Inside HQ Trivia: The booming business of mobile trivia

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It's the smartphone trend that has people dropping what they're doing in the middle of the day, all for a chance to earn some cold hard cash.

Apps like HQ Trivia have taken Apple's App Store and the Google Play Store by storm, with HQ holding the top spot for trivia games in both stores. And with good reason -- HQ Trivia, which was developed by Vine creators Rus Yusupov and Colin Kroll, routinely gets more than 1 million players per game.

"We think that if we can get millions of people to engage for 15 minutes, 7 days a week, that's incredibly powerful," Yusupov said.

The app launched in August 2017, and started by handing out small prizes. Recently, the show began awarding sponsored prizes including a pair of custom Nike shoes, and $250,000.

HQ broadcasts at 9 p.m. Eastern every night, and at 3 p.m. Eastern during the week, with each game ranging between 12 and 15 questions. It's produced out of an office in Lower Manhattan that's no bigger than a two-bedroom apartment, housing a staff of fewer than 30 people.

Part of HQ's success can be attributed to its quick talking host Scott Rogowsky, who has become an internet icon in his own right. His followers know him by many nicknames, including "Trap Trebek," "Quiz Khalifa," and "Quizzie McGuire."

"No matter what they're doing, people stop to play, at the school, at the office, it's incredible." Rogowsky said of the impact of the app on daily life. "You know, Jeopardy has been on the air for 30 years, I don't see why HQ can't run for 30 years."

But HQ Trivia has competition. Will Jamieson and his team launched The Q in late 2017, which Jamieson quickly took to India and the U.K.

Jamieson says apps like HQ Trivia and The Q are changing the landscape for advertising on smartphones.
"It's not just trivia, right? It's the format of how it's consumed," Jamieson said. "This is one of the few models where I think advertisements can make the product better instead of detracting from the core brand."

According to Jamieson, the sky is the limit for what apps like his could offer to viewers who are willing to put their trivia skills to the test -- from plane tickets, to trips around the world.

"That's the prize you're competing for, where the brand is getting the acknowledgment and the end user is getting something that they want," Jamieson explained. "It's not really an ad, it's an experience."

But Rogowsky says the game also is all about a much-needed break from the stresses of everyday life.

"It's 15 minutes," Rogowsky said. "You're in and out, it's a perfect break in the middle of the day or at night before you go to bed. I think people are planning their days around it now."

HQ Trivia on Twitter: @hqtrivia

Lauren Blanchard on Twitter: @LaurenBlanch12