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Newspapers might be dying, but there is no shortage of companies who want to get into the publishing business. Or the blogging business, at least. Quora plans to announce Wednesday that it’s rolling out a new blogging platform, moving the strictly question and answer site into new territory.
“We’re not going to be a place for cat photos,” said Marc Bodnick, a product and business executive at Quora who explained the product in an interview Wednesday. “We’re not a site for light, viral, multimedia-sharing without text. We’re a site where people share ideas and thoughts. So the same type of people who write answers are going to be the same types of people who write on blogs.”
The move toward blogging represents a shift for Quora, which has so far been entirely about questions and answers that users could upvote and follow. But the site, which was launched by former Facebook CTO Adam D’Angelo in 2010, has always been about providing high-quality information to a dedicated group of readers, and in this sense the addition of blogging makes sense. Not to mention that blogging could attract a larger audience to Quora than questions and answers that require a login, setting itself up for greater advertising opportunities than it would have otherwise.
D’Angelo sat down with GigaOM earlier this month where he explained where the company is headed:
“We think at a very high level there is a lot of knowledge that is inside people’s head and is not accessible. Sure, the internet (of today) is pretty vast and big, but it is still not where we can access that knowledge that easily. So you have a blog, but a lot of people don’t have an audience or aren’t as connected and able to find the information as you. Access to that knowledge is much harder, and our goal is to make it easy. Anything you want to know, you go to Quora and get it.”
Quora executives are pushing the idea that through the new blogging platform, anyone with a good idea and smart writing can become famous on the site, even if that person doesn’t have a strong Twitter following or an existing popular blog of their own.
“You can write an answer that goes viral on the site despite no one following you,” Bodnick said.
And to a certain extent, this is true — there are indviduals, like the guy who wrote about his car breaking down in front of Steve Job’s house, who have become “Quora famous,” to an extent. Bodnick noted that some of the service’s “top writers” get 30,000 views on a post per month, and some of the very top writers get up to 100,000.
But Quora attracts a very specific readership in a few key areas, like movies, technology, or startups, and the people who have built a dedicated Quora following seem more poised for Quora blogging success than entirely new users who write about topics that are less popular. If you’re blogging about Steve Jobs and post your writing under the Steve Jobs topic, which has thousands of existing followers, you could do well. But it seems fairly topic-specific, and hardly a guarantee of publishing fame.
There are also so many blogging platforms out there, from WordPress to Tumblr to Medium to Branch to LinkedIn, it’s hard to think how Quora’s new tools presents much for the average blogger — they seem likely to excite people who are already consistent Quora posters. But for those users, the platform could allow them to expand on ideas that aren’t posed as answers to questions, and a new rich text editor for mobile released in a few weeks will add to that experience as well.