It’s not a secret. We do monetize social discovery, and it’s great.
There have been a few articles popping up discussing Pinterest’s use of Skimlinks, so we wanted to dive in and talk about what they are doing, as it’s not a secret or sneaky or covert, but a very popular, mainstream, and valuable approach to content monetization.
First off, Pinterest’s use of Skimlinks technology is nothing new, nor is it secretive. Skimlinks has been around for almost 4 years now, we are established and relatively well-known, and a large proportion of our customers are blogs, forums and social discovery sites. Pinterest and many other social discovery sites have been working with us for a long time, and although they are fabulously popular now, we like to think we helped them get the revenues and insights that helped them grow.
Online communities need ways to generate revenue to support their operations, and the preference is always to earn this revenue without disrupting their users or detracting from their UI with flashy advertisements. Creating a beautiful, user-friendly site, as Pinterest has done, mandates a non-intrusive way to make money.
In-content monetization can play a role in supporting the development of a community, and we hope that we helped get things off the ground, especially in the early days. Our goal as innovators is to create technologies that can help support similar businesses without impacting on the cutting edge user experiences these beautifully designed sites offer.
Secondly, some of these articles raise the point that Pinterest has not been vocal to their community in disclosing that they work with Skimlinks. While we fully encourage transparency and disclosure, at the very least because it is a nice thing to do, many sites choose not to be blatant about their monetization techniques straight away. We can encourage and give best practises, and we do, but it is up to a publisher the extent to which they make public their inner workings. From a legal perspective, for what it is worth, disclosure is required only where the content creator is making endorsements that they financially profit from, like when a blogger is paid to encourage their readers to buy something, or a price comparison site encourages the purchase of a particular insurance product where they get paid for that referral. By providing a platform where people can post things they like, Pinterest isn’t endorsing particular products for the sake of financial gain, just providing a valuable forum for products to be browsed by their community. So it is understandable that they didn’t want to make a big deal of this, especially as so many other content sites also use Skimlinks and affiliate marketing technology to help fund their operations.
A quick read of some of the comments on these articles shows that the majority of people don’t see this as an issue. Comments such as; “I think this is genius and other companies should be doing the same.”, “I personally would prefer this model to one whereby I am bombarded with ads.”, and “Pinterest users should be happy that the site can support itself without showing ads. Stores have gained an effective discovery platform. This is not duplicitous, and it hurts no one. So who cares if they disclose or not?”, show that end users welcome this form of monetization.
Thirdly, the value of our service goes beyond just its direct monetization potential. The data and analytics that we can provide about how community members are interacting with merchant and product information can be invaluable to publishers. The insights that can be gleaned by running Skimlinks have helped thousands of our publishers understand their customer base more, understand their shopping preferences, purchase behaviours, all without infringing on their privacy or interrupting their browsing experience.
Publishers can then make decisions to focus more on certain users or products or merchants, with knowledge that their community respond well to these people and products. This is how merchants benefit, aside from the fact that by helping these sites fund themselves, they are creating future sources of new customers.
It is often this early revenue from our SkimLinks and SkimWords products that can play a role in keeping publishers afloat in the early days, and this data that can help take these publishers to another level of growth and success.
Bottom line: We are thrilled by the (well earned, not overnight!) success of Pinterest, which is a phenomenal example of how social discovery and other sites can monetize without intruding on their user experience.
As a company, we’re constantly delighted to see how publishers use our technologies in new and innovative ways. The most exciting part of building our platform is seeing what other people can build on top of it – and Pinterest has taken it to a whole ‘nother level. Well done, lads.
Alicia is Skimlinks’ CEO and Co-Founder and you can find her on Twitter: @alicianavarro