Primary Sources and Content Verticals on Quora

If you’re an avid Quora user, you may (or may not) have noticed a particular uptick related to a specific type of Quora power-user voting in 2011. From my vantage point, I see two things:

  1. Quorans are up-voting answers provided by “primary sources.” These users aren’t power-users (yet), but they have answered questions in such a way that lends authenticity to the contribution. The quality and authenticity of answers on Quora do depend, in the long-term, on having primary sources weigh in on questions. This is the cliff between primary and non-primary interests, where Quora’s early adopters who are expert in many areas began to start answering questions within topic areas that are not primary to them. This is O.K. and generally harmless, but not a long-term trend worthy of the system. And, this is better than celebrity up-voting.
  2. Quorans are up-voting answers that fit “good answer” criteria in specific content verticals. Assuming an answer meets the basic criteria of being “good,” such as being long, well-written, and answering each part of the question, Quorans are voting up answers in very targeted content areas, ones that are traditionally “owned” by larger brand-named media properties but are ripe for disruption. These content verticals include health and medicine, movies and entertainment, sports, and politics, among others. Quora is able to pull up some interesting “dark matter” out of its users and into its system, and while these won’t challenge the established brand properties like WebMD, US Weekly, People, Sports Illustrated, or Politico, the fact that Quora can structure content around specific questions and answers upfront gives it a tremendous advantage for organic search optimization, with the added benefit that any opinion is tied to an author, which is tied to a social network identity that can be verified by the reader in a few clicks.