Earlier this week, Pinterest announced that it will soon launch Buy buttons on millions of its pins, which will allow users to make purchases directly from the site.
It’s a huge money-making opportunity for the company.
Pinterest won’t take fees from either users or retailers, but e-commerce companies that sell on the site will be able to more easily credit it for influencing customer purchases, thus driving up the amount that Pinterest can charge for its ads (called “Promoted Pins”).
While the move may create dollar-signs for Pinterest, it feels like a kick-in-the-gut to some “power pinners,” the people who used to be able to make money on the site.
“Well, I guess that’s why they killed off affiliate links,” wedding blogger and founder of The Big Fat Indian Wedding Preeti Moberg whispered to me during the buyable pin presentation.
She was referring to Pinterest’s decision in February to ban affiliate networks from its platform.
Previously, Pinterest users could post pins of products that had affiliate tags and links to the sites where people could buy the items. Every time someone bought a product through an affiliate link, the pinner would get a cut of the sale. At the time, Pinterest said that it banned that practice because it had “observed affiliate links and redirects causing irrelevant Pins in feeds, broken links and other spammy behaviour.”
People who once made revenue from affiliate links were angry about Pinterest’s decision. Although the company stressed that bloggers and Pinterest users could still make money through by curating boards for brands, consulting, or creating original content, those opportunities aren’t as easy to find as simply using affiliate networks.
Although Moberg says that she completely understands why Pinterest decided to launch the buy button, she says that she and other loyal pinners feel abandoned. She had just started making money from affiliate links before Pinterest shut them down, but she knows bloggers who made thousands of dollars per month.
“How do you satisfy our side?” she asked. “What is Pinterest going to do with all the power bloggers? I think a lot of people are feeling alienated. I feel alienated too. We brought a lot of traffic — where do we stand in this whole thing now?”
Another wedding blogger, Christen Moynihan of Broke Arse Bride who also runs an affiliate marketing site called Bourbon and Sparkle, says that seeing Pinterest add a buy button where she and other bloggers could once promote products for their own gain was “kind of a kick in the gut.” Overall, her goal has always been to drive traffic to her own site with quality content though.
“Do I think Pinterest is changing in a way that no longer puts wedding bloggers, who have previously been integral to the rise of the machine, on a pedestal? Sure. It sucks from that perspective,” she said via email. “However, it’s not the only social media platform we’ve seen change … It’s just the only one we’ve seen change in a way that severely limits the use of that channel as a revenue stream for us.”
One lifestyle blogger was disappointed by how little credit Pinterest has given to bloggers who helped the site grow, but not surprised by its decision to cut affiliate links.
“It seemed too good to be true, and it was,” she told Business Insider via email. “I think it’s a bit shameful that Pinterest cut off affiliate programs without much warning, and without at least acknowledging that bloggers basically made the company what it is today.”
She admits that she blogs not just for the money and will continue to write and keep sharing pins, but that she won’t share product pins anymore.
Joanne Bradford, Pinterest’s head of partnerships, told Business Insider at Tuesday’s event that even though the move to cut affiliate links may have hurt some pinners who were making money, “Pinterest ensures that the consumer experience is the most protected, and the best experience possible.”
Cutting off affiliate links and taking control of its e-commerce business seems like a natural evolution for Pinterest, which scored an $US11 billion valuation for its last Series G fundraise and has raised a grand total of $US1.3 billion so far. But it might take a while for the power pinners to stop smarting.
Pinterest maintains that power users can still find other ways to make money, and that now product info will be much more up to date.
“We support many ways a Pinner can work with or for a brand that don’t incentivise the poor user experience we observed with affiliate networks,” a Pinterest spokesperson said via email.
“They can continue to be paid to curate boards for brands’ profiles, consult and create original content for businesses. Also, with updates like Rich Pins and Buyable Pins, we’re giving Pinners the ability to take action on Pins with up-to-date info that will always direct to the original source, which is great for Pinners, and for giving those blogs and websites referral traffic and driving sales. For those wanting to purchase a product for example, getting to the transaction in a few taps is a better experience than being redirected to a potentially spammy or out of date link.”