News outlets, influential bloggers, and the general consumer have all been singing the praises of the social network that is Pinterest. Aside from the ease in usability, allowing for faster and more widespread adoption, and the general attractiveness in design, the greatest success of this infant (and still invite-only) social network is the feeling elicited when participating in this social space. From the copy that gives the impression you’re working closely alongside the Pinterest staff, to the accomplishment one feels when creating a new board, there is so much positive sentiment towards this network that there seems to be no slowing down the momentum of pinning – that is, until recently.
In between the constant reminders that Pinterest is becoming a powerful referral source online, and the fact that every woman I know seems to be infatuated with creating boards of their favorite recipes*, there has been a recent outcry against the network. It seems that the innocent gesture of the Pinterest team creating a network for those with a desire to create visual representations of their wants whilst connecting with those they know does in fact have an ulterior motive, and unsurprisingly it’s to make money off your pins.
So, how are they doing this? It’s actually pretty simple. With the assistance of Skimlinks, Pinterest takes a look at the pins you have published and, if relevant, add affiliate links to them. Should the trail from your pin lead to a purchase of some sort, both Skimlinks and Pinterest receive a portion of the sale.
Though the news of the clean-looking, approachable social network finding a way to monetize off your hours of wedding planning on boards and collections of cat GIFs, what many find most surprising is the social network has done so without explicit disclosure.
Personally, my surprise is only that this hasn’t been reported on until now. The site is right at the 2-year mark, but the popularity didn’t seem to surge until the latter of 2011. It could be the drummed up interest in Pinterest has also brought about the skeptics, true – I just think it’s about time we got to know Pinterest a little better.
Now that the cat’s out of the bag, it wouldn’t be out of the question that users would protest their works of JPEG art representing anything other than their ideas having come to visual fruition, but this does not seem to be the case. In fact, business seems to be carrying on as usual. And why not? A representative from Skimlinks responded to the recent inquiries with a statement that essentially informs the online audience that monetization of user-generated content has been going on for some time, and it’s perfectly fine, whether speaking legally or morally.
I find it fascinating that we’re finally cracking the code that is this wildly-popular niche network, sure, but I am in no way offended. Pinterest using Skimlinks is smart business, and the additions to my boards in no way jeopardizes the fun I’m having online.
I’ve discovered the truth that was hiding in plain sight, and I feel more than comfortable saying that I fully intend on continuing pinning. Maybe when an actual dirty secret comes about I’ll reconsider creating that next board.