Why Pinterest is the Future of Publishing

UPDATE: Pixacar is now in live beta! Check it out.


Disclosure: This article looks at Pinterest from the perspective of an entirely new publishing platform, and our team is developing an automotive version of Pinterest. 

Late in 2012, a west coast social media start up called Pinterest became the fastest growing website in history with a member base approaching 8 million in less than 12 months in business. Today, Pinterest boasts 12 million members in the U.S. alone, and a $2.5B valuation on the heels of $200 million in venture funding.

What is Pinterest? Pinterest allows users to organize their interests on virtual pin boards by “pinning” images and videos. Fellow members can comment, like, repin, and follow other members. Its dominant female user base assures a steady stream of fashion, lifestyle, gardening, home decor, clothing, and cuisine. A “Car & Motorcycle” section serves up all manner of vehicle-related content.

But where Pinterest earns Web 3.0 bragging rights comes from its outright simplicity together with enabling members 100% the content providers. It combines blogging, message boards, e-commerce, image sharing, and publishing into a powerful smorgasbord of user empowerment. At first glance, one is overwhelmed by Pinterest’s multi-column gallery, but you quickly adapt to its chaotic sense of order (think of a yard sale that beckons from the sidewalk; you’re not sure what all that stuff is but there’s gotta be something I want). Only by clicking on specific categories can the viewer drill down into subject areas of interest. Its search engine lacks the means to carve out specific sections and pin types, which I suspect is deliberate: Pinterest wants to maintain the mystery of it all.

By providing members with powerful and easy-to-use posting tools, Pinterest just sits back while its multi-million army of pinners change the home page faster than you can hit the refresh button. We’re talking about the most basic and simple form of web engagement on the planet thanks to a billion lines of java and python humming in the background.

Which brings me to why I believe Pinterest represents a new form of publishing:

  • Goodbye Centralized Newsrooms. The web has already turned every day readers into powerful voices. Blogs and message forums first come to mind. But until Pinterest came along, Web 2.0 models relegated those voices to secondary roles while website owners held sway over content. Pinterest, on the other hand, creates a level playing field. If you have something of value to say and show, post away! No longer is content origination the haven of centralized newsrooms telling the reading public what is relevant. Today, shade tree writers or anyone with cool stories can become digital journalists.
  • It’s Free! Okay, so a few short phrases does not a sticky article make. For every batch of juicy insights on any given Pinterest posting, there’s a thousand “atta boys” and perhaps even a thousand really bad articles. But for those able to say loud and proud with engaging content, there’s a willing audience of info seekers ready to click Follow and Repin. Gather enough eyeballs and your self-publishing cravings have found a new life form. And guess what, it’s free!
  • Pictures Tell Stories. News, data, product announcements, feature stories, photo essays, how to articles, videos… anything is the list is endless. Yet the web has converted many of us from studious readers into scanners due in no small part to the growing visual medium that is social media. What was once bait is now the whole story. Stop to consider the popularity of photo books such as the Iconographix series: Images rule the pages, captions are the total story.
  • Consumers are the New Brand Advocates. Consumers are now in a position to be powerful brand advocates through endorsements, or for every vendor’s worst nightmare, negative reviews. If there’s an audience, anyone can aim to serve that audience. For professional writers seeking broader exposure and even sales, the Pinterest model is where social media morphs into the ultimate publishing gig with zero marketing costs and unique revenue opportunities. You read it here first: The most effective advertising is a message from a friend.
  • It’s About the User Interface, Stupid. Pinterest succeeds not only by enabling its members in ways not thought possible just a few years ago, but also by creating an entirely new user interface. The company’s growth in members and content derives from a superior suite of posting (sorry, “pinning”) tools that take you from Kindergarten to PHD in about five easy steps. In no time even the dullest digital Luddites will find themselves caught up in building albums of anything that strikes their fancy. And speaking of online, Pinterest members can pin content from other websites thereby exponentially expanding their digital albums of interests. Collect old lunch boxes but your C drive is a tad low with images? Grab pics from lunchboxesareus and add them to your virtual pin boards (the rules of engagement concerning the posting of protected materials is amply spelled out in Pinterest user agreement).

Pinterest and Cars. While Pinterest has skilfully built a massive audience of pinners, I find the car and motorcycle section lacking both in depth and quality. Sure, the images for the most part are striking—too striking you might say—so as a car guy I’m left with “yeah, show me something I haven’t seen.” Accompanying verbiage tends to be scant or what I call “newbie,” and lacking a key litmus test of comment activity. A post without user participation is a post without life. Pinterest’s motoring related pins also tend to be ancillary to pinners’ central themes which oftentimes results in content unrelated to our friends on wheels. Finally, for Pinterest to realize e-commerce potential one has to question the levels of member engagement and commitment. It’s one thing to show off your interests in a broad based forum, another entirely to gather an audience of targeted consumers.

Pinterest Clones. Since Pinterest’s debut, scores of clones have emerged aimed chiefly at serving male audiences. Gentlemint, Dudepins, Tapiture, and Dartitup are among those attempting to replace furnishings and cute shoes with T&A and other macho stuff including cars. Frankly, I don’t get the concept. While Pinterest may be skewed towards women, that not only is changing but the clones’ business model makes the false assumption that a male counterpart to Pinterest can exist in a parallel universe. Dude: Men don’t shop, they buy. Men don’t browse, they seek. The car market, on the other hand, represent a concentrated vertical community of eager motoring enthusiasts. Like any constituency, gear heads expect a dedicated home that recognizes their deep commitment to the marketplace, not a catch all gallery of aliens. I simply can’t get my head wrapped around such a broad based man cave experience. Ah, but give me Web 3.0 home for my areas of passion and you got my attention.

I began this piece with a disclaimer regarding our new website for car lovers currently under development. Early birds anxious to kick the tires of our new automotive social community we call Pixacar can sign up right here or by clicking on the video thumb below (video alone is worth the three minutes of high octane action).

In the meantime, all you starving—and thriving— writers and publishers take a look at Pinterest as see if you see what I see!

Popularity: 7% [?]

Eric's Consulting Services for Publishers

There Are 4 Responses So Far. »

  1. I’m an avid Pinterest user and I love it but I hear what your saying about activity levels. I have pinned hundreds of motorcycle images on Pinterest with very few comments and repins. Maybe the other users don’t like my pictures but honestly there’s so much competition form other categories on Pinterest the vehicle items get buried.

  2. After reading about the Hemmings wacko slamming concours I cruised your site and ran across this posting about Pinterest and plans to launch a similar website. Elsewhere on this blog you talk about content losing out to audience but I’d urge you to recognize the value of content to getting people to visit the new project and get involved. Just my two cents and looking forward to checking out “Pixacar.” I give you credit for applying the principles described on this blog into real metal. More than I can say for the couch potatoes in the back seat. Good luck!

  3. Your site is incredible!

  4. Thanks! 6,500 new Facebook followers in four weeks and growing crazy.

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