Apparel are using Second Life (SL) to push their brands in the meta-verse, others expect to use this virtual setting to educate. As SL's user count has topped 1 million, businesses like Podcast Ready are hoping to capitalize on this growth by establishing their identity on the Internet.

Podcast Ready is a real-life company that provides software and services to remove the obstacles limiting the widespread adoption of podcasting. A podcast is a multimedia file (usually an MP3) that is distributed over the Internet using syndication feeds (RSS) for playback on a computer or portable media device, like Apple's (AAPL) - Get Apple Inc. (AAPL) Report iPod. The goal of Podcast Ready is to make it easier to subscribe, listen to and share podcasts.

Russell Holliman, the founder and CEO of Podcast Ready, is a 17-year veteran of the information technology industry. Along with two German college students, Holliman started Podcast Ready in December 2005 in order to change the way podcast-listening takes place.

Holliman has embraced Second Life's way of socializing and communicating. In fact, he requested that our avatars meet at the Podcast Ready virtual conference room in SL, instead of talking by telephone. I had my virtual alter ego teleport to the island of Nooribeom in the SL world, where Podcast Ready has a sprawling setup of virtual offices.

A Place for Podcasting
You'll find virtually everything

For a small company, Holliman is certainly making a big push in the virtual space. "Second Life has some tremendous potential for us and others," he says. "We're embracing the early adopters, and they are certainly here."

While businesses seem to be flocking to News Corp.'s (NWS) - Get News Corporation Class B Report, Holliman is taking Podcast Ready on a virtual SL pioneering trail.

"I don't know if MySpace is very effective, really," Holliman says. "There's so much noise. We're on MySpace, too, but this environment lets us tell the story of podcasting, in addition to our story, so much more effectively, albeit to a smaller audience."

Currently, Podcast Ready features distributed channels dedicated to CNN news headlines as well as top stories in the New York Times (NYT) - Get New York Times Company Class A Report, Disney's (DIS) - Get Walt Disney Company Report ESPN, MTV News and CNET's (CNET) - Get ChinaNet Online Holdings, Inc. Report Gadgettes.

"Those companies publish their own podcasts openly and are all about distributing their content, and that's exactly what we do, to the tune of about 3 million so far," Holliman says. "Since our model is one of the few business models that does not require any alteration, we can use them as is without additional licensing agreements."

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In Second Life, Holliman says that Podcast Ready aims to build podcasting through educating users about the technology. "Literally daily, I have people pop into the Second Life building and ask about podcasting and Podcast Ready. With some seminars and such that we're putting together, we should be able to spread the word pretty well in here soon," he says.

With staff and support based in different areas of the U.S., Holliman says that Second Life also provides a more enjoyable means of communication among his employees.

"The technology is convenient to be able to log on and chat and view video or slideshows, all at the drop of a hat," Holliman says. "I can stream just about anything, which is very easy and convenient for brainstorming sessions."

Currently, the company is working on getting a virtual device into SL that allows you to stream podcasts. In addition, Podcast Ready wants to allow users to buy media devices in Second Life and have them delivered in real life by

(AMZN) - Get, Inc. Report


"There would not be any profit in it for us

per se

, but it would help educate and help our hardware partners out some and hopefully get a new Podcast Ready user, " Holliman says.

While hoping the company is profitable in Second Life someday, "today it's an experiment and an outreach program," he says. "It may always be that way."

While Holliman doesn't envision SL as being a huge profit center for his company, he does expect some benefits. "With the streaming capabilities, it might be possible to offset the cost with some advertisements and podcasting," said Holliman. "It is my goal to buy a large island and create a podcast community site for all companies to educate."

Robert Holden is staff reporter Robert Holmes. He reports often from Second Life.