Today Quora becomes a publishing platform. OK, technically the social network was already a publishing platform. The Q & A element is still there, but today’s two new product announcements take Quora from a user-generated social site to old-fashioned publisher. If you want to know why marketers should care, you could post a question to Quora, or just keep reading this post.
The company’s new blogging platform makes it possible for users to write at length about anything, instead of merely answering someone else’s question. The new text editor allows users to do things like make numbered lists and create block quotes for Quora posts from a smartphone. While some argue that Tumblr, Instagram and Twitter have killed the traditional blog, Quora has implemented the most basic of blogging tools – a CMS.
Blogs are replacing Quora’s message board function, and all of those dispatches will retroactively be turned into blog posts. After a user writes a post, he or she then tags the post with a topic, and the blog post shows up in the feed of anyone following that topic – as opposed to other sites where the author’s reach is incumbent on how many followers they have. The move puts Quora in direct competition with Tumblr, and to a lesser extent, LinkedIn’s influencer program.
Marc Bodnick, who oversees the company’s product marketing, says the change will help Quora’s audience find more unknown writers that don’t want to take the time to develop and nurture their own followings. About 250,000 people follow Quora’s movie topic and about 200,000 follow the food topic, for example. The company would not say how many users it has overall.
The new product feels organic. Just sorting through my own feed of questions, I see answers that are longer than most articles and some that approach long-form magazine story length. To give them a more open-ended context seems fitting. One concern, though, is the possibility of Quora feeds becoming inundated with garbage blog posts, though Bodnick assures that Quora’s quality filters and upvote/downvote system would prevent that.
It’s too early to know if users will salivate over all this, but I bet marketers will. We are in the age of the advertorial and sponsored content. As evidenced by the new media business models of Buzzfeed and (unfortunately) The Atlantic, brands are eager to embrace “native content,” or paying to get out of the banner blindness sidebar and into the main feed of content. With Quora blogs, the platform is open to anyone. This democratization of Quora’s platform works not just for any up-and-coming writer, it can work for brands, too.
Bodnick takes the long view on monetizing Quora: build up a good stable of content and advertisers will come. But why wait? Users can blog about any damn thing they please, including their own products. Explaining your at-home, artisanal dog food maker or algae-powered portable jet pack in a blog post can be far more effective than a commercial – and you don’t have to worry about some snide journalist, relying on pesky facts, to write something critical – points that Bodnick concedes. What’s more, brands are getting good at producing content (thanks to social SaaS platforms from Buddy Media to Percolate). A brand doesn’t even need to mention the product to advertise for it.
The new product has the potential to change Quora profoundly. Blogs may muddy up users’ feeds at first, but once the company gets into a rhythm, they will likely be accepted as a welcome addition.
For the question and answer network, blogs could be a good answer.