Credit: Souvik Banerjee on Unsplash

Although Pinterest has been around for more than a decade, it has been largely ignored by publishers. Maybe we are missing a trick though - with more active monthly users than Twitter, the visual search platform may be an untapped reservoir of audience and revenue growth.

Pinterest functions on the saving and sharing of images and videos that link to a parent website. Users save their 'pins' (images or videos) by making categories called 'boards' - think of it as a scrapbook for pictures you find online, with the added benefit of also saving the link to the original source. If pins receive high user engagement like saves, clicks and impressions, they can generate quite an important traffic for the parent website.

What is in it for publishers?

First thing first - there are no obvious ways to use Pinterest for news. People use it mainly to find inspiration for anything from travelling to interior design to baking a crumble pie. Unlike Instagram or TikTok, users do not come to Pinterest to like other people’s posts or scroll through the latest stories. In fact, content is not even chronological which makes it perfectly unsuitable for news publishing but very interesting for lifestyle content discovery and new revenue generation.

Refinery29, for example, known for fashion, beauty and wellness content is now using the platform for stories about real estate and finance.

"We know our audience has double the affinity for our finance content than the regular Pinterest user so we leverage this insight with our franchise content Money Diaries and Sweet Digs," says Tamar Riley, vice president of global audience and content strategy at Refinery29.

They are on to something. According to Pinterest’s 2022 Predictions report, search terms like 'investment tips' or 'financial planning bullet journal' have increased by 195 per cent and 90 per cent respectively over the past two years, driven largely by millennials. Speaking of the millennials, just under a third of them who live in the UK with a household income of over £100k are on Pinterest, according to Comscore.

E-commerce potential

As the latest 2022 predictions from the Reuters Institute show, most media brands look to have a mix of revenue models that combine reader payment, adverts, events and sometimes e-commerce. Social shopping is expected to take off this year, as other visual platforms like Instagram, TikTok and Snap lean into this area. Although e-commerce revenue is best suited to lifestyle publishers, news outlets could explore new opportunities that social shopping brings.

With the launch of their 'Idea Pins' last May, Pinterest has now made it easier for organisations to increase audience engagement and earn revenue through adverts and sponsorships. Idea pins allow you to add up to 20 pages of related images and videos that users can swipe through to get what they are looking for in one go.

These pins are also equipped with visual search technology and a 'try-on' preview option, which made Refinery29’s 'Most Wanted' shopping board garner the highest impressions over the Christmas period.

"With many publishers operating in both a merch and affiliate space, there's opportunity to leverage these features," Riley says.

Who else is on Pinterest

Newsrooms like NPR and the New York Times are also using the platform to push their content. The latter created a number of boards ranging from 'Valentine’s Day' to 'Celebrity Portraits' that show publisher’s visual work. The 'Editorials and Op-eds' board has more than 1,000 pins linking to long-form op-eds on the NYT website. Although the account has less than 300k followers, which is negligible for a publisher with more than 8m subscribers, it still generates more than 10m monthly views.

Other publishers, like NBC Sports, The Times and Sunday Times, The Guardian, LA Times and Daily Mirror all have a presence on the platform, using it mainly to push content around interior design, fashion, food, travel and culture. But clearly, Pinterest is not their priority.

Riley believes that as Pinterest continues to create innovative content formats for users, publishers will discover its potential to build a loyal audience through personalised content.

"Audiences are looking for trusted faces behind the headline - personal viewpoints and experiences. There’s a real opportunity for meaningful engagement," she says.

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