Seduction Comes to Pinterest

Stephen Yagielowicz

Reportedly responding to complaints received from activists, artists, photographers and others in regards to its strict policy against nudity, photo sharing pin board Pinterest has now decided to allow the posting of nude images on its popular — but predominantly female audience based — website, signaling a thawing of content restrictions that might open a new traffic source for adult entertainment marketers with a deft touch.

For those wondering what the big deal is, Pinterest boasts a worldwide Alexa rating of 43 with a whopping 16 share of the American market, along with enviable bounce rate, page view and time on site stats. Compare these figures to those of porn tube powerhouse Pornhub.com, which receives a 58 score worldwide — and less than half of the reach into the lucrative U.S. market as Pinterest, ranking 33rd. While Alexa reports a slightly lower bounce rate for Pornhub, it also reports lower page views and similar time on site, which can be interpreted as a lower level of overall user engagement.

It’s just a fact of modern life: if you allow “users” to upload content for others to see, then those users will include salesmen, some of whom will be selling porn or other adult fare through the vehicle of your website.

Regardless of how the traffic numbers are parsed or their relative validity, Pinterest represents a huge potential audience and is a market place that adult promoters are not ignoring, despite the site’s historical intolerance of nudity and sexually explicit materials.

But that situation is changing somewhat.

“Pinterest is about expressing your passions and people are passionate about art and that may include nudes,” the company told the Financial Times. “So we’re going to try to accommodate that.”

Previously, Pinterest’s acceptable use policy prohibited its users from posting images that contain “nudity, partial nudity or pornography,” but those restrictions have now been revised to read in part that, “You agree not to post user content that is sexually explicit or pornographic,” — a stance seemingly allowing the posting of nudity and partial nudity.

Perhaps sensitivity to the ongoing saga of 18 U.S.C. § 2257 with its age verification and record-keeping requirements is also coming into play as part of the new posting policy.

Perhaps common sense and the pulse of the marketplace won out, but it was a choice that was made in the face of a sea of sexuality — some of which was not well targeted to this venue, other examples of which helped to broaden the site’s reach and appeal.

Rumblings about the response to postings by porn marketers began making headlines last year when Pinterest banned images from Sex.com as a source of its user posted pins.

The storied Sex.com is an adult oriented pin board following the Pinterest tradition, but one that targets a decidedly male audience, whose content demands tend to clash with the digital desires of Pinterest’s female dominated demographic.

Mixing material from these two camps was bound to cause a dust up.

Sex.com’s Iain MacNeil stated that the site had been unjustly marked as spam and that Pinterest users would no longer be allowed to pin any content from Sex.com or view the site from older pins.

“We want to know why they banned their adult community from seeing an alternative,” MacNeil asked in a statement. “Is it as simple as Pinterest is afraid of losing the adult content community despite the fact they do not respect users who use their site for adult content?”

MacNeil also questioned Pinterest’s stance on the appropriateness of sexually explicit material for its female audience, which doubtless demands this fare, as evidenced by the breakaway success of the 50 Shades phenomenon.

For this delicate audience, erotica, rather than egregious exposes, may be the key.

“The most exciting prospect of Sex.com being linked through Pinterest was not just the potential growth for our site,” MacNeil explained, “but also appealing to a female audience.”

The potential for Sex.com’s growth from Pinterest traffic could be stratospheric as the adult pin board has a relatively dim Alexa ranking of 1,493 globally and 1,352 in the U.S. — significant traffic to be sure — but paling in comparison to the level seen by Pinterest.

As TechCrunch points out, this feud “sounds a lot like an aggrieved pornographer fighting back against a frigid corporation,” but the journal also notes that Pinterest makes its money (or is trying to make its money) by banking on content that others have created.

“If they don’t want some of the most popular content in the world on their site, fine,” John Biggs wrote for TechCrunch. “But they have to either say no wee woos and ping baps at all or let the hoo hoo floodgates open.”

Nomenclature notwithstanding, TechCrunch makes the point that specific guidelines are needed in order for Pinterest (plus all other mainstream user generated content sites) to balance the uses and abuses of marketers, along with the needs of its diverse audience.

It’s just a fact of modern life: if you allow “users” to upload content for others to see, then those users will include salesmen, some of whom will be selling porn or other adult fare through the vehicle of your website. By this same token, the time worn notion that “sex sells” remains a truism, so if your site makes its living by allowing visitors to view the work of others, a portion of your website’s audience will be seeking some titillation — whether they want to admit it or not.

“There’s no editing out the human form from art history, so liberating acceptable usage by allowing some nudity makes a lot of sense,” Natasha Lomas wrote for TechCrunch. “The challenge will be for Pinterest to keep things clean enough that it doesn’t put off swathes of its less arty, more home-makery focused users — who want to see pins of cupcakes, not, y’know, cupcake.”

This comes back to the balance between porn and adult entertainment. For example, consider the difference between a Las Vegas topless review where showgirls perform for a live audience where women are as common as men; contrasting this experience with the hardcore live sex shows available in some European theatres or other “boys club” venues.

It is all a matter of degrees of acceptability for polite society, which tends to have very different values than does the mass of “anything goes” porn mongers out for a buck.

It is also a matter of the survival of the host website, since these commercial entities rely on mainstream advertising dollars for their income — ads that are not so easy to sell when the content appearing with them is detrimental to their brand image.

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