Tom Webster, writing and speaking

The Pinterest API: Who Needs It?

Added on by Tom Webster.

Pinterest badge redOn this week's Beancast, I joined Bob Knorpp and a lively panel to discuss, among other things, the long-awaited API for Pinterest. Now, I'm not a developer, so at first blush a Pinterest API is not something for which I have great need. From that perspective, I don't really care whether or not Pinterest exposes its data to developers. An API doesn't solve a consumer need--it solves a business problem that Pinterest might not actually even have. Consider the following: When Twitter opened up its API, they were a blip on the radar, and it took them 3-4 years to really build actual, mainstream critical mass. They needed developers. Pinterest? Not so much. Pinterest vaulted in months to having the kind of numbers it took Twitter years to build. Pinterest addressed a mainstream consumer desire, and they built a significant mainstream consumer audience with a much steeper growth curve than that observed for either Twitter or Facebook.

According to the last Social Habit research study, Pinterest is the #3 social platform for women 18-44 (behind only Facebook and Twitter) and recent research from Netbase and Edison shows that Pinterest is also one of the most influential platforms for women who purchase fashion brands. In other words, whether a Pinterest API exists or not, people are using the service, and in numbers that cannot be ignored.

So who needs a Pinterest API? Brands, certainly, who have to rely on some cumbersome manual scraping processes to get the kind of data they want. And, the fact that they are engaging in those cumbersome processes is a pretty clear signal that Pinterest has something they strongly desire--consumer preference data. And that's some pretty incredible data. Think about the possibilities for market basket analysis research alone--people who pin this also pin that. That's the kind of data that skilled analysts and researchers can turn into segmentation gold. And maybe that is the treasure that Pinterest is wisely hoarding.

So, given that, yeah--I could use a Pinterest API after all. And if Pinterest is smart, they'll charge me up the wazoo excessively for it.

Scarcity creates value. And it might just be that Pinterest is enhancing their value by keeping their data close to the vest. As long as there is no Pinterest API, Pinterest retains a variety of monetization options (including advertising). But if they open up an API--and their data--to third parties, they might just cut off some of those options, and that might end up adversely affecting the platform.

What say you? Does Pinterest "need" an API? And for brands that desire the data it would provide--what would that data be worth to you?