I’m actually a bit surprised at the approach Quora is taking as it experiments with on-site advertising. Basically they’re going to show third-party ads on limited pages to see what works, what annoys people and more. This seems like the kind of thing a site would “experiment” with in 2008 but there are so many more possibilities in today’s advertising world that it could have tried.
I would think that Quora would be a great outlet for some variation on the “sponsored content” model that’s so popular. There are two things I can think of that might work.
First, companies could post original answers to, quite frankly, their own questions. So a car company could post an answer to a self-serving question like “What has X company done to increase gas mileage” with their canned corporate answer. I’m sure many brands would pay big bucks for this, though it’s arguably not a great option to maintain the authenticity of the community there. But it is an option.
What may be better would be for brands who are already actively engaged on Quora to boost the answers they’ve already provided to organic community questions. When someone searches for questions about gas mileage, then, the thread where a car company has answered a previously-asked question would then pop up as a “Sponsored Answer” or some such. This is basically a way to increase the visibility of previous efforts to achieve greater reach.
As I said, the second option is likely a better fit. Yes, it assumes that brands or their appointed representatives (I’ve always felt Quora is the one place the spokesperson model would work best) are actually active there.
Either way, I think Quora could do better than simple banner ads. The media industry has evolved past that to a large extent and there are more natural ways to introduce monetization that are still palatable by the community that’s there.