Solopreneur/Your Online Business/



The Business Of Monetizing Question And Answer Websites

I am creating an electromechanical device and the internet has been an invaluable source of research knowledge for me. I learned primarily thru YouTube and the many websites devoted to electronics, electricity and mechanics.

As you can see, I am studying at least three field of engineering disciplines. But not only engineering disciplines, I also have to study the business, marketing and manufacturing aspect of the device I am making. Therefore, I am studying at least three more disciplines related to business.

Of course, no single YouTube video or website can teach me all of these things and more. I use Wikipedia from time to time, but the articles in this website tend to branch off to unrelated areas of which I have no need for.

What I am basically after are answers to one sentence questions I have regarding a lot of things. And I have observed that question and answer websites like Quora, Stack Exchange, Answers and even Reddit seem to be filling the void I need.


THESE WEBSITES ARE INCREASING IN POPULARITY

It’s no big secret that these types of websites have been quietly growing in popularity. Of course, Reddit is the most popular of these kinds of websites due to its strong social media type presence.

But for technical information, I find that websites like Quora and Stack Exchange have already advanced in popularity way more than Reddit. For example, whenever I have a technical question, Quora is always at the top of the Google search results followed by Stack Exchange.

Depending on who you believe and which website article you read, Reddit is reportedly valued between US$ 6 to 10 billion dollars as of 2021. Of course, the US$ 10 billion dollar valuation was the one stated by the company itself which leaves a lot of room for questions.

Quora is meanwhile valued at about US$ 2 billion as of 2021 according to a few reports I found online. Though they are not in the same league as Reddit when it comes to valuation, it must be noted that they haven’t really monetized their content the same way Reddit has.

Stack Overflow/Exchange has been sold meanwhile for US$ 1.8 billion. The undisputed website when it comes to programming questions and IT job postings, it has been reported that the owners could have had more money by listing the website publicly.


WHY ARE THEY INCREASING IN POPULARITY?

Being an avid visitor of these websites, especially Quora and Stack Exchange, I can simply state that the reason why these websites are more popular than others is because they are: “To the point and does not waste a lot of your time.”

Compared to Wikipedia for example which is one of the most popular websites around and used by many people especially students, the visitors of Quora and Stack Exchange are already seeking advanced information that Wikipedia or other websites can’t supply.

For example, if I was looking for information or an answer to my question: “Will a 6 volt DC motor burn when given a 12 volt electricity supply?” This question is a very narrow and specific question of which Wikipedia cannot answer with it’s generalized answers/information.

Only a people who have previously encountered this question and possibly have attained the answer thru real world testing are able to answer this question. And the answer to this question could be valuable to people so much so that they actually pay to have it.

The reason why this information could be very valuable. Instead of me for example having to spend time and money doing experiments just to come up with the answer to my question, someone else already has the information I need for a fraction of the price and even free.


HOW DO THEY MONETIZE?

I did mention that these information could be useful so much so that people are willing to pay for them. Of course, if you visit these websites in their early days, they are bare bones websites containing just questions and the answers associated to these questions.

And this is how websites usually begin. They are at first non-monetized. Their primary aim at the onset is to gain attention and to produce a lot of content such that viewers would have a constant stream of available articles/videos to keep them coming back.

In fact, website monetization experts advise website owners who are just beginning out to concentrate first on building an audience before monetizing their website content. Once you have gained a following or have significant website traffic, then you monetize.

Of course, Quora has grown enough that they are now able to monetize their content. They for example have ads that won’t look out of place with their regular question and answers sections.

Stack Overflow/Exchange for example show ads on select parts of it’s website. They also have a section for posting job ads. Another addition to their monetization efforts is by making their question and answer feature available only to subscribing companies.


PIECEMEAL OR COMPLETE INFORMATION?

Another strategy I am now seeing Quora do is to prevent the showing of some of the answers in their website unless you sign in and give your e-mail address for example or login using your Google account.

Of course, in the world of online content, nothing is now more important than being able to persuade people to become a subscriber by giving away their e-mail address or Google e-mail account.

And this is where the power of hard to find information takes effect. A person who has searched the internet for quite a while visiting all sorts of websites, but can’t find the answer they are looking for might be persuaded to give out their e-mail address for the answer they seek.

These people can even be persuaded to pay money for the answer. All you need to do to prove this is to visit some law and medicine websites where in exchange for financial payment, a law or medical expert could answer the law or medical question you are looking for.

The amount or quality of answer/information you receive from these experts may be directly proportional to the amount of money you pay to them which reflects the real world scenario in which law and medical experts are usually paid which is usually by the hour.


