Pottermore CEO Susan Jurevics Explains Site Redesign and Hints at Future Changes
On December 4, MuggleNet went to the FutureBook 2015 conference in London, which promised to “bring together leading thinkers in publishing, retail, editorial, writing, marketing and tech, along with speakers from other industries.” The conference opened with a keynote speech by Susan Jurevics, Pottermore CEO since 2013, who talked about the Pottermore redesign and future plans for the company.
She began her speech by talking about the goals of Pottermore:
All of us at Pottermore are dedicated to unlocking the power of imagination. Our mission is to engage and delight the wizarding world community and celebrate the magic of storytelling. Pottermore has an entrepreneurial DNA, and we’re constantly placing bets on a variety of digital technologies, business models, and user experiences. [W]e aim to succeed, but we accept missteps as long as we learn from our experience and quickly move on.
It’s heartening to hear that Pottermore is receptive to feedback because many fans have expressed their disappointment at the site’s redesign. Jurevics went on to explain how the decision to develop Pottermore was driven by a change in consumer technology.
Let’s take a look at the world as it existed in 1997, the first year that Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was published in the UK. Back then, 1% of the world’s population used the internet. 1%! Mobile phone usage was just starting to take off, but very slowly.
So let’s look at our world today in 2015 […] Two significant developments this year signalled a major expansion in J.K. Rowling’s wizard[ing] world and resulted in exciting editorial changes for Pottermore.com. In August, principal photography began on the new Warner Brothers film, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. […] And in September, it was announced that the stage play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is coming to London’s West End next summer. [In 2015,] mobile usage soared, with over 2.6 billion smartphone subscriptions globally. And that’s expected to nearly triple in the next 5 years, when nearly 70% of the world’s population will be using smartphones. It is one of the reasons we are betting that this is a critical platform to engage our audience.
While J.K. Rowling’s writing is still the most critical and differentiating component [of Pottermore], it’s really clear that we cannot rely on her for every single piece of content on the site, especially if we want to generate an almost daily flow of new information. Over the past several months, we’ve hired a team of writers to create exclusive reports and essays. We call them the Pottermore Correspondents. We have not revealed their identities, but they’re professional journalists and copywriters who have worked for major magazines and media outlets. [W]e use the correspondents to spotlight the products of our partner companies and fellow publishers.
The identity of the illusive Pottermore Correspondent has long been a mystery for Pottermore fans, and this is the first confirmation we’ve had that the Pottermore Correspondent is, in fact, a team of writers!
The decision to redesign Pottermore was also driven by a shift in its core user.
Another major change we saw this past year was in our audience composition. Our research indicates that our core user is a young, adult woman who had grown up with the books as a child and a teenager. This user is not just looking for more writing from J.K. Rowling; she’s also seeking news and information about the wizarding world. Our user feedback, and our desire to build lifetime customer value among a wider audience, led us to eliminate the gamified content and user roleplaying. Instead, we’re concentrating on other areas more appropriate to the young female demographic. The most significant way we addressed this challenge was to redesign our site in September. […] Our data is proving that our new site is appealing and useful to a wider and young-adult audience who are not role-playing super-fans.
Interesting to see that the elimination of the Pottermore moments was driven by a desire to attract the young female demographic. Although the Pottermore Correspondent promised that the Patronus and wand tests were in the works, this suggests that it may be a while until they are released. Maybe we’ll see them return as part of the promotion for Cursed Child or Fantastic Beasts?
The enhanced e-books went on sale in October and immediately made their way onto the iBook’s top 10 list paid books charts, in both the UK and the US. […] This is a prime example of us using digital technology to help develop a stronger relationship with the consumer. […] Pottermore is now, for the first time, working with other retailers to be more open and offer greater consumer access to Harry Potter e-books and audiobooks. Just two weeks ago, the Harry Potter digital audiobooks were made available globally for download on Audible. We re-jacketed the product for a digital-first reading experience. We developed jacket designs that work equally well in colour and monochrome, serve as strong thumbnails, and pop on the digital shelf, juxtaposed with other book titles. We’re so proud that 5 of our 7 books made it to Audible’s top 10 list the day of their launch.
Their new relationship with Apple, together with the realization that mobile is a critical platform, strongly hints that a Pottermore app may be in the works. Pottermore.com is already optimized for smartphones and tablets, but an app offers additional features such as push notifications, personalization, and greater interactivity.
The success of the enhanced e-books suggests that we’ll see an enhanced e-book version of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them released closer to the release of the movie. Imagine how the creatures from the book could come alive; dragons could breath fire, spiders could crawl through the text, and grindylows could swim through the pages. Maybe Eddie Redmayne will make an appearance in the “About the Author” section in his beautiful coat?
Our strategy in 2015 is to increase the opportunity for convenience and easy access to Harry Potter e-books and audiobooks to anyone, anywhere, at any time. But we’re not yet done. We’re working to secure more retail partnerships in the near future that will grow our digital footprint and give consumers more choice in where, and how, they purchase and consume our content. So we know we can’t stand still […] the world is just going too fast.
We’re in the imagination business. And as I often remind our team, we’re just trying to make a little magic, delight our audience, and sell some books.
What do you think about the redesigned Pottermore? Have you bought the audiobooks or enhanced e-books? Let us know in the comments!