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MarketWatch First Take: Pinterest never considered itself a social network. Until now.

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Since Pinterest was a baby unicorn, co-founder Ben Silberman insisted it was not a social network, and made sure that sentiment echoed through the company.

Silberman is no longer chief executive, and suddenly Pinterest
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is a social-media company. And it’s the nice one.

“Eight out of 10 users said in research that Pinterest makes them feel good versus other forms of social media,” Silberman’s replacement as CEO, Bill Ready, said Wednesday at a Goldman Sachs conference in San Francisco. “In a world where toxicity is driving so much of the internet, when users are ready to unplug … Where do you go when you want to be lifted up and not torn down? Pinterest has that already.”

On the same day executives from Facebook parent Meta Platforms Inc.
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,
Twitter Inc.
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+0.38%
,
Alphabet Inc.’s
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YouTube and TikTok faced grandstanding, adversarial senators in a committee hearing, Pinterest executives decided Wednesday to pivot from their previous talking point to take advantage of the problems those platforms publicly face with content moderation and toxicity. They plan to make the most of Pinterest’s largely happy online activities — users pinning photos of clothing, home renovation projects, cooking, travel plans and more — in marketing, which they plan to increase this year.

More from Therese: Pinterest’s new CEO faces rough road in getting users to buy instead of just pinning

Executives also inferred that Pinterest offers users more privacy, another bane of the existence of those other social networks.

“We have first-party signals,” Ready said. “We don’t need to track users around the internet to know what they are interested in.”

Ready and Pinterest’s chief financial officer, Todd Morgenfeld, noted that since last year, when Pinterest and a few other companies were getting hit by Apple Inc.’s
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privacy changes that blocked user tracking on iPhones, the company has been developing more ad and automation tools. “We have a lot of stuff we are still building,” Morgenfeld said.

Pinterest’s long distaste for being bunched with those other services was deliberate, beginning with a very public pronouncement by Silberman years ago. At the time of the company’s initial public offering in 2019, a Pinterest spokesperson called a MarketWatch staffer to argue that Pinterest should not be referred to as a social network — the company preferred its own concocted labels, such as “visual discovery engine.”

Denying the reality of Pinterest’s business model was not helpful, though, and Ready’s willingness to slough off that propaganda and take advantage of a strong competitive position should be beneficial. It’s pretty easy to be the “feel good” social-media platform right now considering the competition, and Pinterest benefits with the steady feed it gives consumers that consists of simply images and video, with no place for other users to comment.

Ready faces plenty of issues at Pinterest, which is struggling to add users and benefit more handsomely from their activities on the company’s platform. At least he has seen the folly of denying the business Pinterest actually owns and corrected it.

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