Susan Jurevics is c.e.o. of Pottermore and speaker at FutureBook 2013.
How do you balance attracting new fans and re-engaging fans that are now a little bit older?
I think there is a component of that that may not be as obvious to those in the content-creation side and the publishing side, which is really understanding how consumers are using technology and different devices to interact with content, and with each other.
When I first started working on Pottermore in 2010 there were no tablet devices, and there wasn’t the same sort of outspoken behaviour on social media that there is now—especially with younger digital natives. The landscape is changing so fast, based on how consumers are utilising the devices and consuming content in different communities. You have to know how to reach people; you also have to go back into the fiction and understand what it is that is so compelling to the community.
For Harry Potter the “ultimate truth” is good triumphing over evil—you have to understand that component as well as understanding who these communities are and how you engage with them. Only then can you harness that community.
With a brand as big as Harry Potter, how do you compete with other brands and media?
Ultimately to be relevant to your audience you have to have an emotional connection with them, which is something Jo [Rowling] has done brilliantly with her writing of the fiction. That emotional connection is there regardless of age. Wide audiences grew up with the fiction, now they may be parents with children who are old enough to engage with the fiction the same way they did, so we have a little bit of a generational gap there.
We have to take into account things like population growth and genre balance, and the use of technology by different audiences. To engage with audiences over a long time you have to be relevant, reach them where they are—and on their terms—as well as embracing that underlying universal truth.
This is a brand that started in the written word, moved into films, then merchandising, and then two or three years ago experimental worlds. Now it is a digital platform. The younger audience can be engaging with this franchise on any one of those platforms—either first, or simultaneously. People will watch a Harry Potter movie marathon while tweeting about it, and engaging with other people watching it on Facebook. That sort of multiple-vehicle engagement is something we really have to keep an eye on, because it’s never existed before.
Is tapping into all those different elements a way in which Pottermore will continue to grow?
We have to look at the way consumers are using different digital platforms and find ways to deliver the content from the stories in a way that is true and authentic in ways consumers expect, or would be delighted by.
So it is about how we make sense of that in a very complex environment for consumers, but also within a fiction that has been characterised by very immersive experiences and fantastical worlds—that’s the creative challenge.
We have to introduce new people, but also give something back to the original fans that have grown up with the fiction. The community feels very strongly about the brand overall and they are very vocal, so it is important for us to listen to them and engage them.
Embracing the community also implies we know a lot about them and who they are, so the other trend we’re seeing is the importance of data—who these people are and how they want to be reached.
You have had a varied career, working for companies like Nickelodeon and Sony. How does that inform what you will be doing at Pottermore?
I’ve had a very privileged career working on brands that in most instances have been global, emotionally resonating and with a lot of creative talent behind them. All of those brands have a lot in common from the perspective of deeply knowing the consumer, and analysing the insights that come from their consumers’ behaviour and expectations.
I think it will be about having that as a lens to look through, combined with my passion for the creative and with some basic building blocks of financial structure and global experience. It’s been a very interesting road to Pottermore—now we can focus on places we want to be and products we want to launch.
Susan Jurevics will be speaking at FutureBook 2013 on 21 November. Booking closes 15 November