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.
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.