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Has Pinterest Found the Ideal Income Engine?

Josh, over at LLSocial has an interesting post on how the social sharing site Pinterest, that’s all the rage online, is quietly generating revenue by changing the links that it’s users are “pinning” to include Pinterests affiliate links.  There’s quite a bit of conversation in the comments over there as to whether doing so is really even legal, and if it is, whether it is really all that ethical.

Briefly, it is legal, or would appear to be, since the FCC rules that many of us worry about really only cover disclosure on things that the site is pushing directly.  Because the links are user published, the site gets around the disclosure with the extra degree of separation.  Parts of me want to say that it isn’t ethical, but I’m having a hard time validating that urge.  The service is free.  They’ve got to have some sort of revenue model, and ads would be the first obvious choice.  By changing links to include their affiliate link, they’ve found a way around including ads that would likely be a detriment to the service.  Reports (mostly from the comments of that article at LLSocial) indicate that they aren’t changing the links that are already using an affiliate link, so they aren’t outright stealing the income of people who were smart enough to include their affiliate links.  (Although, there could be some argument over whether those users should have to disclose)

In the end, Pinterest might have found the ideal income (revenue) engine for a site of their like.  The content is almost entirely user generated, and a large majority of it is product oriented.  (read: affiliate linkable.)  The fact that they are doing this is relatively recent news, so it still remains to be seen if they’ll see any backlash from users, but even if they do, I doubt it will mean much in the grand scheme.

If you’re familiar with affiliate programs at all, you’re probably already thinking what I was.  If affiliate links on the site are a good revenue stream for the company hosting the site, perhaps they could be a good revenue stream for an affiliate marketer.  I have yet to test any of that, and, actually, don’t even have a Pinterest account yet, but it might be interesting to test out and see what kind of results can be gotten.

Does anyone have any experience using affiliate links in Pinterest and care to share how it performs?

Why Wouldn’t You Run Ads?

On any given day, you can run around the blogosphere and find someone who’s been blogging about the removal of ads from their site. Or why they won’t ever have ads on their sites. It always goes back to some moral stance that they are trying to make and how it supposedly adds more weight to what recommendations that they do make. This isn’t one of those posts.

I run ads. I most likely always will. I enjoy blogging. It’s a great outlet for me both creatively and professionally. But I can’t do it for free. There are expenses involved. Arguably, I make more than my expenses are in a year, in a month. But the extra profit from this particular outlet allows me to work on other outlets. Other websites and other business ventures. For instance: I sell on eBay. It’s a small scale operation, with dreams of being a bit bigger. The extra money from this and other sites has allowed me to buy larger amounts of inventory and as a result, make more money there as well. That same extra money has allowed me to buy more domains to develop. (never mind that I’ve been having a hard time getting the motivation to develop them.)

In nearly every facet of life, there are two sets of people. The professionals and the hobbyists. I make money from my work here. That makes me a professional. If you don’t make money from your work, I would argue that you are merely a hobbyist. If you see yourself as a professional, you should be getting paid for your work. And unless you’re blogging for your employer, you’ll have to pay yourself. How will you do that? Advertisement revenue. Jim at The Net Fool put it best in the title of his post today. Cash is King!

Advertisements don’t have to be intrusive. They don’t have to be deceiving. You can still hold your moral ground while getting paid for your work. Make the decision to clearly label all affiliate links (I don’t, but that’s another post) and advertisements. If you’ve disclosed that you may make money from the link or banner, how is that a bad thing? You can be a professional and moral at the same time. It sometimes seems rare, but it does happen.

One last bit to chew on. Abraham Lincoln once said (long before the time of blogs) that “that which we attain too cheaply, we esteem to lightly”. If you’re giving your content away for free with no visible means of revenue, what does that tell you about how your content will be esteemed?