If you post a pin to Pinterest, and it links to an ecommerce site that happens to have an affiliate program, Pinterest modifies the link to add their own affiliate tracking code. If someone clicks through the picture from Pinterest and makes a purchase, Pinterest gets paid. They don’t have any disclosure of this link modification on their site, and so far, while it has been written about, no major news outlet has picked up on the practice or its implications.
Now you know.
I don’t believe this is a bad or unethical business model – I simply think it should be disclosed. The same way we expect Twitter to disclose what a Promoted Tweet is or Google to disclose what the Ads are on the top of our search results. News like this should spread in order to put just the right amount of pressure on the Pinterest team to make this more apparent.
Jason Santa Maria stated something on Twitter yesterday that I think fits here too:
If I like the things you create, nothing makes me happier than giving you money to keep doing it.
I don’t use Pinterest (perhaps I will one day) but people seem to like the service. If they like the service they’ll likely want it to stick around. Maybe they’d be willing to pay for it. Or maybe they’d be willing to accept the fact that Pinterest is generating revenue using affiliate links. Either way, let the people decide.