Liz Gannes

Recent Posts by Liz Gannes

Quora Will Push Its Most Link-Baity Content to BuzzFeed (Though It Would Never Call It That)

On Quora, answers to the question “What are the most surreal places one can ever visit?” are a fantastical mix of caves and mountains and formations and reefs. The page has more than half a million views.

On BuzzFeed, the same answers were reposted and reformatted under the headline “27 Surreal Places To Visit Before You Die.” The post has more than 4.2 million views.

And Quora is totally okay with that.

In fact, BuzzFeed is the latest of seven content distribution partners for Quora. Others are Forbes, Slate and the BBC. Quora exec Marc Bodnick sees the media deals as a win-win, where Quora writers get more distribution, and media partners get good content.

It might seem a little self-defeating for a social site to concede that a media player has wider reach than it does. But Bodnick said the deal serves Quora’s goal of sharing and growing the world’s knowledge. “If you keep the quality high, the quality attracts readers,” he said. “It’s not GIFs, it’s not porn, it’s not link bait.”

Still, a list of pretty pictures of surreal places to travel to is not that far from link bait, is it? Bodnick disagrees. Quora actively discourages memes, it doesn’t permit image-only submissions and it collapses from view any images that have writing on them.

“If we wanted to explode we would allow that stuff, because that stuff is sharable gold,” Bodnick said. “But it’s almost the enemy of knowledge.”

So why do people want to contribute to Quora? Because they can start as virtual unknowns and get wide distribution if they write good stuff, Bodnick said. “People write on Quora because they want to share what they know,” he explained. “There’s an authenticity and a helpfulness to Q&A. And our content stays evergreen. We’re creating reusable resources.”

The media companies don’t pay Quora for the content, and Quora doesn’t pay them for the syndication. Bodnick said Quora is unlikely to try to make money until “after next year” — a.k.a. 2015. It can afford to do so because it has raised tens of millions of dollars, and CEO Adam D’Angelo has committed to playing a long-term game.

D’Angelo’s goal is to make Quora a Top 10 website, Bodnick said. The company is far from that today, but content distribution may be a bridge to the next step.

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik