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Why adding maps to Pinterest makes sense

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Pinterest is one of those web sites that a lot of people like, but as a company it is still searching for that motherlode of revenue. It’s latest service, mapping the things you want to “Pin” is, an evolution of the core user behaviour: Collect images of things you onto boards, use those boards to organize a project or create a shopping list, that shopping intent spreads to people who look at your boards and then either affiliate link revenue or promoted Pin ad revenue starts to trickle in to Pinterest.

This maps update was likely in the works when the company secured its latest sky-high valuation: $3.8-billion. That number is arrived at by calculating off the $225-million investment in the private start-up by Silicon Valley venture capital firms Bessemer Venture Partners, Firstmark Capital, Valiant Capital Management and Andreessen Horowitz. All told, Pinterest has raised more than $560-million in financing, and the companies that made those commitments are looking for the kind of exit that Facebook and Twitter IPOs provided.

What attracts investors to Pinterest are studies that show it can be the most successful “social shopping” medium. As Forbes summed up recently, an Adobe study showed the users who come to an online store from Pinterest spend 55 cents a head, which is up 150 per cent from 2012. That figure beats the revenue-per-referral figures of the much larger Facebook (1 billion users) and Twitter (300 million) networks. Pinterest‘s user numbers are estimated at around 50 million, and a Shopify study showed the average order placed by a Pinterest user was close to $80, which is better than Google and Amazon users. Put simply, if Pinterest can scale to the size of those other networks, it’s a money hose.

So, why move from shopping to travel with these new map boards? First, much of modern travel features a heavy dose of shopping (synergy!). And as The Wall Street Journal points out: “The search-engine marketing firm Wordstream last year ranked travel as the second-highest category of ad spending on Google, behind finance and ahead of shopping.”

In other words, it may be time for someone to consider a monster merger. Facebook? Google? Maybe it’s the kind of thing Yahoo needs to buy?