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Over the past few months new social services have got social / digital marketers excited about curation, notably Pinterest in Western Europe and North America. The idea of Pinterest is not new or particularly revolutionary; prior to its growth it would have been seen in conjunction of other start-ups that are broadly related to it: Tumblr, and Hunch being three that spring to mind. Other services have been put into service to fulfil a similar need for instance despite its youth, music and entertainment roots MySpace, in the past was used by some middle-aged American women as a kind of online scrap book, but this wasn’t really the services raison d’être.

The Wonder of Pinterest

That is not to say that Pinterest is not a major achievement. If nothing else it has managed to overturn social media wisdom about women’s behaviour online:

Men are more likely than women to be collectors, creators and critics; they watch videos, create content, and are more dominant in posting opinions in online forums. For example only 15% of Wikipedia content is female-generated.

That quote is from Engage Women With Personal and Relevant Social Interactions by Tracy Stokes – Forrester (July 2011). Curation and the relative lack of women involved in it always surprised me. From as far back as I can remember as a child growing up; my Grandmother, Mother and girlfriends all seemed to be real-world collectors:

  • Drawers stuffed with recipes noted down from the back of food packets
  • Diaries stuffed with notes of information snippets heard from the radio
  • Notebooks stuffed with tear-outs from magazines
  • Scrapbooks of of outfits; a kind of DIY look-book

Pinterest managed to crack a demographic that others hadn’t.

Pinterest vs ( and Tumblr)

The user experience of all three services are visual, reminiscent of the mood board – a visual device familiar to artists, designers and agency folk.  One of the reasons why MySpace managed to win out over Friendster in the early noughties was due server performance made the user experience slower for consumers. As far back as 1997 Gartner was telling clients that amount of audience clicking away from a site was inversely proportional to page load times.

Pinterest and Tumblr both kept things simple. I always struggled with over the amount of time that it took to curate an item of content.

Whilst most Tumblr content is shared or re-tumbld so to speak; there is still a requirement for original creation that is less obvious in Pinterest and probably a greater barrier to entry. Tumblr’s creativity is a bit like MySpace’s creative options for self-expression through your page design, whilst its powerful choice and creativity can be barriers to engagement for consumers who pride ease of use in services.

This probably explains Tumblr’s ‘hipster’ reputation – in some ways its more blogging-lite than curation.

Pinterest vs Hunch

Pinterest’s mood boards are very interesting, I think Hunch shows the technological road-map of where Pinterest should be going. Hunch manages to surface content and recommendations that you would be interested in: think Amazon’s buying recommendations in its emails, but a hell of a lot smarter. So far Hunch has been an early adopter thing and I imagine that eBay probably bought them for the technology to increase customer purchases rather than having a long-term standalone service. Over-layered on Pinterest however this recommendation technology could drive engagement and enrich the asymmetric networking that has been happening to date.

Pinterest vs Big Media

One of the big things about web 2.0 was that there was real value in the attribution of where things come from. This is the reason why Flickr allows pictures to be embedded on blogs and other sites; they take the hosting costs, but then gain a back link to the original content on the Flickr site from it. Every embed becomes a Flickr ambassador. Pinterest turns this model on its head: basing itself on its users curating other people’s content and then allowing it to be embedded with an attribution back to Pinterest; not the original source.

The media and the larger web generally haven’t figured out how, or what to do with this yet. It could be the Napster of images as far as photographers and other people concerned about image rights are concerned. Flickr has taken a leadership position by the way it manages pins based on the licence of the image. Brands probably haven’t considered it yet, thinking its a good way to get words out about products; but if I was an online magazine that invests in photo-shoots or a creative with a portfolio I would be starting to get a bit concerned as Pinterest makes image sharing much easier.

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