Why Pinterest doesn’t want users to spend more time with the brand

Increasing dwell time is not the platform’s goal, according to president Tim Kendall, who instead wants to help people achieve their objective with the “least amount of friction”.


For most brands dwell time is a key indicator of engagement. But for Pinterest president Tim Kendall, making people stay on the site longer means the brand has failed.

He says the brand’s goal is to figure out the way people can spend the least amount of time using Pinterest in order to achieve their objective, whether that’s planning a wedding or finding a recipe to cook that evening.

“At Pinterest we don’t measure time spent,” he says, talking to Marketing Week at the Cannes Lions Festival.

“We really aren’t trying to get people to spend more and more needless minutes on the app. We want people to have a delightful discovery experience, but ultimately, we want to inspire people with an idea and then help them – with the least amount of friction – to make that idea a reality.”

Kendall believes the brand has an obligation to make people’s lives easier, not add to the stress of living in an always-on environment where people are addicted to their smartphones.

“A lot of the trends we’re seeing show people are spending more and more time on their phone but they are less happy as a result of it, with higher levels of anxiety and higher levels of depression,” he adds.

Alternative measurement

Instead Pinterest looks to measure “time well spent”, which is the return based on the amount of time someone spends on the platform.

“The return is when someone finds a great idea and then goes and does it,” he says. “We can measure that in a couple of different ways. We can look at when consumers find an idea and then taps on it to go and find more about it. That’s a proxy for people taking action.

“We also have a new product called ‘tried it’, which is a way for people to indicate what recipes they’ve cooked versus ones they haven’t, for example.”

He says if people spend a certain amount of time with the brand and they respond with five ‘tried its’ then the brand “did a pretty good job” at helping that user achieve their goal.

“That’s how we think about it at Pinterest. As leaders of technology we need to be thoughtful about the kinds of services we’re building in terms of the impact we’re having on people’s lives. If what we’re building is making you have more anxiety that’s not great.

“There’s a moral imperative as people who build technology services that we do it for the right reasons. I understand maximising time spent is the business model but if it’s at the expense of quality of life – and that sounds dramatic – but ultimately it’s not we should be striving to do.”