[important]UPDATE: Pinterest has apparently ceased their relationship with SkimLinks, which means parts of this article are no longer true. That said, the premise still holds. Added Feb 17th, 2012.[/important]
It’s very likely that as a consumer of the internet and its content that you’ve been invited to Pinterest, and are happily pinning away your favorite foods, drinks, shoes, and shirtless Ryan Gosling’s. You may have read recently that some of those things you’re pinning up are being utilized by Pinterest to make money.
That has a bunch of folks unhappy on both sides of the internet equation. Affiliate marketers have varying views on this topic, as evidenced by the debate on Pinterest and Affiliate Marketing Disclosure. Some think it’s sexy innovation, and some think it’s a violation of FTC regulations. Both sides are wicked jealous that they didn’t think of it.
Some consumers have felt duped and used. They don’t want to be a cog in the Deus Ex Machina that is social media monetization. And since Pinterest isn’t telling them how they make money, it’s considered a slight. Or moreover, a direct affront.
Personally, I find it amusing that consumers care at all. In the final analysis (done today for convenience), consumers have been monetized by social media for years without caring or knowing, and by the internet for years before MySpace was a twinkle in Tom’s eye. Let’s have a look, shall we?
Google Adsense and the Art of Knowing Who You Are
Know it or not, your very web existence has been hacked up, analyzed, spit out, and turned into profit by Google and retailers since the early 2000’s, with its creation really coming in 1998 by Oingo, Inc. A lot of websites you visit look at who you are, and serve you ads through Google (and other Behavioral Targeting services). If you knew how deep this ran, you’d likely NEVER visit Dictionary dot Com again when you’re cheating playing Scrabble on Facebook.
While this may seem a bit distant in practice from what Pinterest is doing, on some levels, it’s exactly the same. It’s monetizing your interests. Ever noticed those ads while you’re checking your Gmail? Yup, they seem pretty targeted to the email you’re reading, don’t they? Google knows you better than Pinterest does. For now.
Farmville and Growing Revenue Socially
Do you have any idea how Facebook makes its money? In part, it’s because you play Farmville. Was that disclosed to you in an open manner? Have a look: http://articles.businessinsider.com/2012-02-01/tech/31011956_1_zynga-games-advertising-sales-of-virtual-goods
That’s 12% of Facebook’s revenue. A great portion of the rest comes from serving you ads based on SPECIFICALLY who you are. If I want to advertise to 18 year old girls who love Prada and live in a major Metro, Facebook is the place to do it. They offer us advertisers that information. Not your names or specific addresses or anything like that, but we can target right down to a level we just can’t do in television or radio.
So Facebook was monetizing you long before Pinterest. And you probably didn’t know it.
So What’s My Point?
My point is, Pin away. The internet isn’t free. If you saw Pinterest’s hosting bill every month (think of it as your cable bill on steroids), you’d realize that they need to make a living too. They can’t afford to have you build a visual representation of what you wish your life was like (and the one that your arch enemy old sorority sister is probably already living) without making a little scratch.
They aren’t invading your privacy at all in this case. And they’re giving you an awesome creative outlet. And a great way to get yourself through until lunchtime at the office. Let’s hope someone put coffee on.