Pinterest CEO: We’re competing to keep your attention

Pinterest CEO Ben Silbermann’s company has fairly simple, concrete goals at the company when it comes to users: it wants to allow people to share beautiful things that they enjoy. But when it comes to building a business, they have to contend with one of the biggest challenges in the modern internet age, which is time and attention.

“We talk a lot on the team about this pressure to earn people’s time, both every minute and every month but also every year,” Silbermann said in an appearance at GigaOM’s RoadMap conference in San Francisco. “Every one of your experiences has to feel good. Every month, it has to be more than a passing novelty. If they don’t feel like it gives anything to them, they’ll crowd it out.”

Silbermann said that while there is a strong community around Pinterest, it differs from sites like Reddit in that it’s an independent experience focused on the user.

“Pinterest is a little more self-focused,” he said. “There are other people who are there, but it’s less about saying things and seeing how the community will react to them.”

Alexis Madrigal, senior editor at the Atlantic who was interviewing Silbermann, asked how the company managed to build such a strong presence among women, especially outside of the traditional tech scenes of New York and San Francisco.

“Did you send out invites to like 100 women in Milwaukee?” he joked. And Silbermann replied that he actually did grow up in the Midwest, and building a service that they themselves wanted turned out to be a great plan for winning over users.

“When we built Pinterest, we didn’t build it with a specific demographic in mind,” Silbermann said. “We built it for ourselves.”

Check out the rest of our RoadMap 2012 live coverage here.