An Exclusive Interview with Pottermore CEO Charlie Redmayne: Part 1
Charlie has been CEO of Pottermore since November 2011 and has been responsible for the transition of Pottermore from beta to launch. Redmayne oversaw the launch of Pottermore.com in April 2012, and the launch of the groundbreaking Pottermore Shop in March 2012.
Pottermore News (PN): In the future, how will you be using television and other platforms to promote the site and its products?
Charlie Redmayne (CR): We will be using television in the future, absolutely. When I came into Pottermore in November of 2011, there were some significant challenges for us in terms of the platform and getting it out of beta and actually being able to launch. I think that what we wanted to do was to invest time, money, resources in building something that worked, that the platform could support it, and to have enough great content on it to really mean that television advertising was worthwhile. This year we’re going to be focusing much more on adding more to the site. The site’s up and running, it works, it’s great, but we’ll be adding a load more to it. I think as we add more content to it and also more functionalities to it, then the marketing of it will start to emerge. But I didn’t want to invest lots of money marketing something that wasn’t quite ready.
PN: How do you plan to increase the site’s re-value? In other words, How do you plan to keep fans coming back to the site?
CR: I think that’s a really good point, and it is a very valid criticism. The site currently resonates very well amongst really hardcore Harry Potter fans. Also, I think that the thing that really attracts them is the new content. When we put new content live, we see large numbers of people coming back, consuming that content. Then quite a lot of people don’t spend enough time coming back to the site until we have a new content release. So, I think the best way of answering that question is that we are aware of that, and you will see change.
We will continue to evolve the site by adding new content to it for people to enjoy, new content from J.K. Rowling, and to have new stuff for the fans. There will also be other changes that we will start to make, to invite new Harry Potter fans to discover more about the world; people who may have only read a couple of the books or seen a couple of the movies. Pottermore needs to work for that audience too.
I think that you will see some changes not in the immediate future, but in the quite near future, whereby there is more content, there is more interactive content, there is more freedom in terms of community, and there is more flexibility in how you get to content. At the moment, you have to go on a very rigid journey [to get to content]. I think that, for it to work really well, we need to free up that and have some flexibility in that. I don’t want to say what we’re doing, but you’ll definitely see things changing, not immediately, but there are plans and we’re working on them. And I hope that by later in the year you will see the changes we have made will keep people coming back and we will also bring new fans to Harry Potter onto the site.
PN: How do you plan to increase user interactivity? Do you think that changing the restrictions on the site will fix some of the problems?
CR: We are going to continue to develop the site and we’re starting to use the community. I think that we get some pretty valuable feedback both directly on the site, through social media and stuff that’s sent to us. We are certainly aware of issues that come up and we try to respond to them.
New developments for the community side of what we do will be coming. You will have seen some of these being implemented in recent months, enabling a level of communication. I think as we step forward we must be absolutely focused on safety, specifically child safety, because some of the people who use Pottermore are quite young, but at the same time we need to create a community and connect with the community and we are very aware of that.
We also want to continue to improve the experience for all Harry Potter fans to enjoy and to participate and engage in. And we also want to curb the occurrences of cheating that do sometimes take place, and that’s something we’re very focused on. But, you will see more interactivity coming on the site. There are lots of valid reasons, which aren’t particularly interesting to fans as to why we haven’t got a lot of interactivity on the site at the moment, but we certainly see that as something we will be changing and we will be adding to it because I think it is critical. It ultimately needs to be an interactive experience.
PN: Will the J.K. Rowling Exclusive Content on Pottermore stay solely on Pottermore, or will we be seeing it in book form?
CR: Pottermore will evolve into a range of different digital platforms for people to spend time in, and J.K. Rowling’s Exclusive Content will appear in all of that.
So if you look at, for instance, the Book of Spells, which is the new Sony product on Playstation3, it has new content from J.K. Rowling in it. But, as opposed to being published as a book or an e-book, it is being published as an augmented reality experience on Playstation.
So I think you will see Pottermore on many different platforms, not just browser–based experiences, and what we will do is we will show that content using the functionalities of different devices that are available to make it the best possible experience.
PN: How closely involved is J.K. Rowling with Pottermore? What role does she play?
CR: J.K. Rowling is involved, obviously, with the site. It was her brainchild, her idea. She wanted to give something back to her fans. She is immensely grateful and respectful to her fans and she wanted to give something back and that’s why Pottermore was created. She oversaw the creation and she has written all the exclusive content. On a day-to-day basis, she’s obviously a writer, and wants to focus on that. But she’s certainly involved in any key decisions that are taken with Pottermore and she influences the direction the site goes in and things that we do.
PN: Does she look over the artwork?
CR: She certainly does see the artwork. The look and feel of the site and the artwork that is created for Pottermore is something that is critical to make sure that we get right. She is involved. She doesn’t have a day-to-day role in it, that’s the Pottermore team running it. But, certainly the important stuff she is very involved in because she is very passionate about it.
PN: Do you think we will see more sites like Pottermore in the future?
CR: I think that we will see more businesses like Pottermore in the future and I think sites will be part of it. What I mean by Pottermore at the moment is obviously pottermore.com, which is the experience as we call it. It’s a free proposition – there’s no revenue generation from it, there’s no advertising on it – it’s just something that Jo wanted to give back to her fans.
Then’s there a Shop, which sells e-books and digital audio and now other products. There is Playstation3 Wonderbook: Book of Spells and I think over this year you will see more Pottermore products and experiences emerging on different platforms.
I think that model is the model for digital publishing in the future, and I think that those people in publishing and in film companies and right holders see what we have done, and that they will follow. There are a lot of brands that can do some things we have done, and some things differently. But I think that you will certainly see this as the digital publishing model of the future.
Look out for part two of our exclusive interview with Pottermore CEO Charlie Redmayne next week. In part two, he will discuss his accomplishments as CEO of Pottermore and the future, address critics of Pottermore, and much more.