This explains why no men were using Pinterest

If you ever wondered why Pinterest took off with women and not men, we have our answer. Friday the company announced it had changed its search filtering options so that men could see results catered to their gender.

In the past, when searching for workouts or clothes their feed would fill with pins targeted to women. Since Pinterest’s early users were women, the application spread virally through that demographic. Naturally the most popular pins and pinners are, as a result, for women or by women.

That shut out men who might also find the technology useful but didn’t like the results they were served. Although some people who identify as men might appreciate a more feminine selection, not all would. Take a look at Pinterest’s screenshot on the difference in genders:

The difference in gender searching on Pinterest. Left: Men ; Right: Women

The difference in gender searching on Pinterest. Left: Men ; Right: Women

The new gender focus will appear as a toggle, allowing women and men to search for items of the opposite gender as well. That could be helpful for anyone with more androgynous taste, or it could serve well for gift shopping purposes.

The attempt to make Pinterest appealing to men comes from the company’s new head of brand, David Rubin, who formerly ran marketing for the ultra dude product Axe body spray. He was brought on in part to achieve that goal, and he started by commissioning Pinterest ad storylines to appeal to men and filling men’s home feeds with male products. Frankly I’m surprised it took the company this long to create gender specific search results — it has been around for over seven years, after all.

With the product announcement Pinterest also revealed new statistics, saying that its number of male signups have grown 73 percent year over year. It’s impressive numbers for the U.S. As we’ve covered, in some other countries, Pinterest has actually had a far easier time recruiting men to the application.

Since it’s a user-generated content site it’s demographics tend to build on themselves. The more women — or motorcycle fans, or cooks, or interior designers — are on the site, the more pin will be created that appeal to them.

To kickstart other groups Pinterest has to woo them with product shifts, and it’s doing just that.

Will Pinterest prove its worth in 2015?

The next year will be the most important one of Pinterest’s life. Until now, the company has focused on its application and its audience, to the detriment of its coffers. It had the luxury to ignore money because it raised a nosebleed $764 million in venture funding to sustain itself. Like most adventurous startups, the money was raised on an unrealized, untested, uncertain premise: That advertising on a visual inspiration application would be highly lucrative.

Come New Year’s Day, that hypothesis will be put to the test for the first time on a large scale. After endless preparation, Pinterest’s year of reckoning has arrived.

In 2015, any brands will be able to do native advertising on Pinterest by paying to promote pins that appear alongside regular Pinterest content. Companies can use Pinterest’s reservation-based system, paying set prices to make sure their ads appear in people’s feeds. The auction-based system, where advertisers bid against each other, is still in beta.

Pinterest has been beta testing reservation-based promoted pins with a select group of partners since September 2013, moving slowly to make sure it nailed its advertising process and didn’t scare off users. According to Pinterest’s blog post about the wider-scale release, the beta test was hugely successful. Like regular pins, promoted pins are shared an average of 11 times, resulting in additional free impressions for advertisers (they only cough up money for the initial impression). These pins continue to be seen and shared after the advertiser stops paying to promote them.

The quiet social company decided to herald its big advertising news when the least amount of people would see it: Over the holiday break. It broke the story by publishing a blog post that ran at the same time as a New York Times feature on the news.

This is par for the course for Pinterest. The company regularly holds big parties at its office to celebrate the introduction of new product features, but when it comes to its revenue stream it prefers not to raise a fuss.

It’s possible that Pinterest is nervous about its reckoning moment and wants to experiment with advertising outside the prying eyes of the public. It’s hard to get to a $5 billion valuation in Silicon Valley without having brought in a cent of revenue. At this point, the stakes are high for Pinterest’s investors and the path is risky.

In the next twelve months, we’ll learn for the first time whether investors overvalued Pinterest or if the company is worth the war chest of funding it’s sitting on. If it’s the latter, [company]Google[/company] better look out. It has another rival creeping up to compete in the category of search.

Pinterest’s image-heavy application may give it a distinct advertising edge in the visual web.