On July 17, 2000, Cornerstone distributed a news release describing its success with its trivia service.
For photos, including images of Paul judging and running trivia events, drop by the Photo Gallery.
Posted Monday July 17, 2000; reprinted with permission
By Claire Tremblay <mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org>
Ottawa Business Journal
Who wants to be a millionaire? Ottawa Webmaster Paul Paquet does - and if the last four months are anything to go by there's every chance he will be.
Paquet says he has made a not-so-trivial pile of cash from his Ottawa Web-site www.trivialhalloffame.com, that is benefiting from the success of TV quiz show Who Wants to be a Millionaire. Over the past four months, trivia buffs from Australia to Canada have clicked on to the site.
'The show has reminded content providers that people will come back week after week for good trivia. I'm not a millionaire yet, but at this rate, who knows,' Paquet says.
Paquet's customers fall into two categories. Most buy a 4,250-questions database for approximately $600. Some, however, ask him to write custom questions.
'I'm doing a hush-hush project now for a contest that will be run by a very, very large American media corporation,' he says. 'They needed 8,000 questions aimed at an intelligent high school audience. That's my whole summer right there.'
His interest in trivia started out as a bit of fun. In 1995, Paquet decided to sign up to become a contestant on Jeopardy. Paquet passed the Jeopardy exam and waited for a year to make an appearance on the show.
'Jeopardy usually picks out three times the amount of people it actually needs,' he says. 'Unfortunately, although I passed the exam, I didn't get to appear on the show.'
There was however, a spin-off from the experience. While training for Jeopardy, Paquet came up with several thousands of trivia questions that formed the basis of his Web site. He has also written trivia questions for books and game boards. [ED Note: This isn't correct ... the database came before the Jeopardy experience but this site was created as a result.]
Competition in the trivia industry is fierce, and question repetition is not desirable. So Paquet trawls local libraries and encyclopaedias for new trivia questions. The other problem is getting question and answers that are accurate.
'Even the Britannica has mistakes in it once and a while,' says Paquet. 'You develop an instinct as to which sources are more accurate than others.'
Another part of the job is making trivia interesting. Some of the on-line trivia games include odd categories such as Death Styles of the Rich and Famous, a quiz on how stars have died.
'Questions have to be fun, they have to be well written and they have to be as accurate as possible. You have to write very carefully to highlight a question's `wow' factor, without leaving room for alternate answers. It's a tricky business,' he says.
Paquet has an explanation for his trivial success.
'People want to show off,' says Paquet. 'For a lot of well read people there isn't much opportunity to use the knowledge you have picked up. People also like to show off and they often mistake knowledge of trivia for raw intelligence.'
(This story was also covered in the Canadian business magazine Profit.)
THE ACCIDENTAL DOT-COM
At a time when so many corporations are losing fortunes on their e-business strategies, a small website in Ottawa is making money -- selling trivia.
For four years, Ottawa writer and trivia buff Paul Paquet (he's in the queue to appear on Jeopardy!) has amused people around the world by offering weekly trivia games at his website, triviahalloffame.com. In the past year, however, he has suddenly been flooded with requests for his trivia-writing services.
'I think I must be one of the only people in Canada who can make a living strictly off website earnings,' muses Paquet, who credits the site's sudden success to the ABC-TV program, Who Wants to be a Millionaire. 'The show has reminded content providers that people will come back week after week for good trivia.'
Ironically, Paquet's site isn't exactly textbook e-business. 'I have no real strategy,' he says. 'I don't take credit cards and I don't use the latest Web technology. But it's very easy to do business with me.'
Paquet's customers fall into two categories. Most buy a 4,250-questions database, which sells for US$425. Some, however, ask for custom questions. 'I'm doing a hush-hush project now for a contest that will be run by a very, very large American media corporation,' he says. 'They needed 8,000 questions aimed at an intelligent high school audience.'
The Net came to his rescue: To help meet demand, Paquet has started subcontracting the trivia-writing to some of his regular players.
By BOBBY BRYANT (reprinted with permission)
Proud Canadians remember the exact date.
Dec. 15, 1979. A kitchen table in Montreal, Quebec. Two men: Chris Haney, a photo editor at The Gazette in Montreal, and Scott Abbott, a sports reporter at The Canadian Press. They were pals. They wanted to play Scrabble. Nope: Their game was a shambles, a mess, with many pieces missing.
