Quora is expanding beyond the black-and-white world of questions and answers.
Today, the Q&A site is introducing Blogs on Quora, which will allow the site's contributors to create their own blogs in addition to answering questions from other users. With it, Quora is also releasing a new rich-text editing feature for its iOS app for easier longform blogging. The addition of blogs is one of the most significant changes to the site since it first launched in 2010. It's also helping Quora pander to the kind of high-quality writers it covets by providing them with tools and built-in audiences for their content.
The site, Quora's Marc Bodnick explains, already has broad and diversified audiences for any of the hundreds of thousands of topics a blogger might want to write about, from film noir to French cooking to Canadian politics. Because the audience is already there and hungry for content, Bodnick argues, the stakes for bloggers are very low, while the rewards in terms of audience reach are great. The engagement tools Quora currently offers on the site, such as an upvoting button, give blog posts the potential to go viral as well, he says.
"If I’m a total unknown and I have no one following me on Quora but I write a great answer on food and cooking and tag it so, there are more than 200,000 people following those topics," he tells Fast Company. "This is why great answers on Quora go viral even if they’re written by people you’ve never heard of."
Quora has spent the past year beefing up offerings for its writers, introducing features such as a Top Writers program to recognize its best contributors. In December, Quora cofounder Adam D'Angelo wrote a pointed blog post affirming his desire to expand the site past Q&As: "Today Quora is largely questions and answers, but that is not the ideal format for all knowledge. Other formats will gradually be added as we scale up."
It's still unclear to what extent Quora continues to "scale up"—the site is notoriously tight-lipped about its user numbers. It raised a $50 million round of funding in May that included $20 million of D'Angelo's own money. Four months later, Quora confirmed cofounder Charlie Cheever would be stepping out of day-to-day operations. And the site hasn't turned a profit to date—D'Angelo recently told GigaOm's Om Malik, "We don’t know what our model is going to be—it could be advertising, pay to access and/or consult-an-expert model."
Now, as Quora wades into the murky waters of blogging, it's unclear whether its efforts will stack up to new (and arguably more beautiful) blogging platforms such as Ev Williams and Biz Stone's Medium, Branch, and Svtbtle, all of which are also trying to tackle the problem of surfacing quality content in an Internet soaked in noise.
The real question is whether or not adding blogs will dilute the effect of the site as it currently exists. If you've ever received a Quora newsletter, you'll understand the irresistible nature of a good question. (Recent keepers I've gotten include "Why is there countdown during missile/rocket launch?" and "What's the strangest incident that's happened on a commercial airline flight?") But blog posts, well-written as they may be, aren't necessarily answering questions, and thus don't fill the same void in the community.
What blogs could do, however, is help Quora learn enough about what you like to the point where it will be able to serve up interesting content you want to read "without even knowing what the question is," Bodnick says.
[Image: Flickr user jDevaun]