Published on February 8th, 2012 | by Kim LaCapria0
Pinterest Accused of Already Being Profitable, Modifying Links For Revenue
It seems you can’t turn a corner on the web nowadays without someone gushing enthusiastically about Pinterest, or complaining that they don’t get the point of it- generally the first step on the line to conversion.
Pinterest is getting a bit of an unfair rap as a “chick thing,” but it’s also being pegged as the hottest social startup in quite a while- so it’s also natural that controversy of some sort is brewing. And that controversy appears to have arrived in the form of an alleged quiet practice on the part of Pinterest to make the clips uploaded by users a bit more profitable- by adding in affiliate links where possible.
The use of affiliate links on sites that are somewhat similar is not unheard of, and it’s especially common on shopping blogs. But the tricky part that’s pinging the radar of the blogosphere is that the affiliate links are altering user-generated content without explicitly telling users their pins are being modified. The Pinterest affiliate link controversy even made the New York Times, which pointed back to blogger Josh Davis at LLSocial. Davis explains that not only is Pinterest “monetizing their site while in the early beta stage, which is almost unheard of for a newish social network,” but that he feels it may be a slight ethical violation:
“As most bloggers are aware, when you use an affiliate link in your post, you need to provide some type of disclosure either by it clearly being an ad, mentioning it is an affiliate link or at a minimum providing some type of prominent disclosure that your site features affiliate links. This is done, because you have a financial interest is promoting the product… In Pinterest’s case, since they are not creating the content and are inserting the links automatically, they might feel that they are not promoting affiliate linked pins any more than other pins, and thus they don’t need to disclose as the placement is not affected based on the financial gain.”
“I, like many people, don’t have a problem with Pinterest making money off of user content. The links are modified seamlessly so it doesn’t affect the experience. Pinterest likely should disclose this practice to users even if they aren’t required to do so by law, if only to maintain trust with their users.”
Perhaps it’s because Pinterest is more fun than roller disco and Midori sours, but I’m registering a big “meh” on the care-o-meter here, and I’m pretty touchy about web privacy to a degree. Do you think Pinterest needs to be more open about affiliate links on user pins?