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Interest In Pinterest

In Toronto Magazine, September 2012, How Tweet It Is #20, Interest In Pinterest

In Toronto Magazine, September 2012, How Tweet It Is: Interest In Pinterest

For about 30 years, for research purposes and just for the joy of it, I have collected and saved thousands of printed photos, illustrations, news clippings, and design items. This analogue albatross is now stored in several filing cabinets, each weighing over 100 lbs. Canada switched to the metric system in 1973, yet I still refer to weight measurements in pounds. To me, pounds sound heavier. But I digress.

Pinterest.com, the nom de plume for a charming little start-up from Palo Alto, may resolve my future image-saving storage issues, trading my trusty old reference cabinet for a ‘virtual cloud’ collection of interesting items, housed somewhere in the internet ether. Smells like freedom to me.

Pinterest, the virtual pinboard-styled social image sharing website grows in popularity every day. Pinterest functions as a repository for photographs, videos, illustrations and infographics, as opposed to Twitter, where users push written articles, news reportage, etc. On Pinterest, the power is in how users socially curate and distribute visual content with each other, and in how content-sharing relationships are developed with other like-minded users you follow and who follow you. Pinterest democratizes and socializes the visual curation process. I follow several people with extraordinary and inspirational visual taste.

The site garners over 1 billion page views monthly, and has already entered into the top 10 most popular social networks. It now seems to be driving more referral traffic to consumer-driven businesses than LinkedIn, YouTube and Google+. Not bad for a company of 16 employees, just over 2 years old. While there is huge interest from venture capitalists ($37 mllion raised so far, $100 is the goal), Pinterest has yet to turn a profit. It is still a great idea in search of a sustainable business model.

Friends may invite other friends to Pinterest, or you can visit the pinterest.com website to request an invite. Once registered, you can “pin” visual content from virtually every other website on the internet. Interestingly, you can not yet “pin” images directly from Facebook. I assume that—for now—Facebook is protecting its housed content within its gated, social networking walls. Nevertheless, there is a Pinterest presence on Facebook (you can “like” them), and due to Pinterest’s audience surge, perhaps in time the two parties will come to an agreement, although for now, Facebook is clearly in the power position.

Legal arguments related to intellectual property, copyright, and fair use still need to be ironed out, because as it stands, the current terms of use place the onus of liability squarely on the user, and not on Pinterest. That did not work so well in the past for companies like Napster. Pinterest founder Ben Silbermann has already publicly acknowledged this challenge as one to work through, as they moving forward.

A curated, pinned, categorized, and shared digital filing cabinet of visual treats, living in the floating “cloud” that is the World Wide Web-O-Rama? I can’t help but think of the Joni Mitchell lyric: “It’s cloud illusions I recall, I really don’t know clouds… at all.” But I want to know them. They are lighter and fluffier and easy to find. And they don’t weigh an imperial 100 lbs. Oops, I did it again.

 This is an expanded version of my “How Tweet It Is” column, originally published in edited form in IN Toronto Magazine, September 2012 issue.

Michael Thorner pins at pinterest.com/michaelthorner