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Media owners may be spooked by Pinterest’s controversial re-use of copyrighted content – but they could have plenty to gain from embracing,…

Pin tack stuck in map for location
photo: Ferenc Szelepcsenyi / Shutterstock

Media owners may be spooked by Pinterest’s controversial re-use of copyrighted content – but they could have plenty to gain from embracing, not fighting, social media’s newest darling. Here’s how.

For those yet to be (p)interested: Pinterest is a virtual pinboard for displaying, planning and organising collections of information found on other web pages, like a scrapbook. It is grabbing 11.7 million U.S. eyeballs each month, according to comScore. And early data shows Pinterest’s pins, like acupuncture’s, can bring welcome health benefits for publishers…

  • It has already become a top social giver of traffic, ahead of Facebook, for magazines like Martha Stewart, Cooking Light, Elle Décor, House Beautiful and Country Living, according to publishers and third-party data.
  • Real Simple is also amongst the magazines getting more traffic from Pinterest than Facebook
  • It has even overtaken Twitter as a referral-giver, according to Shareaholic, which says Pinterest also refers more clicks than Google (NSDQ: GOOG) Plus, LinkedIn (NYSE: LNKD) and YouTube combined.

Some media owners are making experimental efforts to find their own value…

  • Homes & Garden magazine has devised a ‘Pin and Win‘ competition that actively seeks engagement with readers through co-curration.
  • Time, Wall Street Journal and other more niche publications have also started pinning to various boards, but most seem overly self-promotional. Showing off newspaper front pages? There’s already a site for that.
  • Site design inspiration seems to be trending this way. There’s more than a passing resemblance to Pinterest in the recent overhauls given to the Easy Living magazine site and the Stylecaster site.

Yet, with all the promise, and despite plenty of hype, most media outlets so far are pin-shy.

Clear legal issues remain around Pinterest, which lets users re-post publishers’ material including photos to the site. One could forgive publishers their caution in embracing Pinterest while this fact persists. In recent weeks, Pinterest has moved to allay concerns. But there is still a long way to go, and not just on Pinterest’s side – media operators should move forward, too.

My advice?

1. Turn Abuse To Advantage

It’s time for publishers to get useful and remember who they are there for. As with all platforms you borrow space on, it’s how you use it, not how it uses you.

If they brokered a deal with Pinterest that allowed re-use of their material, news publishers, as the copyright owners to much of the site’s content, could walk away with a traffic bonanza.

2. Court Women

The site’s overwhelming female bias (83 percent of U.S. users, according to DoubleClick Ad Planner) could be a big draw for advertisers, since women are the primary purchasers in many households.

There’s a huge opportunity to monetise this pin-happy, online shopping savvy crowd that has yet to be explored. If three Ferraris can be sold every month via the eBay app, I’m sure we can sell a few of most things using pins and a PC.

3. Think Visually

I look at platforms like Pinterest (and there are now many) and I see massive potential for the news industry – not just new distribution opportunities but also potential new revenue streams, ways to connect with readers, customer research and perhaps even a whole new evolution of storytelling itself.

Users are busy, visual creatures. The challenge is no longer enticing them to read, it’s getting them to engage and discover in new ways.

There are huge considerations to think about with current page real-estates – after all, pictures take up more space than words. As tablet adoption grows, swipe, pinch and zoom gestures beg to be exploited by publishers. Pinterest’s photo-centric approach is straight out of the iPad UI playbook.

4. Go Beyond The Story

Is your journalist writing about Mad Men? Why not create a board from which users can buy everything they need for a night out with Don Draper? Perhaps pin up more photos than your piece had room for, maybe some exclusive content.

Maybe link back to an RSS search for all previous articles mentioning Mad Men? Why not create exclusive boards for users to purchase the DVDs through? Perhaps offer a coupon for the items you’ve pinned because you worked out a deal with the supplier beforehand. Could every board be an opportunity to drive new Twitter followers, new Facebook fans and (gulp) new subscribers?

Here is my Pinterest board to accompany this story.

