This article was published on June 29, 2012

Pinterest bigger than Tumblr? Depends who you ask, and where you draw the line

Pinterest bigger than Tumblr? Depends who you ask, and where you draw the line
Alex Wilhelm
Story by

Alex Wilhelm

Alex Wilhelm is a San Francisco-based writer. You can find Alex on Twitter, and on Facebook. You can reach Alex via email at [email protected] Alex Wilhelm is a San Francisco-based writer. You can find Alex on Twitter, and on Facebook. You can reach Alex via email at [email protected]

It’s a strange game, comparing the relative size of websites. The pageview, once the key metric that ruled them all, is in decline as technology leaves it slowly in the dust, gripping several ’90s business plans as it fades away.

And yet we do it anyway, mostly because it’s fun, and generally results in a good post. Don’t think that the tech press is alone in such idle shenanigans, this sort of unmakeable-and-yet-often-made comparison is executed all the time. Take, for example, a question you can hear on nearly any sports channel any day of the week: “How do you think the defense of [Team X] stacks up to the offence of [Team Y?]?” The responses are always great, if meaningless: “Well, if [Team Y] can keep the ball in the air, and hustle, [Team X] could have a rough day.”

But I digress.

The story out today is that Pinterest, according to the Pingdom blog, in the United States, is now more popular than Tumblr, or larger, depending on how you want to pose the conclusion. Pingdom, good guys it can be said, put together what is essentially a screenshot-based meta-analysis of public metrics to determine that in the United States, Pinterest bests Tumblr.

Now, everyone knows how wildly wrong services such as Compete, Alexa, and others are, so Pingdom decided to draw on them all, and ended up with a ‘score’ of 4:2, in favor of Pinterest, in terms of being larger in the United States.

Eric Eldon, commenting on the story, had a quip that is worth repeating: “Apples have overtaken oranges in the United States.” That’s one way of looking at it, but is the criticism fair? Let’s take a look at the sources, and what they were measuring, that led to their scoring:

  • Alexa: Pinterest beats Tumblr in terms of being the “most trafficked” site in the United States, by a single slot. This, it seems, would imply more unique visitors. But it could mean pageviews. Or perhaps a combiatnoon of both metrics.
  • Google Trends for Websites: Shows a flat Tumblr being overtaken by a surging Pinterest, which deflates towards the end. Again, exactly what Google is measuring here is hard to tell.
  • Compete: Compete claims that, in the United States, Tumblr has several million more unique visitors. So, the first actual estimates of traffic go against the narrative.
  • Quantcast: Quantcast, like Compete, pegs visitors to Tumblr at millions more than Pinterest, here in the States. Again, when we have ‘hard’ numbers, Tumblr seems to win. When it comes to vague comparisons, Pinterest wins.
  • Experian Hitwise: According to this article on Venture Beat, Tumblr is the 10th largest social network, below MyLife, and myYearbook. The same study pegs Pinterest in the third highest spot. Tumblr, smaller than MyLife? I’m not so sure about that, and so I don’t trust the metrics that put Pinterest 6 spots above Tumblr. I call foul.
  • comScore: According to Pingdom, the last comScore data has Tumblr ahead of Pinterest, but that data is now nearly two months old, so, certainly Pinterest is now ahead, right? Well, no. If you head back to Alexa, and pull out a traffic chart for Pinterest for the maximum time possible, you can see that it has hit a wall, and is declining. The same thing that Google claims is happening in the United States.

Now, if we count up: +2 for Pinterest from two sources that provide no real numbers. +2 for Tumblr from more reputable sources that in fact do provide numbers. The ridiculous Experian report provides+0 for either group, given its lunacy. And finally, +1 for Tumblr for the comScore number, as there isn’t any hard data to back up that Pinterest has in fact taken over.

Thus, we have a 3:2 victory for Tumblr, and not a 4:2 win for Pinterest. You could manipulate all of that again, and probably prove that your personal blog is bigger than the New York Times.

Now, which service is bigger? Beats the hell out of me. My gut says that Tumblr is, by a fat margin. That’s just me, though; draw your own conclusion. Just don’t get lost in the hype. Oh, and one more thing, this is how Compete sees the two services, globally, in the last 12 months:

Top Image Credit: christopher_brown

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