Angela Natividad's Live & Uncensored!

09 February 2013

Content: The King that's Usurping You

How many of these do you actually need more context for?

Today I had a conversation with my boyfriend about Pinterest. We were discussing it in the context of the idea that the US is the only place in the world where companies consistently blossom into million -- or even billion -- dollar entities without making a dime worth its weight. This isn't something that really happens in Europe. Part of it is culture but a lot of is also comes down to lack of a unified market of US proportions and lack of an ever-replenishing investment ecosystem.

This isn't to say it's altogether great to throw money at companies that don't make any back. Most such investments end up duds (consider all the hyper-funded Twitter spinoffs), but many -- Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Flipboard -- flourish until they're fixed utilities in the culture -- and then they have to learn to make money. But learning to make money once you're flush and loaded with employees and resources is very different from learning to make money when you're living on ramen and coding in the dark.

When a crazy-sounding valuation claim gets made, people naturally start thinking about the company's roadblocks to market stability. The Man pointed out that one annoying problem Pinterest has is dying links. Pinterest has effectively made it so that the image -- a single piece of supplementary content pulled out of its natural context -- becomes more powerful than its source site. Pinterest sends piles of clickbacks to the parent sites that host its images, which increasingly benefits e-retailers -- but in the end, click-throughs happen way less often than shares of the image they're hosting. Indeed, the image can go on being shared long after the site's gone dead, even if it was only meant to be a teaser.

Of course this is problemic in the sense that it makes Pinterest host to what are essentially dead links -- pretty ones, but nonetheless non-functioning. That can be really disappointing when you've Pinned a recipe, and, once ready to prepare it, click through to the site only to discover that the page is busted. Something should be done about this -- maybe a little red flag in the corners of images that can show you with a quick skim which host sites are no longer functioning. But in the end people don't really care about most of the host sites that kindly provided all that eye candy.

All this speaks to a phenomenon that's way more interesting. I don't think Pinterest is worth $2.5 billion, but I will say this: along with Tumblr -- which did for written content what Pinterest does for images -- Pinterest effectively proves that content can live on and bring people value independently of its host.

Once you've published an article and the image that accompanies it is Pinned, the image suddenly carries a shareable value that supersedes your written work -- and your site -- entirely, even if it continues to send you traffic and readership. In the universe of Pinterest, the image no longer needs you: it can live on, getting discovered again and again, while the rest of you can be taken or left.

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