One thing is certain – there is a clearly emerging aesthetic in online media towards discovery versus search, and toward grid interfaces instead of streams, as platforms deliver information more visually to drive up engagement.

Whether it is Facebook’s Timeline, huge blog template headers, Google+’s oversized photo posts or Twitter’s Pinned Tweet it just seems publishing isn’t quite ready to create stories in this way because of their text-centric nature. Using Easy Living as an example, outlets must learn to develop a competency in delivering information in this way.

It’s unlikely that every story could or should be Pinterested. But could a board act like a self-contained unit of information? A sort of quick-hit Storify? Is it the morning product so many commuters crave?

Pinterest’s growth, at least in the short term, looks to be on a hockey-stick curve. News won’t be replaced by Pinterest and its ilk any time soon, but it could learn a couple of tricks from it.

Paul Armstrong is the creator of @themediaisdying, he is currently Head of Social at Mindshare. You can follow him on Twitter here (@munkyfonkey).

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This article originally appeared in Mindshare.

  1. Todd B. Martin Tuesday, March 13, 2012

    Publishers should evaluate these opportunities not based soley on traffic but in the total value exchanged for use of their content relative to other channels.  On their websites they get usage data, user data, indirect monetizion through advertising, brand impression, engagement and solicitiation opportunities.  Pininterest is building audience and getting direct access to user data.  The audience on their platform becomes more valuable than the audience driven off in the form of traffic to sites.  Publishers should be participating in these kinds of relationships and getting equal access to:
    -How their content is being used (real-time usage data)
    -Audience creation (1 user for PinInterest, 1 user for the Publishers)
    -Brand Impression
    -Opportunity for Engagement
    -Opportunity for Solicitation.

    If they don’t get all of this then they should get something else in comparable value.  No, traffic alone does not fit the bill.

  2. I have to agree that your Pinterest marketing strategy should go beyond the actual traffic. But, for you to make pictures your source of good conversions you need to make sure you are getting targeted traffic.

    1. Make your images extremely relevant to your actual content.
    2. Turn the image into the content with infographics, graphs, etc.
    3. Post a title or summary that tells users what to expect if they click on the link.

  3. Paul Armstrong Tuesday, March 13, 2012

    Interesting POV Todd – I don’t disagree but I do enjoy debating borrowed platforms and what companies expect or think they should get (and where they stand in this equation).  If there’s value on both sides then there’s a leg to stand on but sometimes – at least in the beginning – platform owners / content creators often over value what each have.  Trends and data over time will ultimately determine Pinterests long-term use case as it is still extremely early days. 

  4. Paul Armstrong Tuesday, March 13, 2012

    Thanks Luis.  I think there are big opportunities for media owners (and others) to use Pinterest in an engaging way to drive traffic and beyond.  Right now we’re seeing a variety of uses – not all great – but with the right strategy, brand and content – engagement is flying.  It’s up to the brand to decide if they want that on Pinterest or elsewhere…

  5. Jenni @ BespokenFor Wednesday, March 14, 2012

    Hooray at last! someone on my wavelength totally agree!  Embrace Pintereset!  I love it and I am delighted when people share my images in their boards. but I do worry about others who may not like me sharing their work!

  6. I really do love Pinterest (I don’t think I was this bothered about Facebook ever), but I am a little concerened about the gold rush that’s starting.  While I’m relatively hopeful for the future, I’m worried that marketers are going to crash in like bulls in a china shop and ruin it all.  

    I’ve written an article on it – what do you think the future holds? http://sunshineonheath.wordpress.com/2012/03/14/will-marketers-spoil-pinterest/

  7. Love the idea but your Pinterest story board is too visually boring to make the point very well. Most people use Pinterest for the visual stimulation.

  8. Paul Armstrong Tuesday, March 20, 2012

    I’ll do better Stevie!  I promise!

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  10. We don’t know yet how Pinterest is going to effect our scial life, but if we can draw traffic and get comments for every pinned story of ours then I believe that we will achieve to use it for our benefits better.

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