Can Quora Turn Questions and Answers Into Profit?

Across the globe, billions of people are asking questions – questions about everything from making purchase decisions to solving relationship problems to understanding the growing complexities of the modern world. Many of these questions are served up as search engine queries or asked on forums about subjects like politics or parenting, yet many of us desire to have a central place to ask, answer and discuss our most pressing questions.

We’ve seen a slew of question-and-answer websites in recent years, but Quora has stood out as a social network to watch.

Inside the Answer Factory

Quora was released in public beta in early 2010, founded by two former Facebook employees: Adam D’Angelo (who’d served as CTO and VP of Engineering) and Charlie Cheever (who’d worked on the Facebook Platform and Facebook Connect).

Here’s how Quora works: You can ask and/or answer questions in more than 250,000 topics that are arranged within an overall topic ontology. Topics typically include a list of Parent Topics, Child Topics and Related Topics. For example, here is the ontology for the topic “Marketing”:

  • Parent Topics: Business; Business Development; Communication
  • Child Topics: Digital Marketing; Direct Mail; Product Marketing; Interactive Marketing; Social Media Marketing; Referral Marketing; Blogger Outreach; Trade Marketing; In-store Marketing; Marketing Trends (39 more)
  • Related Topics: Startups; Business; Small Business; Email Marketing; Retail (15 more)

Within each of these Marketing-related topics, you can browse questions that people have asked, ask your own questions, answer questions for which you have an answer and follow topics or questions of interest. You can get a sense of the interest in individual questions through metrics like the number of answers, the number of comments and the number of people following the question.

Bing, Blogging, Brands

Quora has drawn quite a bit of interest as a network with great potential reach. Last August, the Bing search engine continued the build-out of its social search functionality with a Quora integration that will return Quora posts for relevant search queries.

But Quora has moved beyond just questions and answers into a broader information community. This year, the network added a blogging platform that makes it easy to post content on the topics of your choice. More recently, Quora added a Reviews feature that functions similarly to questions and answers, giving you the ability to include a star rating for your review. Readers can see the identity of the reviewer, so they’ll have a sense of the reviewer’s level of subject matter expertise.

Searching for the Money Solution

Despite Quora’s expansion, many observers have questions of their own about the network’s profit positioning. One question involves whether the new blogging platform will attract big brands and serve as part of the path toward monetization. Another question involves whether people should have to register to use Quora’s full functionality.

Nevertheless, Quora seems to be moving in the right direction as executives ponder the tricky question of monetization. The network recently rolled out full-text search capabilities that most observers have viewed as a positive move. It will be interesting to see how Quora attempts to monetize in the coming days – and whether the network succeeds in converting all those eyeballs into tidy profits.

What do you think of Quora, and do you think Quora is well-positioned for monetization? We’d love to hear your thoughts.


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