I am a Harry Potter fan, a Potterhead if you will, and therefore immediately announce my bias in my explanation of JK Rowling’s mastery of culture.
With that said, however, she, Sony and TH_NK – the digital media company helping Rowling in the Pottermore endeavor – deserve some congratulations. In my article announcing Rowling’s announcement that there would be an announcement this week – stay with me – I applauded her manipulation of the mega-fanbase which follows the Potter franchise. Earlier this week Jo Rowling, the creator of the most successful book franchise in history, sent out a message via Google Secret Street View one letter at a time spelling out “POTTERMORE.” This phrase spread at the speed of Tweet through her immense readership via all sorts of social media. Within hours the video of her countdown to the big reveal had over 217,000 hits.
By 9:00am EST on Thursday June 23 it had 3 million.
In this video Rowling explains that Pottermore is in fact a website where fans of all ages—and therefore of technological ability – can explore the books, discover the backstories to their favorite characters, find important “moments” in each chapter where they can interact with the story, and continue the journey which would have ended this July 15th with the release of the last film.
From the descriptions, screenshots, and quotes from Rowling herself, it seems that Pottermore will be almost like a second-life gaming website for Potter fans. Users create their own screenname, get sorted into Hogwarts Houses, receive a wand that chooses its owner, play games, earn points to “buy” things needed in the story – virtually live in the Harry Potter world. Although many had hoped Rowling would be writing another Potter book, she has hoped to instead allow her readers to connect even more to the already established and revered story.
The site is not open yet, of course; it will be opening on July 31st for a select 1 million members (yes, there are a lot more than that) and will open to all in October. When news of the lucky 1 million to be chosen spread, the Pottermore site where one can enter their email in hopes of being selected crashed for hours. (Luckily for those, like me, who were barred from the site due to the crash, it is not the first million that are chosen, but a random selection.) Nevertheless, I think even Jo and Sony underestimated the traffic they would have to support – let’s hope they beef it up in time for October.
The genius part about this creation is the extreme audience-targeted marketing. Those who read Harry Potter when they were children are now adults and young adults and are the most technologically-adept generation ever. It only makes sense to allow these readers to participate further in this experience on a playing ground they know. As Rowling said at her press conference, “I wanted to give something back to the fans that have followed Harry so devotedly over the years, and to bring the stories to a new digital generation.”
Certainly, if there was a way to give back to the fans of the digital generation, this is it. Congratulations Jo, and to all of those who finally were able to submit their emails to the site last night. I know we are all very excited.
Read more: JK Rowling: Viral Marketing Genius