Quora gains revenue, loses resident “grown up”

With 100 million monthly visitors, the question-and-answer site begins ad sales while a key leader steps back from a full-time role.

Seven years after it launched, Quora, the question-and-answer site, is finally starting to make money. At the same time, Marc Bodnick, a key leader in developing the business side of the company, is stepping away from a full-time role to work on a new venture.

The site began publishing advertising on a small number of pages in April. Ryan Browne, a Quora product manager, said the company planned to experiment by showing ads from just a few advertisers in order to learn what kind of ads works best for readers and advertisers.

Ads can often be negative for user experience,” Browne said, adding that people don’t want intrusive banner ads, ads for questionable products or services, or ads that are not relevant to their needs.

Quora wants to experiment with advertising that fits in well and “ideally make the product better,” he said.

Highly relevant ads

Initially, ads appeared on a small number of question pages and were relevant, showing up when the fact that the user is looking at a particular question page suggests she might be interested in what the advertiser is promoting.

Quora started in April with advertising from four brands – Lever, Sunrun, Uber, and Wealthfront – and has since added advertisers.

An advertisement on Quora

An advertisement on Quora

Quora, which launched in June 2009, was valued at $900 million in 2014, the last time it raised investment. It has received a total of $150 million in four rounds from 11 investors. Earlier this year, Quora founder Adam D’Angelo said the site had 100 million monthly visitors, about half from the United States and another 15 percent from India.

Quora aims to be both an information source and a community. People ask a variety of questions, some serious, some frivolous and some practical. Community members are free to respond and often cite the source of their expertise on a particular question.

One driver of traffic is a live Q&A format developed last year under the leadership of Marc Bodnick, head of business and community. Called “Writing Sessions,” the “ask me anything” format has proven popular.

Clinton draws record traffic

A May session with Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton drew 12 million page views, a record high for the site.

Other innovations include Knowledge Prizes, to provide incentives for topic experts to answer questions.

In 2016, Quora also acquired Parlio, a Q&A site launched by a former Google employee who was part of Egypt’s Arab Spring.

Bodnick, 47, an entrepreneur and venture capitalist whom the media called “the requisite grown up” when he joined Quora in 2011 to help the company scale and build a business foundation, said he wants to start his own venture that reflects his interest in consumer products.

Bodnick said he might try to launch a new investment venture for consumer products or help start a company, or some of both.

Executive will become an advisor

Bodnick said he would continue to work with Quora, writing more Q&As for the site about topics that interest him and advising on business development and community engagement, and continue to help with the “Writing Sessions” lineup.

Before he joined Quora, Bodnick was a co-founder of Elevation Partners, an investment firm associated with U2’s Bono and a major investor in Yelp. Before that, he spent his career in tech and media investment with The Blackstone Group and Silverlake Partners. He graduated college from Stanford University and did graduate studies at Harvard University.

While Bodnick clearly helped Quora grow a sizeable audience against which the site can sell ads, CEO D’Angelo, 31, said he doesn’t pay a lot of attention to the number of monthly visitors.

Quora focuses on quality, which “comes with a tradeoff against volume,” D’Angelo said.

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