Pottermore or less?

Pottermore or less?

A new route across the techno-terrain

The news conjured from Fortress Rowling by our wizardly Bookseller editor Philip Jones is that "in the coming weeks" (nice hedge—you know how Web development goes), the Web site so powerful that it got Amazon to play quidditch is undergoing some deep change. If all is as Jones is being told, this is not just a cosmetic freshening-up, but a genuine overhaul aimed especially at mobile. And at a different class of user.

They must have heard Ashleigh Gardner talking about how 85 percent of Wattpad's 40-million-user traffic "is coming from mobile devices."

In today's edition of The Bookseller, Jones quotes Susan Jurevics (pictured), c.e.o. of Pottermore for almost two years. He writes:

The relaunch [reflects in part] technological advancements in the way users now access content sites, Jurevics said: “From a technology point of view, when Pottermore was designed and conceived the iPad had not yet been launched, and the population didn’t yet sleep with their phones on. The current Pottermore is really a laptop or desktop experience and that type of usage is going away.”The new site will be smartphone-first to reflect this “fundamental change in user behaviour”, with content designed for touchscreens and swiping.

Not only is all going mobile, mobile, mobile, but "the new mobile-first version will drop the gaming elements, focus on its core audience of young adults, and allow its content to be indexed by search engines."

This is in line with what Andreessen Horowitz mobile analyst Benedict Evans (pictured) is writing this month is the new reality of mobile. In Forget about the mobile internet, he writes:

Mobile is not a subset of the internet anymore, that you use only if you're waiting for a coffee or don't have a PC in front of you - it's becoming the main way that people use the internet. It's not mobile that's limited to a certain set of locations and use cases - it's the PC, that can only do the web (and yes, legacy desktop apps, if you care, and consumers don't) and only be used sitting down. It's time to invert that mental model - there is not the 'mobile internet' and the internet. Rather, if anything, it's the internet and the 'desktop internet'

So, mobile today does not mean 'when you're mobile'. It means ubiquity - universal access to the internet for anyone at any time. People use their smartphones all the time, very often when there's a PC in the same building as them or the same room, or on the sofa next to them. 

Pottermore is on it. After all, the current Pottermore launched in April 2012. And such tech issues as "mobile," in whatever incantations you prefer, Evans' or others', weren't the only things that would change rapidly.


This story was written as the walkup to our #FutureChat of 11th September 2015. Join us each Friday live on Twitter at 4:00 p.m. London (BST), 3:00 p.m. GMT, 5:00 p.m. Rome (CEST), 11:00 a.m. New York (ET), 10:00 a.m. Chicago (CT), 9:00 a.m. Denver (MT), 8:00 a.m. Los Angeles (PT), 5:00 a.m. Honolulu (HAST).

'Young adult and female'

Here's more of Jones, at some length now for the rationale:

Jurevics told The Bookseller: “When Pottermore first started, it was positioned for the next generation of readers, and that next generation was almost by default tagged to be children. So the current site gamified the content, making it very simplistic in terms of collecting things and casting spells. That was appropriate for children, but that wasn’t actually the core audience.” Jurevics said that the user base was “overwhelmingly young adult and female”, something she discovered “pretty quickly” once she joined the firm in October 2013 from Sony, where she was senior vice-president, responsible for the company’s marketing...

Perhaps the most significant shift is the removal of the central concept behind the original site, which required users to become students of a virtual Hogwarts in order to progress through the books and experience the site. Jurevics said the change reflected the way the Harry Potter series had now evolved outside of the core seven books.

She said: “[J K Rowling] finds these corollaries in the real world and evolves the magical world through a lot of the new writing, for example when she created the Quidditch World Cup.

But in the very linear narrative—focused on the books—that we had, there was no place for that. She can now write content that is about the wider wizarding world, but is not anchored to books one to seven.”

So, in a sense, this is Pottermore growing up with its audience (fast); Pottermore growing up with the Net's adjustment to a mobile-first posture (also fast); and—we now learn—Pottermore widening to embrace a lot more than seven madly popular books.

Anna Rafferty (pictured), formerly digital lead with Penguin, was brought into the fold in January of this year, and now is talking a whole new game to Jones about how content is to be handled at and around Pottermore:

We are opening up all that content—this world is expanding and we want people to have access to all of that, whether they are superfans or not. It is no longer a linear experience. It’s not a book. You don’t read a website from the home page to chapter one to chapter two, and we needed to reflect that. There are going to be hundreds of thousands of landing pages. It’s an immersive world, but one you can rummage around in.

With Rafferty leading its own editorial team—and promising what Jones describes as "three times as much fresh content as that sourced from books"—Pottermore is to have more chances for Rowling to add content, and more visibly, as well as for "other franchisees," writes Jones, "to market their own Harry Potter-related content.


We want to give [the fans] more and we are now able to get this to them faster. It will become a real hub of information—and the authentic heart.

#FutureChat's 'wider wizarding world'

So, you spell-casters, we want to give the #FutureChat world a chance to weigh in on this kind of big adjustment and realignment Jones describes, in a major and seminal offering like Pottermore.

  • Does the graduation of the site's audience emphasis from kids-discovering-Harry to young-adults-wild-about-Harry make sense?
  • How well do you think Jurevics and team are reading the mobile character of the online neighbourhood now? 
  • And what of Rafferty's discussion of content. "Hundreds of thousands of landing pages." Wow, huh?
  • Is there a danger here of Pottermore losing the carefully crafted grip it had initially on the Potterly brand? And if so, is that okay? Not okay? Inevitable? Magical?

Is this Pottermore or less?

See you in #FutureChat.

Join us each Friday live on Twitter at 4:00 p.m. London (BST), 3:00 p.m. GMT, 5:00 p.m. Rome (CEST), 11:00 a.m. New York (ET), 10:00 a.m. Chicago (CT), 9:00 a.m. Denver (MT), 8:00 a.m. Los Angeles (PT), 5:00 a.m. Honolulu (HAST).

Don't miss our series of  Five-Minute Manifestos" for The Future of the Book Business.

We have 12 manifesti (dodici manifesti!) published so far, with more to come. 

In his article Those magnificent manifestos, The Bookseller editor Philip Jones reiterated his call for the FutureBook community to reflect on five years of the digital dynamic, "to challenge the customs we have begun to adopt." The response has been robust, and we offer a big thanks to all our manifesto writers. 

Main image - iStockphoto: