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Harry Potter’s Transmedia Success Story

Earlier this year, one of the most anticipated transmedia properties launched to much fanfare—the digital publishing arm of Harry Potter series, Pottermore.  The first major author-centric publishing initiative, Pottermore boasts 36 million unique visitors, 3.5 billion page impressions, and 158+ million spells casts and potions brewed in less than six months.  Probably most significant to publishers, Pottermore also became the first site that Amazon ever pushed their customers to in order to buy e-books online (Pottermore is the only site where the e-books of the Harry Potter series can be purchased).

Yesterday at the Publishers Launch Conference, Pottermore CEO Charlie Redmayne discussed how they have created the model for “the digital publisher of the future” and how publishers can take advantage of and join in on their success.

“Most publishers see digital publishing as creating e-books or, perhaps, enhanced e-books, but Pottermore looked at every single platform—e-books, browser-based experiences, social network, apps, game consoles, in-flight entertainment, YouTube, and educational platforms—to see if and how it could work for our brand,” said Redmayne.  “Publishers have often thought that filmmakers or gaming companies have the rights to the more valuable properties, but we have the rights to the stories and that has immense value.”

When they were launching Pottermore, J.K. Rowling wanted to create a safe environment for children online and to give back to her readers.  “When she was writing the books, [J.K.] created an immense imaginable world and the books are really narrow passageway through that world,” said Redmayne.  Pottermore expands on what readers already know from the books with more details about the characters (How did the Weasleys meet?  What historical event were the Malfoys involved in?), interactive games (see where the Sorting Hat places you), and details for each book.  As new items are launched, there are spikes in traffic. Currently, they are building more interactive opportunities on the site to maintain that traffic between content releases.

On November 15th, Pottermore will take their transmedia storytelling another step further by launching their “Book of Spells” on Playstation. In the future, YouTube, in-flight entertainment, and educational opportunities will be explored.

Though the Harry Potter brand might be a unique franchise to compare one’s own digital publishing campaign, Redmayne suggested that there are transmedia options that may work for other campaigns that don’t work for Pottermore and they are eager to share their success as digital strategists in partnership with other brands.