I’ve asked this before, but I think it needs to be asked again. Can someone (anybody) please explain what it is about this Q&A site craze that is going on these days? Every tech guy (except me it seems) is hyping up Quora as the next big thing. While I admit I said the next big thing will involve communication, I don’t think this is it. Let me explain.
What is Quora? To me, Quora is nothing more than a glorified Yahoo Answers. The only thing Quora has going for it is that very well-respected people within Silicon Valley are on it and answering questions as well as giving advice (and who knows how long that will last). However, that’s great – if you’re into that type of scene, but then again, most people aren’t.
When I asked Twitter the other day, “Who will become more irrelevant (or die) first – Microsoft or Yahoo?” I can’t say I was surprised by the overwhelming response answering Yahoo, or maybe it was more along the lines of “Yahoo is relevant?” I think you get the point. When Michael Arrington interviewed Yahoo CEO at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in New York City back in May one of the first questions he asked her was “What is Yahoo?” Her response? “Yahoo is a company that is very strong in content. It’s moving towards the web of one. We have 32,000 variations on our front page module. We serve a million of those a day. It’s all customized. Our click-through rate went up twice since we started customizing this. People come to check the things they like. Yahoo is one site people always stop at.” Does that truly answer the question? I guess it answers it somewhat, but not really.
Which brings me to the question of is Yahoo still relevant and if it is how long will it remain relevant? Now keep in mind the people I asked on Twitter are tech savvy individuals and while there is nothing wrong with that, it can sometimes skew results. Nonetheless, I understand when Carol Bartz stepped in Yahoo was in quite the mess and I’m not expecting immediate results and for things to turn around within a few months or even the first couple of years. I don’t think Yahoo will die anytime soon – it has a very strong brand name that’s definitely well established, but will Yahoo show any growth or will it flatline or start declining (in terms of traffic)?
In my last article, I talked about what the newspaper industry is doing to stay afloat. Their biggest worry now is monetizing their content, which is understandably hard on a medium designed specifically to facilitate the easy transfer of information. Currently, their strategy revolves around pay-walls, but pay-walls heavily favor primary sources over smaller news providers, not to mention slow the flow of information and irritate the average user to no end.
The most obvious alternative to pay-walls would be micro-payments, but that system is currently underdeveloped. (I think the fact that newspaper companies can’t get on board with a system developed years ago for other media, showcases just how infrastructurally encumbered they are.) The problem is micro-payments still require the user to sign up and log in. The log-in part could be easily circumvented by associating accounts with IP addresses. The advantage to this is networks like those on college campuses can easily get general access to newspaper articles, and of course only have to pay according to what their students actually read. In addition to this, they could have networks of newspapers, where you can sign up all at once for several news sources, cutting out a lot of the hassle. I could easily see News Corp. enabling general purpose accounts for all of its newspapers.