About six weeks ago, a pair of New York Times developers met with founders at question-and-answer site/discussion forum 2.0 start-up Quora in order to “brainstorm how the organizations might work together.” Just as the Times has tried to maintain journalistic loftiness in the age of slideshows and other internet tabloidism, Quora launched as a counterpoint to content farms like Yahoo Answers–so it makes sense that the Times is attracted to the platform. The paper is dipping its toes in this week by hosting a discussion there with three Business Day reporters who will be answering questions related to their recent books.
Quora site has tried hard to enforce a strict “real-name” policy and nabbed some smart early adopters who used the site like a blogging outlet. And even though it’s going after question queries people type into search engines–“What is Turntable.fm?”, for example–which has been a high volume, low commitment market in which spammers seem to have had the most success to date, Quora editors rearrange, summarize and edit answers in order to keep things sensible.
At some point, Quora added a direct question feature with the hopes of capturing some of the text-based debates that currently take place on Twitter and in forums. There seems to be an uptick in the amount of these kinds of discussions, between a few public personalities or when people like Anthony Weiner drop by Reddit’s “Ask Me Anything” section. The phenomenon has captured the imaginations of a few entrepreneurs–we know of at least three start-ups in New York trying to build a better discussion forum.
The Times reporters haven’t answered any questions yet. But what does the Grey Lady get out of having their reporters write content for another website? A little brand-building, perhaps. But if the Times decides to partner formally with Quora, it will probably work out a deal where the discussions live on the Times’s site. “We want to see how it goes before embedding Quora onNYTimes.com,” says Timesman Jim Schachter.
We can think of plenty of newsmen who use Twitter as a forum for debate. Reuters blogger Felix Salmon and Business Insider’s Henry Blodget are the ones who come immediately to mind. Both have Quora accounts, but neither has posted any answers. Tech bloggers, by contrast, occasionally post there.