Recently there was an article about Pinterest that suggested the site was replacing some links with monetized links, where they could earn a commission on potential clicks through from their site to other websites. While some people seemed concerned, I applaud this move as long as those pins which were changed show that they might earn a commission on the click or similar. This would be easy to do, and ensure that there is no confusion as to what on the site was commercial integration versus not.
For Pinterest, the key strategies are a few extrapolations beyond the popular module. First, they need to figure out how to leverage more rich, descriptive meta data about the pins they are collecting. To ensure the data is correct, implement some game mechanics and incentivize with points or a loyalty program, etc so pins get better labels. As an output of that, you have the rich tapestry of information to start creating a better global popular list of the things that’s most interesting for you to look at. Flickr has probably done the best job in history of an innovative user experience around photos, however, in the last few years Instragram has done an incredible job and now Pinterest could eventually take the crown as the most interesting way to browse photos as a direct result of the monetization integration within the core product itself. Another way to put it, if when using your product, the part that makes you money is also the part that the person using the product loves the most, you’re way ahead of the game. What’s the point of browsing and getting recommendations from people you trust if you can’t easily purchase the item that grabs your attention?
Of course, the key with this meta data based gamification engine on Pinterest is to create browseable taxonomy like Flickr, also with tags but skewed towards more advanced personalization and segmentation. Combined with a series of widgets and integration points into all the various platforms, as they already have with the core product, they could distribute and become a push and pull mechanism for any publisher with visual content. After a fashion, this would be, “Image search done right” and a highly entertaining way to both consume content and share content as a publisher. The link integration ensures that publishers get instant value, unlike Facebook, Twitter or Google plus. All of these block your site from receiving any, “search juice,” as some might call it. Pinterest stands out as one which has a much more pro publisher strategy than any of the other products their visual model could disrupt.
A more broad based, generic taxonomy would also give Pinterest tremendous distribution leverage with all the social and search channels, which would eventually disrupt the larger players to a degree, as their margins eroded and Pinterest takes over with a lower cost product, at least from a user’s perspective. As long as their user interface prioritizes and includes value for the publisher or owner of the image, the person viewing the image and the company hosting the thumbnail. It’s a great business model and one that works best when all three major stakeholders get maximum value. It remains to be seen whether or not Pinterest will be able to morph along these axes or not and what their ultimate audience size might be.
According to comScore, they surpassed ten million visitors a month already and their core demo is similar to a Kaboodle, CafeMom or even Facebook for that matter, in terms of usage and demographic. Granted, there are a lot of people on the platform and more than enough to make the experience engaging. However, with just a few twists which I’m sure are coming, the product could replace my usage of things like Flickr and others, which is ideal for me. Personally, I love web products that provide maximum utility and minimal cost, like Google search, where it’s the fastest to return results and the relevance is on par with or better than Yahoo or Bing.
One of my biggest disappointments with mobile interest was the difficulty in pinning third party images. I do most of my browsing when on my iPad or iPhone so this makes it very difficult to pin the things I like and I don’t like the extra step of switching to another app. If the functionality of their product was carried across all screens they would be growing at a faster rate.
I’m looking forward to seeing how their product evolves.