The Limitation of Pinterest Analytics

Pinterest LogoPinterest announced a new analytics service designed to help webmasters understand how often content on their site is pinned, repinned, viewed and clicked on Pinterest.

The move has been met with fanfare by those who use Pinterest for marketing purposes. Though Pinterest has long been used by retailers and artists alike as a way to grow their audience and obtain exposure, tracking has been difficult. The new analytics tool aims to help address that limitation.

However, there are some pretty big limitations to the analytics system. First, each account can only use the service with one site. Meaning that if you have multiple sites, you need to create multiple accounts to track their analytics.

But the biggest limitation is that it only works with the official site of the account holder. Pinterest analytics can’t and won’t track any pins or views given to copies of your photos found on other sites.

What this means is that, regardless of whether you simply want to track your content or perform some level of copyright enforcement, the anlyitics provided only tell, likely, a small part of the story.

Whether you think it’s for good or ill, there’s a good chance your content has a much wider audience on Pinterest than the analytics say. The problem is that, without watermarking, it’s an audience that can’t find its way back to you.

The Missing Picture

Pinterest AnalyticsAmong artists and photographers, Pinterest is still a very divisive service. Where some see a great new way to reach a large audience, others see sanctioned and widespread copyright infringement .

But no matter which camp you’re in, an accurate understanding of just how much of your content is on Pinterest is useful.

However, content can be pinned from any site on the Web, not just the source site. This may not necessarily be a violation of the creator’s wishes, but it represents a large percentage of the audience that is not tracked.

While this might be difficult to monitor, it certainly isn’t impossible. Google Image Search, for example has a tool to track similar images based on appearance and services such as Tineye have tracked duplicate images on the Web for years.

Though these solutions aren’t perfect, the methods they use are certainly robust enough to help Pinterest users get a somewhat more robust understanding of how their images are shared.

However, Pinterest, at this time, doesn’t use them or anything similar. As a result, artists and photographers are kept in the dark about much of the sharing that their work really sees.

Problems with the Idea

Of course, any attempt to track pins on other sites would not be easy. There are several problems beyond matching the images that to be weighed.

  1. Multiple Authors: What happens when two or more people claim authorship over an image, whether intentionally or accidentally. This can be especially problematic as many webmasters verify sites on Pinterest where they post images they don’t own.
  2. Imperfect Matches: The tools above are not perfect and do produce false positives as well as miss true matches. Clearly, this would have to be factored in with any analytics.
  3. Confusion: Given the audience of Pinterest, it’s likely that there would be a great deal of confusion surrounding any such analytics. There could be confusion as to how the images got there in the first place and this could lead to a backlash against Pinterst.

While all of these challenges would be difficult, they can be overcome.

For example, only enabling such tracking on sites that are exclusively original content can alleviate the first problem. Imperfect matches can be addressed by letting users select images that are their and learning from mistakes and confusion can be helped greatly through education.

However, at this time, it’s unlikely Pinterest is going to invest the resources and energy into addressing these issues and adding this feature, even if it would benefit nearly all Pinterest users.

Bottom Line

From a copyright standpoint, Pinterest still exists in a very strange place. It’s tool, by its very nature, that encourages people to copy and repost images found on the Web, regardless of permission. Though it protects itself with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, meaning they remove infringements when notified, may have taken it a step farther and opted out, proactively removing their site from Pinterest.

However, this doesn’t necessarily remove their images from Pinterest. If those images are copied and put on other sites without the creator knowing, or simply found through a Google search, the image can still be pinned. A way to track and deal with those infringements might be helpful to those webmasters.

That, in the end, may be one of the biggest problems with enabling such image tracking on Pinterest. If others see just how a large percentage of the content on Pinterest got there, it could change the way many marketers look at the service.

However, at least some of that information has been available for some time. According to Repinly, the number one source of images for Pinterest, by far, is Google. Etsy and user uploads are a distant second and third respectively.

Still, more details and better information can be gleaned, if Pinterest is willing to put forth the effort to make it possible.

6 Responses to The Limitation of Pinterest Analytics

  1. Mitch Labuda says:

    As some who is well versed in copyright, you are aware, encouragement has been held against Napster, aimster, and others offering P2P tools to share files between users and an a U.S. appeals court has noted, links, are not infringing.

    • Pinterest doesn’t merely link to images, it copies them onto its server. Right click any full image on Pinterest and check the URL, you will note that it is on Pinterest’s CDN. This is why they have a DMCA policy.

      • Mitch Labuda says:

        Of course the site has a DMCA policy, it protects them from us, as do almost all sites that are legitimate, as the users violate the rules as laid out by the Appeals Court, which stated the users are the infringers.

    • See my previous reply, the MyVidster case deals with embedding (linking to) content hosted elsewhere. Pinterest hosts the content. Very different scenario…

      • Mitch Labuda says:

        The role of the user, the infringing party is restated by the Appeals Court in the link, with regards to alleged encouragement, which has been held against sites that required software to access the files, napster, aimster, etc., and not photo sharing sites that don’t require software that is downloaded to allow access.

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