Reuters has joined the rush by big companies into web-based virtual worlds, setting up a news bureau in Linden Lab’s hugely popular Second Life.

On Wednesday, the news agency plans to begin offering coverage of real-world events for Second Life members, and vice versa, at a new site.

Second Life citizens can stay updated through a service called the Reuters News Center; a mobile device they can carry around while online.

Adam Pasick, who will be Reuters’ first virtual bureau chief, said on the agency’s blog: “As strange as it might seem, it’s not that different from being a reporter in the real world.

“You talk to as many people as you can, you read what you can, you find interesting stories and you chase them down. Once you get used to it, it becomes very much like the job I have been doing for years.

We think this is a great move by Reuters; one that shows the opportunities on offer in virtual worlds if you offer value to users.

Linden Lab claims Second Life now has over 900,000 members, and that several are making hundreds of thousands of dollars a year through its in-world money system.

The company doesn’t sell advertising, but a long line of firms are experimenting with ways to market to those users, including Toyota, Adidas Reebok, the BBC, Disney and IBM.