Earlier this week I read a couple of articles that took glee in revealing that Pinterest was “modifying user pins” to make money. This Daily Mail-style, ill-informed scare-mongering made out that Pinterest was duping its users by not telling them that if they post a product on Pinterest, the company may then earn revenue because it “modifies” the link to add an affiliate tracker code.
Anyone who doesn’t realise this is how most of the websites on the Internet work would think Pinterest is doing something underhand. I have written about and praised Skimlinks before – for that’s the system Pinterest is using. Thankfully, online professionals who know about online publishing and marketing have spoken in defence of Pinterest such as Mike Butcher, writing on TechCrunch.
Skimlinks is a super affiliate scheme – earning commissions from hundreds of retailers who pay commissions when users click on coded links that result in a sale. Skimlinks’ system saves website owners the hassle of encoding individual links by simply installing a piece of code across the whole site that turns each link into a redirect pointint to Skimlinks, which then checks to see if the destination URL belongs to one of the retailers that pays commission, it then encodes the link with an affiliate tracker code and sets a cookie that will allow the retailer’s affiliate program to report a commission. Skimlinks then shares this commission with the website that generated the click (in this case Pinterest).
What complainers forget, of course, is that Pinterest is not the only one likely to be making money out of Pinterest. If, for example, you publish a website that reviews products where you are also running Skimlinks code, and if your product reviews are posted on Pinterest, anyone clicking on the pin will come to your website where they will then click through to the retailer. So, Pinterest earning money is great for them, but it doesn’t mean no one else can earn money from it as well.