Pinterest is the newest social media crazy that is taking the Internet by storm. It is basically an image sharing website that allows you to group pictures onto themed boards. The pictures are usually connected to websites where the images were found. For example if I find a picture of a something I like and would potentially want to buy I can “pin it” to one of my boards. People create boards for just about anything from fashion and food to pets and places. I would say that Pinterest is targeted more at women, but I did just learn that there is also a more masculine version called Gentlemint.

I just started using Pinterest last month and have to say I love it.  However in the back of my mind I did wonder how they were making money.  Unlike Facebook, Pinterest has a very simple and clean design as well as none of the advertisement bars that Facebook has.  For our blog assignment this week I read a post from onecoolsite.  The post talked about another article relating to how Pinterest is basically hijacking links to make money as an affiliateWhen I first read this I did not really understand the concept.

Basically when you “pin” something it takes you back to the original website where you found the image.  However sometimes when things get pinned they don’t have an affiliate link meaning the company that actually makes the product or the original person who posted the picture does not get credit.  Pinterest is now using a company called SkimLinks.  What SkimLinks does is connect people’s pins with the affiliate link if the original picture does not.  How Pinterest profits is if the item that was pinned, say a mug, was clicked on by someone else, the pictures takes them to the e-commerce website where the mug can be purchased.  If the person then decides to purchase the mug, Pinterest gets a cut of the transaction.

Now what most people have been saying in articles I have read is that this is totally fine, the issue is this practice seems to be very secretive and not openly disclosed to users.  I agree that I don’t mind Pinterest making money off the things I post however I would have preferred to know about it before I started using Pinterest.  I think Pinterest should now come clean about how it is using SkimLinks and allow people to individually decide if they want to connect a pin back to an affiliate site or not.  This allows people to post pictures of things they like but not be a walking advertisement for different products if they don’t want to be.

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6 responses »

  1. timethief says:

    Hello there,
    Thanks for reading my post and the comments wherein David provided more information and for backlinking to the post. Affiliate link disclosure is expected under the FTC and disappointing that Pinterest makes no such disclosure on their site.

  2. Connie says:

    Nowadays, it seems like everything, even something that is supposed to fun and leisurely like Pinterest, is an attempt to make a profit. I agree with you that the biggest issue with what Pinterest is doing is the fact that they haven’t disclosed to its users what exactly they are doing. Also, while I understand Pinterest is using SkimLinks as a way to make money, I feel like it’s also important for Pinterest in avoiding any copyright violations, particularly if the images don’t include the original source. With the emergence of sites like Pinterest and Tumblr, credit to the original poster is easily lost. But at the same time, it could be easy for the original poster to stumble upon their content on a different site without credit to them, creating the potential for lawsuits. Therefore, while Pinterest is being rather shady about their affilation with SkimLinks, I think it’s a good idea for covering their tracks as far as copyright laws go.

    • Scout Berger says:

      I think that Connie makes a great point about avoiding copyright violations. Especially surrounding the SOPA “talk” it is interesting and also necessary to make sure to avoid copyright violations. To be honest, I actually have no problem with Pinterest making a profit while also avoiding any copyright issues. In my personal opinion, the fact that Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest etc. all have their own ways of making money is perfectly fine with me. While these social media websites are still free, then I don’t see any issues with why they shouldn’t make a profit. I think for Pinterest to continue to be a success, it is imperative that they avoid lawsuits. In addition, I can’t seem to really understand why Pinterest isn’t being upfront with their affiliation to SkimLinks. We know that Facebook makes money through advertisements and that has not deterred anyone from using Facebook. It doesn’t make me think any less of Facebook or find it to be less entertaining. Maybe this is naive and irresponsible of me, but as long as Pinterest remains free, I don’t care if they receive a cut of transactions or not. Whether or not I knew about SkimLinks would not have changed anything for me.

  3. Sarah says:

    Connie makes a great point about how the original creator of content sometimes does not get credit for their work that is posted on the web. This could be because the person forgets to or does not know that they should reference the original source when the copy the content. However I think that this is just one of the risks of posting stuff online. Once you put content out there, it is out of your control and people can choose to do what they please with things you post. In terms of SkimLinks, I don’t think the purpose of it is to cover Pinterest or any other company against lawsuits. If you look at the SkimLinks website it gives a demonstration of how it works. Really SkimLinks is only for commercial products that are being sold by companies online. If someone references a product but does not connect the reference to a website then SkimLinks will do it. However if you or I were to post something original and other people copied it without referencing us, it would not work.

    http://skimlinks.com/skimlinks

  4. Connie says:

    Ah, that was completely my fault for not clicking through and reading all the links properly! From how I interpreted SkimLinks in your post, it also seemed like a way for Pinterest to cover themselves from copyright issues. Then again, the content isn’t posted by Pinterest itself, but rather the users. In any case, now I’m curious to find out the percentage of each transaction that Pinterest gets to keep for profit! Even if it’s something like 5%, these purchases can add up! While I am sure that most Pinterest users solely use Pinterest to create these pin boards, rather than actually purchasing the items, there’s a chance that the users might eventually want to buy these products. Honestly, I think this is a rather smart business move by Pinterest. They know that they’ve been receiving a lot of traffic on their website as of late, so why not make some money out of it? As I said before, Pinterest should disclose to their users this new affiliate linking; however, I don’t see anything wrong in the practice itself. They aren’t forcing or advertising to their users to buy certain products; they’re essentially making the option available for some posts and reaping the benefits of it.

  5. […] Pinterest and the how they profit from your “pins” (bizgovsociii.wordpress.com) […]

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