In May, Yahoo! Answers shut down after helping the internet answer its most burning questions since 2005. But now, Quora, which began as a question-and-answer site but expanded to incorporate blogging, is making its platform more appealing to creators.
Quora says it’s “on track to be cash-flow positive from ads alone,” implying that the platform isn’t currently in the black. But Quora sees tapping into the creator economy and subscriptions as a way to turn a profit.
“We want to make sharing knowledge more financially sustainable for creators,” Quora CEO Adam D’Angelo wrote in a blog post. “Even though many people are motivated and able to spend their time writing on Quora just to share their knowledge, many others could share much more with financial justification to do so.”
Quora’s first new product is Quora+ — subscribers will pay a $5 monthly fee or a $50 yearly fee to access content that any creator chooses to put behind a paywall. These are the same rates that Medium, which has no ads, charges for its membership program.
Rather than paying select creators, subscribers will pay Quora. Then, each subscriber’s payment will be distributed to creators “in proportion to the amount each subscriber is consuming their content, with more of a subscriber’s contribution going to writers and spaces the subscriber follows.” Creators have the option to enable a dynamic paywall on Quora+ content, which would give free users access to specific posts if Quora thinks they’re likely to convert to a paid membership; there’s also an “adaptive” paywall option, which uses an algorithm to decide whether to paywall content for a specific user on a case-by-case basis. This is supposed to help creators balance monetizing their content and growing their audience to find new potential subscribers.
Quora told TechCrunch that it is still experimenting with Quora+ and can’t yet say what percentage it will take from subscriptions. The other option is for creators to write paywalled posts on Spaces, like user-created publications on Quora. Quora will take 5% of the subscription fee, which the creator can choose at their own discretion. Comparatively, the direct-to-consumer blogging platform Substack takes 10% of writers’ profits, making Quora a competitive alternative. Other platforms like Ghost ask for a $9 monthly fee but let writers retain their revenue — for writers making at least $180 per month, Ghost would be more profitable than Quora.
“We’re able to sustainably commit to taking only a minimal fee without needing to increase it in the future because we make enough revenue from ads to fund most of the platform’s development and operations,” D’Angelo wrote. Substack, meanwhile, doesn’t have ads.
Quora reached a $1.8 billion valuation in 2017 after raising $85 million, and at the time, the platform had 190 million monthly users. Now, according to D’Angelo’s blog post, over 300 million people use Quora each month. Despite this user growth, Quora laid off an undisclosed amount of staff in its Bay Area and New York City offices in January 2020.
Space subscriptions will launch today for English language users in 25 countries, including the U.S. The rollout of Quora+ will be less immediate as Quora invites select writers to test the platform and determine what works best for subscribers and creators.