March 1, 2011 § 2 Comments
By: J.C. Hewitt
Once upon a time, blogging was the cool thing to do on the internet. Now, the space has become saturated. Self-help books about how to make millions of dollars with a blog are now common.
I’ve made most of my money throughout my professional life by writing on the internet; both for people and for the always-lovable search engine spiders. I’ve blogged in various incarnations since about 2001, when Newspro was the closest thing that anyone had to WordPress.
Of the many blogs that I’ve created, nurtured, neglected, and abandoned, few of them have actually turned into anything close to an asset that appreciated over time. Part of that could be blamed on my lack of focus. I’m not one of those people passionate about car insurance, wine, iPhones, or other products that other people like to shell out a lot of money for. I’d rather write sprawling essays and poetry.
Luckily, Quora is a much simpler and superior platform for publishing compared to WordPress, Blogger, or any of the many forerunners.
The Eyeball Hunt
The largest problem for any new publisher to tackle has always been and will continue to be distribution. With so many people around the world competing for traffic, it’s not easy to attract the people that you want to. Twitter works better than word-of-mouth or other social groups, but it’s still challenging to induce even people who have followed you for months or years to click through to your posts.
WordPress and Blogger try to use the tagging system, and StumbleUpon does something similar to foster surfing behavior among bloggers. But that traffic isn’t as “sticky” as writers tend to want it to be.
Quora has taken a hybrid approach between Twitter, Facebook, and a blogging platform. You can follow topics (similar to tags) and people at the same time. People more interested in personalities can hone in on people they want to follow. People just interested in the best answers to a topic can do the reverse.
PeopleRank Has Value
PeopleRank may not be worth much at the moment. And in fact, it’s as speculative-grade as Quora stock is right now. A company with no revenue albeit with founders that have a great track record and a relatively small number of users does not make for a certain future juggernaut.
However, it’s at least something of an alternative currency that Quora can pay out to its users for creating content. That’s not something that other publishing platforms really offer right now. It’s a classic craigslist scam to offer a writer pay for “exposure,” but Quora actually delivers on its promise. If you produce quality content, your answers pop up to the top of the page. Your votes carry more weight.
And if you can’t figure out how to turn that kind of power into wealth (if you want it), then you haven’t thought much about it.
Natural Tendencies Pump Your Score on Quora
The market tends to punish bloggers who follow their heart. If you write about whatever you’re thinking, readers tend to flee. Throughout history, there’s a reason why publications with a cultivated voice (like the New Yorker) or a tight subject matter (like Vogue) tend to endure. Even generalist publications are separated into sections and manned by specialists (like the New York Times or Wall Street Journal).
On Quora, however, the system expressly rewards dilettantes. Most of my answers on Quora are related to economics, finance, and politics. But upvotes on silly answers like “What are some hobbies that rich children enjoy?” cross-subsidize my answers on unrelated topics.
Because of the structure of the system, you’re unlikely to lose followers by switching topics often. Quora’s stated goal is to extract as much knowledge as possible and to put it on the web, so they don’t want to dissuade entrants by requiring some kind of formal, ex-Quora expertise to boost ranking. Quora only boosts you for what you do on Quora, encouraging as much content creation as possible within the system.
You can write whatever the hell you feel like on Quora, and as long as it’s good, you eke out benefits. That beats blogging to a small audience any time.
Thinking About the Long Term
Blogs can outlive their purpose, as I’ve discovered time and again. Friendships dwindle. You can move across the country or the world. You can lose interest in old hobbies. But Quora is a network that at least has enough money that Charlie Cheever could cook a breakfast of poached wild Chilean sea bass on a fire ignited by a stack of $100 bills every day for a couple years and still keep the servers running for a while.
If a blog fails to achieve traction or the author loses interest after a year or two, the net benefit is generally around zero, minus any experience and connections accrued through the writing process. On Quora, there’s no cap (yet) to PeopleRank. The more up-votes that you garner on Quora, the more attention that you can capture relative to new-comers on well-trafficked topics.
If you stick around, your profile on Quora might wind up being worth something.
Until the next big thing, that is.