Quora today expanded beyond its question-and-answer roots with the release of a blog product that aims to help both nobodies and somebodies get their words in front of large audiences.
Founded in 2009, Quora has raised $61 million in funding to build what amounts to a more intellectual version of Yahoo Answers. Quora's new blog product aborts its standard Q&A structure to provide users with something more open-ended. Blogs are connected to the regular site experience through topic tags and are accessible inside the company's mobile applications.
There's nothing particularly innovative about Quora's take on blogs. The startup's blogs are blogs in the most basic sense of the form factor, save for a connection to Quora's 300,000 topics and the promise of a built-in audience. Otherwise there are two blog designs optimized for mobile, a new iPhone application meant to make blogging via smartphone a breeze, and an up-and-down voting system that matches voting in Q&A threads.
But Quora is heavily marketing the built-in distribution appeal of its new product to draw in bloggers, veteran and novice alike.
"Each Quora topic is followed by readers -- hundreds, thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of people," engineer Kah Keng Tay wrote in a blog post. "For writers, this means that anyone who shares your topic interest may see your writing, no matter how many people follow you personally. This is different than other platforms where your audience is dependent on how many people follow you personally."
Long quote short: Add topics to your blog posts and you'll get readers -- though this insta-audience promise sounds a tad overblown. Quora has yet to break into the mainstream consciousness and is struggling to find its own audience. Web analytics firm Quantcast estimates that the site reaches about 582,000 people a month in the U.S. Quantcast also shows a downward traffic spiral since October 2012.
Blogs, as a natural extension to the service, could help revitalize Quora if the startup can figure out how to get people to use them. The problem is that blogging is an activity that a finite number of people have an interest in, and those who want to blog already do so via Tumblr and WordPress.
The 3-year-old question-and-answer site isn't the only company that believes it can rethink a category in its second decade of existence. Twitter co-founder Evan Williams, one of the original pioneers of the blogging movement, is taking a more avant-garde approach with Medium, an elegant but unconventional publishing tool that organizes posts into collections.