Q&A is a great idea that really hasn’t worked. Although Yahoo Answers and a few others are still around — and Ask returned to Q&A as a way to differentiate from Google and general search — the segment is littered with dead bodies, including Facebook’s Q&A offering. The outlook for Quora in its current form isn’t particularly good, either.
While human-powered Q&A should deliver better information in many instances than search, Q&A has largely failed to live up to that promise. Panda-related updates have also killed much of the traffic coming to these sites through SEO. Against that backdrop, it’s somewhat surprising that ChaCha has not only survived but today announced a new $14 million investment round (number 7).
ChaCha began in 2006 as a form of “assisted search.” It later migrated into mobile, using SMS as the primary tool to ask and answer questions. Then it expanded to the mobile web and smartphone apps. Today, roughly 70 percent of questions and answers are coming via mobile according to founder and CEO Scott Jones.
Over the past 18 months, ChaCha has seen two billion questions and organized 129 million Q&A pairs. Where it doesn’t have an existing answer it will route questions to a human.
To that end, ChaCha still has paid “guides” but is evolving into a peer-driven network. The company watches who asks what types of questions and the quality of answers provided and decides how to route queries. Most people are happy to answer questions if asked, observes Jones.
Jones believes that he’s very close to finding the formula that will enable the site to become self-sustaining and profitable. He also wants to “let brands in on the conversation” and enable them to answer questions in appropriate circumstances.
Almost seven years later, it’s somewhat remarkable that ChaCha is still around. It’s testimony to Jones’ personal stature and track record as well as raw tenacity.