Scott Rogowsky's fans were not amused that he spent his week at CES.
The affable host of HQ Trivia (a live in-app show that airs twice a day on weekdays, once on weekend days) typically spends his afternoons in the SoHo studio where his face is beamed out to hundreds of thousands of players, who compete for cash prizes.
Last week, though, he livestreamed from the floor with Super Deluxe for media agency OMD — prompting a campaign of HQ-ties to wield a "FREE SCOTT" campaign on Twitter and on the trivia show's comments section. The app has also gotten attention from Ellen DeGeneres — who brought on the subject of a viral video who was overcome with emotion after winning $11 on HQ — and Jimmy Kimmel, who hosted the show in Scott's absence. Dan Rather even won it with his family on Christmas Eve.
"It's just not slowing down," Rogowsky told Ad Age. He talked to us about being the face of HQ and shared some tips for winning. This interview has been lightly edited for flow and readability.
You've become the face of HQ. What was the first time someone recognized you from it?
There were 1,000 players on the game — so there weren't that many players. I was sitting outside having lunch or dinner with my cousin … All of a sudden, this guy jogs by and says, "Oh, are you Scott from HQ?" He took a knee and he's like hanging out. There are are 1,000 [players] — what are the odds of this?
What does your day look like when you're hosting?
It's 12 shows a week — two every weekday, and then 9 p.m. on weekend nights. I take a 1 p.m. train from Westchester [where he lives with his parents as he's looking for a new place] get into Grand Central around 2 p.m., I'm basically around the office around 2:15-20, go live at 3.
And then I stay there through the 9 p.m. show, then I'm back on the train, generally home around 11:30, midnight.
How do you prepare?
I go through the questions make sure they all look good and everything is spelled right. We have fact checkers, but just put my final check on it, then research them so I know what I'm talking about, and be knowledgeable about them, throw some jokes in there, and then I'll write up a little intro, and then we go live.
There's become an entire language around HQ — you call yourself Quizzie McGuire, players are HQ-ties. Was that voice all you?
It's just how I think. That's just me. I brought my personality to HQ. I injected my
And when there's a guest host, people get quite upset.
They're just used to me, they've built up the loyalty. They should get used to seeing other voices on there, because I can't do them all. They're going to be expanding to other games and they're going to have different hosts for all that, so I guess eventually there will be like 20 hosts with different shows.
Any 'oh, shit' moments on-air? There are some glitches and lags.
When the game glitches out or lags, it can be frustrating. This is science fiction, what we're doing. No one has attempted this before. This many concurrent viewers with synchronous, low latency, having results processed instantaneously, you can play with 10 different phones at the same time — it's all the same. What they're doing there on the tech side of things is really revolutionary and groundbreaking. It's like building the first airplane. Building the first spaceship. There are going to be a lot of hiccups along the way and there are going to be some crashes.
Do you quiz yourself to see if you know the questions?
I do go through and I say, 'Do I know this?' If I don't know it and it's a Q5 or low Q6, it might be I've switched out Q3's if I think, 'This is ridiculous, how would people know this?' or you move the order around. But we try to do polls around the office and ask, 'Who knows this, is this hard, is this too easy?' But it's unscientific. Everything is subjective, right? A question that's easy for you is hard for somebody else, and vice versa.
That a very difficult part of it, having them slowly, gradually get harder along the way. We've been constantly refining the process. The writers do a fantastic job of creative, original trivia. We're not looking at old Snapple caps, we're not buying trivia from some trivia farm somewhere. We're writing original trivia.
So how can I win? Despite many, many tries, I still haven't.
Just read Wikipedia front to back. Make educated guesses, use context clues. Certainly toward the end of the game, you should question if it's too good to be true, maybe it is, if an answer option is too obvious.
Should people try to Google the answer?
No! What the fun in Googling? Unless you get a rush out of cheating?
You're shaming me.
Do what you want. I stand by the fact that it isn't possible to win by Googling. I just don't think there's enough time. What happens if you try to Google and you get it wrong? Then you feel doubly bad because you're out and you were looking it up.
HQ doesn't have ads — yet. But clearly you're getting good numbers -- the other night over 1 million were watching. What do you think about monetizing the app?
I can't really speak to it — they've got a strategy and they're figuring out out. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out the opportunities there that abound. But I have full confidence that they're going to crack the code and make themselves good along the way.
What are your hopes for HQ?
My hopes and dreams are that it stays the first mover. That it maintains that momentum and it expands in terms of reach. Why can't we be the Facebook of live mobile trivia instead of the Friendster? I think keep innovating and adding enjoyable experiences for the users and adding games and building out the network, that's the goal I think everybody at the company shares — to become the major player in — I don't even know, what do you call this space? App show? Showbiz 3.0? It's an appointment app. App-pointment? Appertainment?
What else do you want HQ-ties to know about you?
I don't wear mascara. No mascara. I do wear pants, if you're curious. And my ears — I've never had ear surgery. People think I have elfish ears. There's no eyebrow team. It's all me, baby, all natural. I'm all natural.