and That is All Right!
Pinterest is being reported as the latest hot site that has had explosive growth. Pinterest is a collection of links to external sites fronted by rich content thumbnails, and currently women are the core audience. In the ‘About‘ section of Pinterest they self-identify themselves as:
Pinterest lets you organize and share all the beautiful things you find on the web. People use pinboards to plan their weddings, decorate their homes, and organize their favorite recipes.
That description is obviously not written for the typical male audience unless we are looking to redecorate our man caves.
I currently find Pinterest boring, but that just means that at this time their content doesn’t resonate with me. Women have built the site, provided the content and the organization, and women are the biggest by percentage consumers of the site. It makes sense that I shouldn’t like it, but if women love it, then Pinterest has the best long-term chance for their success.
WHAT IS THE PINTEREST DEMOGRAPHIC?
Pinterest has found a great niche. The female demographic is one that may not have already been pursued as aggressively on the internet as the male demographic, has great spending power, can exert strong social influence among friends, and loves cute and pretty content. That sounds like an optimal audience to target.
So how does it work? Content is defined as a link to an external site that may have a picture or video you like. You’re allowed to add links to Pinterest, to share content, and to follow content posted by friends as well as content you “find.” For any content, you are allowed to “repin” this content. The fundamental mechanics are well understood and used by nearly every social site. The difference here is that “pins” can be categorized into a “boards” which can then be searched and followed. This means that a new layer has been added which is user-curation of collections of links.
Using purses as an example. A user could find purses offered from multiple sites and “pin” them into a “board” called “Cool Purses.” Friends would be able to see the “Cool Purses” board, comment on each pin to comment on each purse, and even go to each site to buy that same purse. The vibe I’m feeling with Pinterest is that it’s just a link engine to Etsy and other specialized sellers.
WHY IS PINTEREST DIFFERENT FROM GOOGLE/BING?
Temporarily, let’s remove the shopping aspect and say that Pinterest provides cool pictures. As we said earlier, Pinterest uses “boards” to provide a layer of categorization beyond the name of the “pin.” That means that as long as people are correctly categorizing pins, you should get some good content if that particular term has been categorized. If that content has not been categorized or pinned, then the search will be empty and you get nothing.
Let’s search for “Lightning” then as an example: For Pinterest there are a bunch of folks who have collected “boards” of lightning images. Google and Bing provide truly comprehensive image search options, and if you’re looking for a particular subset of a lightning search, Bing and Google offer clickable links to delve into subcategories of searches of Lightning, like Volcano Lightning or Purple Lightning. Google Image search further provides social content from people in your Google+ Circles and presents you first with search results from those friends. In my case I get results of lightning pictures from Chris Pirillo, Trey Ratcliffe, Robert Scoble, and Eddie Codel listed before other search results. Pinterest can not win pure image search.
I think I prefer Google and Bing because I trust their categorizations better than Pinterest. Search engines will use full page data and meta tags to find the most relevant photos and all related categories, Pinterest can not compete in terms of quantity and completeness. Pinterest still feels that it is more about shopping or scrapbooking
I also have a Super Bowl Example: Fiat USA released a Super Bowl commercial this year that completely blew me away. It used a beautiful woman seducing a regular guy to promote their Abarth performance package. Here’s the FIAT commercial (now at 6MM views)
Questions after watching that was 1) Who is that woman? 2) Have I seen her before? 3) Can I see more of her?
Google search found the answer to her name, but the following searches of images of Catrinel Menghia, a Romanian model speaking Italian, on Google and Pinterest yielded different results
And here are the related Google and Pinterest searches
There are plenty of google images of Catrinel (I’ll use her first name now because we’re cool like that), while Pinterest shows a blank page. Sure, she’s pretty, but she’s not a purse, and as I said, ” Pinterest hates men.” Eventually she will be listed in Pinterest as users increase and more men start using the service.
PINTEREST loves FACEBOOK/TWITTER
While Facebook cares about the social graph and Twitter about the conversation, Pinterest can leverage both to gain traffic into their site. It’s impossible to use Twitter to create a collection of links to products or images. Lists are only used in Twitter to identify users without further granularity. Facebook can be used to create an album of purse images allowing commenting and likes, but to setup external links on those images requires work by the user, and Facebook does not monetize off those links. The continual stream of Pinterest notifications from addicted friends is demonstrating just how many more women use the service. I have clicked on a few “pretty” things because of that.
WHAT ABOUT TUMBLR
Tumblr can provide the same curated experience and content curation as Pinterest, and it has amazing traffic, but fundamentally the content on Tumblr is more for teenagers and not optimized for the women’s demographic.
I’ll say”Pinterest is tumbr – now made for a woman” ReadWriteWeb has stated that Tumblr gets 12 billion page view per month. That’s insane! Well how do they do it? 1) excellent user generated content 2) incredibly funny user generated content 3) hard core pornography
My personal joke about porn on Tumblr is that nearly no matter what tumblr site you’re on, you’re going to be four clicks away from pornography. Because of porn, Tumblr will never be able to successfully draw in advertising dollars. No smart Fortune 50 brand would want to see their logo over hard core porn. If Tumblr decides to remove all adult content, then I’d bet their traffic declines significantly, and since they’re not really monetizing, traffic is the ONLY thing they can show their investors.
Because Pinterest content is not-yet R-rated, Pinterest does not nor will have that same limitation.
CAN PINTEREST MONETIZE?
Advertising yup, what a great demographic with cash in-hand ready to buy stuff. Premium ad space embedded into the boards will work great. It’s how a few other 100% curated sites make all their revenue.
Direct deals with partner sites: yup, as long as the demographic is matched, and this is a good one.
Premium accounts? If people want “status” in the community than perhaps there’s some way to provide them premium status and higher rankings, but that seems unlikely unless there were other social rewards.
Affiliate revenue? Absolutely, Pinterest is currently a great comparison shopping engine. Pinterest has and will replace every referral link with their own. They have provided a great site that aggregates content. They need to get paid, or it all goes away. If you area Pinterest user who wants to build affiliate revenue, then leave Pinterest and create your own site to generate your own traffic. The only thing Pinterest should have done is say that honestly and be upfront with it for every user.
Here’s a quick graphic of the Pinterest Referral data from Shareaholic. This is what everyone has been generalizing and calling absolute fact. Seriously it’s a small percent of traffic from a limited series of sites. I think it’s a strong indicator of referral capability, but again, every freakin’ thing on Pinterest is an external link. Twitter is not like that. Google Plus is not like that. Linkedin is definitely not like that.
THE FUTURE OF PINTEREST
I think it’s great that Pinterest is growing. They will figure out monetization, and competitors will push forward. Shalendra Chhabra here in Seattle just left Swype and joined a new company called Clipboard. The design is right now more for a more technical user, so it’s a different demographic being targeted vs Pinterest. There are probably others also up and running now that don’t have the weight of Pinterest yet, but could catch up.
As the popularity on Pinterest grows, more men will sign-up for this site, and that will change content from women-only into more PG-rated tumblr content. Likely teenage boys will finally hit the site realizing that all the women have gone to Pinterest, and then there will be some serious issues with signal to noise ratios and NSFW content. Pinterest better have some better segmentation and filter mechanisms in-place soon so they can maintain their core audience.
If Pinterest does not hate men, it should. Pinterest doesn’t need to kick out the men, but they need to keep the site “pretty” and “clean” to ensure they don’t lose their strongest demographic and their future to monetize off of that audience.