BUT HOW DO I ATTRACT PEOPLE TO ANSWER THE QUESTIONS POSTED?

It is pretty obvious that if you are trying to create a successful and popular question and answer website, people should be posting their answers en masse to the questions posted on your website.

But how can you encourage people to do this? You can do this by rewarding people both financially and non-financially for posting their answers to the questions posted on your website.

I’m sure more people who want to create question and answer websites would be interested in the non-monetary rather than the monetary rewards they would have to give out to people posting answers to their website.

One non-monetary reward system that you could implement would be by giving people the chance to rank or rate the answers posted to a question and then linking them to the profile of the person who answered the question.

The more higher is the rating or rank of a person in a question and answer website, the more prestige they would have. This could mean that a person would be perceived as an expert on the questions they are answering.


IS RANKING OR RATING REALLY THAT IMPORTANT TO ANYBODY?

Of course, a high ranking or rating in a question and answer website establish in some way the credibility and knowledge of a person. For example, there are many software development companies who specifically require that their programmers are proficient with Stack Exchange.

This basically means that a programmer must know how to use Stack Exchange to answer programming and debugging problems. Anyone who has a high rating or ranking in Stack Exchange may be perceived as an expert by some companies.

The perception that a person with a high rating or ranking in Stack Exchange may lead to that person being viewed by a company or several companies as an expert in the technology the company is working at.

A good outcome for this person is if they are hired as an employee or a consultant for the companies who are asking the questions to them. It is no wonder then that many people do their best to impress companies and important people with their answers with the purpose of being hired by these people.

It is also a small wonder that these same people who answer questions also advertise their services to the companies looking for answers to their questions. In short, question and answer websites could increase your reputation as a knowledgeable person in the subjects you know.


THE MONETARY REWARD

As I have said, some websites do allow you to earn money by answering questions posted by people. JustAnswer.com is just one such website. This website is a subscription based type one.

In simple terms, the subscribers have to pay a monthly fee to be able to ask the people who are registered to answer the questions of subscribers. If you join this website as an expert, you earn when you answer the subscriber’s questions.

This website is chat based. There are still other similar companies who besides offering chat based answers, also offer telephone based answers. The customers of these companies are usually charge for the time duration they spent talking to the experts on the phone.

But this might seem complex for a question and answer website that is just starting out. One strategy I can think of would be for a person to post a question together with the monetary reward they would be paying if the question is answered as well as the time frame.

The person who posted the question then gets to select an answer from all the answers given and the person whose answer has been selected then gets to keep the reward money which is offered with the question. Simple enough, Right?


CAN QUESTIONS BE MONETIZED?

If people who answer the questions can be both rewarded financially and non-financially, how about persons asking questions? Does it make sense to also reward people for asking questions?

When you think about the concept, it might seem illogical right? But hear me out first. In the industry of IT and electronics, it has now become a practice by big tech companies to reward persons or hackers as you might call them, to find faults in their softwares or tech products.

For example, Microsoft and Apple are known to reward people from being able to find bugs or programming loopholes in their softwares and products which may be exploited by malicious people and even criminals.

Could the same thing be done to scientific studies or other bodies of knowledge? In the case of softwares and electronics products, the softwares and the electronics are the answers while the “what if” questions are the attempts of the hackers to hack these products.

Essentially, the hackers are asking the question: “Can I hack this software or product?” But one does not need to look far, in job sites like Fiverr, there are people who would review your books or find faults in your thesis papers and other documents for a fee.


YOU CAN HAVE A POST YOUR QUESTIONS TO MY ARTICLE WEBSITE

What you can do is to encourage people to post their articles or other documents in your website and then encourage other people to post their questions to it. One for example can post the results of their experiments and have people post questions regarding the results.

In a way, the normal question and answer websites are already addressing this. In Stack Overflow/Exchange for example there is already a question and answer format where people post samples of their source codes and then other people react/answer to their source codes.

Imagine this happening to scientific documents and other technical documents. There should exist a market out there for people who want their scientific or technical documents to be verified. This especially applies to works of students and amateurs.


CONCLUSION

Though less glamorous than the other social media websites, question and answer websites have been quietly gaining popularity for some time now. There exists a real market for such digital products, the only problem just like all businesses is in making it grow.

One must first build a regular audience and then you can monetize. A significant part of your website’s growth would be dependent on being able to attract people who would answer the questions posted on your website. You can encourage them by rewarding them with both monetary and non-monetary rewards.




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