Pinterest – the new social buzzword or just another way to exploit brand holders?

Last week a friend tweeted a link to a website called “Dogs at football”.  The link took me to a webpage on a site called  I’d heard of the site before, after all it is the latest buzz word on the Social Network scene, but had yet to venture inside for a look or play. His page, or “board”, was a humorous look at dogs of all shapes and sizes wearing all sorts of football colours in football grounds.  I spent a good ten minutes looking at the content, wondering where he got all of the pictures from.  “No idea” he said when I asked him, “people just keep adding pictures”. He explained the concept to me – pick a topic (as random as possible seems to be the norm), find some pictures, start uploading them as “pins” to your board (copying and pasting the image url) and away you go.  By making it public anyone can add images to your topic.  People can then “follow” and “like” your boards in a sort of Twitter-come-Facebook hybrid.

At the moment you need to request an invite to use (not view) the website so that Pinterest can try and control bandwidth and usage.  Just eight months ago the site had 400,000 users.  Today it has over 12 million.  It became the fastest website to get 10 million unique visitors and now welcomes over nearly 12 million unique views per month.  All good stuff you would think, and certainly the media has fawned over the small firm based in Silicon Valley.  Analysts suggest the firm has a valuation already of over $200 million.

But it’s not all good news.  Suppose a new board is set up protesting about companies involved in animal testing or child labour.  It is far too easy for one of the 12 million users to add a brand or a logo without any true founding.  This obviously isn’t a new issue for brand holders – they are often wrongly accused of being involved in everything from crop circles to the assassination of JFK.  But it is another platform rights-holders have to monitor. Pinterest makes it very easy for copyrighted images to be uploaded without permission.  Whilst the company absolves itself of any breach of copyright by putting the onus on the uploader that they need to comply with copyright requirements, few people who use the site will adhere to this.  Pinterest have said that they will comply with any interventions that right holders may make, but by making it so easy for users to upload any image it has opened up a whole new field of abuse.

Time will tell if Pinterest is the latest Social Media disrupter, or if it can differentiate itself from sites such as Tumblr, Twitter and Facebook.  But for now it is the only place I can find on the Internet where I can view pictures of dogs at football ground.  Genius.

Written by Stuart Fuller, Director of Communications, Group NBT Ltd