Pinterest has hired its first media partnerships manager. Why now?

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Pinterest has hired a head of media partnerships for the first time. The company has brought on Robert Macdonald, formerly of Google, to do the job. Macdonald previously managed publisher relationships at Dstillery, Scribd and Google. In an interview with the New York Times, Pinterest’s head of partnerships — general, not just media — said, “We don’t think we’ve invested enough yet to totally capture the opportunity and to help these publishers.”

When asked what publishers Pinterest will be courting, a spokesperson told me, “We are looking to work with a wide range of traditional and digital publishers across all verticals, many of which are already using the platform.” A handful of companies swear by Pinterest’s traffic referral potential. For example, Buzzfeed’s second biggest social driver of traffic is Pinterest, after front-runner Facebook. As I previously reported, Pinterest is also looking for someone to manage their relationships with Hollywood, so it’s going after media organizations of all shapes and sizes.

Although the media focus might seem confusing at first – Pinterest isn’t exactly the place where people share the latest news and viral videos – on deeper reflection it makes sense. Much like Twitter and Facebook’s feed content largely comes from media organizations, so do the images pinned on Pinterest. To keep people engaged and grow its user base, the company needs media organizations to target their content to Pinterest’s audience. “In the future, we will continue to explore a variety of co-marketing and co-promotional opportunities with publishers,” the Pinterest spokesperson told me.

Some might argue that it’s strange Pinterest didn’t have someone managing media partnerships already. It’s a huge, significant social network, and social networks are the way people find stories online these days. Cultivating media content isn’t just a strategic move – it’s a must-have.

David Galbraith, the founder of Wists — one of the earliest visual bookmarking sites, postulated why Pinterest waited until now. “Pinterest on a desktop as a grid was never a good way to consume media — it was a way to scan pictures,” Galbraith told me. “As things moved to mobile, then the difference between Pinterest and Facebook and Twitter became less distinct. I think that’s why it’s an obvious choice now.”

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