Pinterest Web Analytics Puts Third-Party Developers And APIs Into Focus

Pinterest Web Analytics, the site’s traffic measuring tool for website owners that was unveiled earlier today, is a foray into services that could help the social network generate revenues some day — for now, it’s free with “no plans to charge,” with the main aim being “help pinners see what content is resonating best on Pinterest”, the company tells me. But the launch raises some questions, too, around where the company stands regarding third parties, specifically those that also offer Pinterest analytics; and how this will play into Pinterest’s (as-yet unreleased) API.

Third-party access has become a hotspot issue for developers working on other social networks Facebook and Twitter, as both of those social networks have pulled away from being quite so liberal with their data as they focus more on monetizing it themselves.

The backstory for Pinterest is that the image-based, social information sharing network has been one of the fastest-growing consumer web properties, with comScore at one point last year noting a 4,000% rise in Pinterest traffic (points of comparison: Tumbler up 168%, Facebook up 4%).

But with only a small team of employees, the main focus for Pinterest now has been on creating a platform that consumers and businesses continue using. On the business side in particular, it has become a haven for brands because it gives them a platform for engaging with consumers that doesn’t bear the stigma of ads or other invasive marketing techniques. Business use of Pinterest is something that the site has already been developing with the launch of verified accounts and an upgraded Pinterest business site.

Nature abhors a vacuum. And so, with no Pinterest-created analytics to help those businesses and individuals measure what is going on there (until today), a lot of third-party services have emerged to do just that. Playing on today’s ever-present theme of Big Data, these companies include Curalate; several with names punning on the product itself (Pinfluencer, Pinalyzer, PinReach, Pinster); and social media analytics companies adding Pinterest to their wider social media dashboards — eg Reachli (nee Pinerly) and Oracle-owned Vitrue, and ViralHeat.

These measure influence, pin performance, traffic referrals and more — some of which Pinterest is now providing itself. (Pinterest’s services announced today include outbound pinned traffic to Pinterest; inbound traffic from Pinterest; how many have seen a pin; plus a “selection” of most pinned, most clicked and most recent pins.)

So where does that leave those sites? Pinterest is fairly sanguine about third-party analytics today. “We’re super glad these businesses are helping websites and content creators on Pinterest,” notes Cat Lee, Pinterest’s product manager who oversees the analytics tool.

But here’s a possible warning light for anyone offering what might now look like a service that Pinterest is now offering: it has already started to think about which services are complementary to what Pinterest does — and by implication which are not.

“We hope that these businesses continue to provide services that we don’t have plans to add at this time,” Lee said. “They can help us scale out our efforts for pinners to have a better experience.” These include helping sites run contests and promotions, measuring the level of engagement on these, Lee said, as well as those helping companies manage email campaigns that feed into Pinterest; and companies that offer day-to-day support for how best to use Pinterest. “We don’t have plans to build these services,” Lee said.

One way that Pinterest may handle this kind of data in the future is by introducing an API.

Right now, Pinterest doesn’t offer any kind of automated code for developers to embed its data — neither stats about pins, nor the pinned content itself. But it sounds like the company is stirring here, too.

“We’ve had conversations about charging for our API, but we still don’t know the right answer for this,” Lee said. “It’s an area we’re still exploring.” A spokesperson emphasizes that right now it is “too early” to say how an API would be rolled out. But offering an API for a fee to select companies would certainly give Pinterest more control over how the data gets used, and also would give it a cut on any potential revenues that get generated as a result.

For now, Pinterest’s business moves are still in a very early stage. “This is the first step,” Lee said, noting that there will be more analytics added over time to help measure “what pins audiences are resonating most with,” among other things. Before today, Pinterest tested its analytics with a number of brands including the magazine Elle, the beauty store Sephora, AllRecipes and WikiHow. Now, putting it out into the wider market will mean Pinterest can collect more data on how it gets used, and how to shape it next.

Image: Pinterest