Tag Archives: monetization

Pinterest adds disclosure about how they (might) make money. Conversation with Pinterest CEO.

Ben Silbermann, the CEO of Pinterest, called me this morning after reading my story on copyright issues. While he didn’t want to go into detail about how they will continue to address that issue, he did provide me with his take on the affiliate link modification story.

Ben told me that it was never Pinterest’s intention to be deceptive. He indicated that the use of Skimlinks was a test, not a business plan, and that Pinterest had stopped using Skimlinks a week before I wrote the original story on the subject.

My Error

The image I provided with the original story actually showed a piece of code that didn’t relate to the Amazon’s affiliate program. At least one reader commented on my blog that the link I listed wasn’t an affiliate link, and several people emailed me indicating that they couldn’t replicate the link modifications when posting pins. This makes more sense now, as Pinterest had stopped using Skimlinks a week before I published the story.

Pinterest’s silence on the affiliate link story.

Despite the popularity and reach of the Pinterest, the compnay only has 16 employees and the vast majority of them are focused on development issues. Ben indicated that Pinterest is still figuring out how they best want to respond to issues as they come up.
A Google News search of the term “Pinterest” returns hundreds of stories and guides each day about the service. Ben indicated that Pinterest wants to be transparent, but as a startup trying to continue to develop a compelling product, their team doesn’t want to be constantly reacting to every new article or story about their business.

Pinterest has updated their site with a disclosure.

In order to provide transparency and clarification going forward, Pinterest added a new section on their help page to address any possible future questions around the monetization issue. The new section is called “How does Pinterest make money?”:

Right now, we are focused on growing Pinterest and making it more valuable. To fund these efforts, we have taken outside investment from entrepreneurs and venture capitalists. We’ve tested a few different approaches to making money such as affiliate links. We might also try adding advertisements, but we haven’t done this yet.

Even though making money isn’t our top priority right now, it is a long term goal. After all, we want Pinterest to be here to stay!

Skimlinks was not a monetization effort, but it was testing.

Ben stated to me, “Our focus right now is not on monetizing, but we have tried a few things out to better understand how people use the service. We want to be a profitable company, but we want to make sure whatever model we eventually use, works with customers. We haven’t decided on one way to do it.”

Ben indicated that Skimlinks was more about testing how people used Pinterest rather than a long-term plan for monetization. Using Skimlinks, Pinterest was able to test a number of things including whether users would make purchases when linked to from the Pinterest site.

In the end, most Pinterest users, who were aware of the link modifications, wanted some type of disclosure, and they got it. Whatever route Pinterest ends up taking to a sustainable business model, it seems they have taken the approach that users need to be aware of some of the behind the scenes testing that may go on in the process.

Twitter Monetization

If Twitter is worth billions, will the ads to achieve that number ruin the experience?

The issue of monetization should be near and dear to the hearts of anyone who loves a certain social media platform.  If you are taking the time to actually read a blog about social media, you likely already understand the value social media has to you and perhaps your business.

One of the reasons that I love Twitter is that I choose who to follow and thus I choose who I give attention to.  If a product or person is interesting or useful, I opt in to giving that brand or person my attention.


But how does Twitter, the company itself, make money?  The application is so big now and the evaluations of what the company are worth are so high (5, 7, 10 or even 20 billion), that Twitter has to be able to find a way to make a significant profit off of its users.

Twitter’s new iPhone app, is providing us, Twitter users, with a view into the future of what Twitter will be.  And I am concerned it will become too commerical.

Most of the controversy about the new app is a result of the “Quick Bar” that Twitter installed across the top of the app this past week.  It is billed as being useful because, as Twitter puts it, “it shows trends and other important things.”  Most people just found it annoying.

In response, Twitter made it so the this “Quick Bar” only appeared at the top of the the application and didn’t sit on top of all the user’s Tweets as they scroll.
This doesn’t seem like a big deal either way, so why does it matter for the future of Twitter?

It matters, because much of Twitter’s early revenue has come from promoted trends, promoted tweets and promoted accounts. 

In the past, these “ads” haven’t seen so noticable as to be distracting.  They are usually highlighted with a yellow “Promoted” icon, that while catching the eye, isn’t that intrusive.  I personally don’t find trends that interesting, whether promoted or not, so I rarely look at them.  But when I do, I usually see a movie, TV show or some event specific campaign by a brand.  If this is all it took for Twitter to make money, I would be fine with it, but it won’t be enough to achieve these billion dollar evaluations that Twitter is currently receiving.

The Quick Bar highlights promoted trends in a way that is more intrusive, and it forshadows the introducation of actually advertising tweets into our timeline.
This spring, I know it is scary, but ads will start to show up in your timeline.

And while the Quick Bar might affect early adoptors who rushed to get the newest Twitter app, actual ads showing up in the timeline, will affect everyone who uses the service, no matter what app or platform they use.

I am not happy about having ads show up in the timeline, but I am willing to live with it, if it doesn’t decrease my user experience too much and if it allows Twitter to keep going.

How Twitter walks this fine line is important to millions of users who have given their attention over to Twitter and who will have to decide, as ads start to become part of everyday use, if that attention is warranted.