Why don’t we make up our own game, one said. Yeah! said the other. It was one of those moments when the 100-watt bulb snaps on over your head and the chorus sings. Trivial Pursuit was conceived.
The friends and other partners spent the next two years giving birth to it. They nearly went broke, but in early 1982 at the New York Toy Fair, a game was born, and it grew, and the friends got rich. And now, as Trivial Pursuit basks in its 20th anniversary and the world continues its not-so-trivial love affair with trivia, Canada is very proud.
QUESTION: What’s the big deal with Trivial Pursuit, anyway?
ANSWER: Listen as one fan (by coincidence a Canadian), Paul Paquet of Ottawa, explains the basic joy of Trivial Pursuit.
'I can go forever sometimes," says Paquet, 37, who runs a trivia-based Internet business (triviahalloffame.com). 'It can be frustrating and exhilarating. If you try too hard to get (the answer), you'll never think of it.
'But sometimes you're asked the question and the answer comes out of your mouth, and you have no idea where you read it or heard it. . . . You almost go into a kind of Zen thing — more stuff pops into your brain. Stuff just comes to you from nowhere.
'It's almost like some ghost or something whispered it in your ear," Paquet says. 'It makes you wonder how your brain is wired up."
Brian Jordan of North Myrtle Beach, a corporal with the Horry County Police Department, agrees: “You do almost go ‘into the zone.’ You don’t even know (the answer) is there until that question is asked.”
Jordan, 29, had been wired for trivia even before Trivial Pursuit appeared two decades ago. On car trips, he says, his family would make up trivia quizzes. When he saw the first Trivial Pursuit games at age 9, his reaction was simple: “ ‘I’ve got to have it!’ My mom bought it for me as a Christmas present.”
It was the same for Susan Rooney, a 38-year-old Elgin homemaker. When she saw the first Trivial Pursuit boxes in Midlands stores about 1982, she had to have one. And it’s still at her house.
'The board is totally worn out. We were hard-core (players)," she says. 'But all the pieces are here. Nothing is missing."
The game tickles “all these stupid facts in your head,” Rooney says. “And it’s ‘Oh, yeah, I remember that.’ ”
Rooney and her friends — Trivial Pursuiters whose game time lately has been thinned by marriage and kids — usually would play men vs. women. The men typically stuck to the Sports category and lost, she says, while the women grabbed all the other categories and won. That might be trivia, but it’s not trivial.
QUESTION: How successful has Trivial Pursuit been?
ANSWER: Consider the numbers. Forty-five editions of Trivial Pursuit have been produced since 1982, selling 70 million games in 17 countries in 26 languages. (The current retail price: about $30.)
; If the games industry is like fashion, with new styles erupting every week, then Trivial Pursuit is the industry’s blue jeans, an old favorite, says Mark Morris, a spokesman for Hasbro Games. Hasbro markets and manufactures Trivial Pursuit under license from the game’s creators. (Trivia question: Where is Trivial Pursuit made? — A plant in East Longmeadow, Mass.)
; People in the games industry talk about that day in Montreal in 1979 the way automakers talk about the invention of the wheel.
; “They were kind of going out on a limb there,” Morris says. “This was kind of a bold move.”
At the time, adults played board games marketed mostly for children —Scrabble, Monopoly — but no one was making board games specifically for adults, Morris says. “(Trivial Pursuit) created the category of adult board games,” he says. “The questions in Trivial Pursuit were geared (to adults).”
Haney, Abbott and their other backers in the game “thought they’d capture the world at the toy fair” in 1982, Morris says, “but the nay-sayers were lined up.” The game was too expensive, the packaging was wrong, and on and on. But the kinks were worked out, the game took off, and a star was born. It’s dimmed somewhat because of the mammoth trivia engine that is the Internet. But fans say the social aspect of the game — groups of people playing it at parties — has kept it going. Trivia-based TV shows, such as “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” and “Weakest Link,” also help.
; Haney and Abbott still live in Canada, Morris says, and still consult on new editions of Trivial Pursuit. (Yes, there’s a 20th-anniversary edition.) “They pay attention and make sure there are certain standards,” Morris says. “Every day, there is new trivia. There’s conceivably no end.