An Exclusive Interview with Pottermore CEO Charlie Redmayne: Part 2
Last week we shared with you part one of our exclusive interview with Pottermore CEO Charlie Redmayne. In the second and final part of the interview, Charlie shares his thoughts on the feedback of Pottermore, bringing Pottermore into new territories, and more.
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): What do you view as your greatest accomplishment as CEO of Pottermore?
Charlie Redmayne (CR): When I arrived at Pottermore, there were some challenges in terms of getting the site live and out of beta. The challenges for the team at that time was that the sea of popularity, the demand for the site and the amount of time people were spending on it meant that there was a huge challenge to create a platform that could actually deliver on that promise.
So, I think that coming in and turning that situation around and getting the site up and running and working was probably the biggest challenge that I faced and also the biggest achievement.
The other thing I’ve done, and again fans of Pottermore probably won’t see any of this, but I have spent a lot of time recruiting some of the smartest people in digital publishing to work at Pottermore. There is a really brilliant team and they’re extraordinarily nice people and huge fans of Harry Potter and they are also brilliant at what they do.
I hope that you see the site grow and the different platform experiences roll out. You will see the quality of their work because they are an extraordinary group.
So, [my greatest accomplishment] is getting the platform up and running and the site up and running, along with recruiting a passionate, talented, and loyal team to deliver J.K. Rowling’s vision.
PN: What has been the hardest part about working on Pottermore? What has caused you the most stress?
CR: The platform concerns that had delayed launch [was the hardest part]. There was an immense amount of demand by people because a promise had been made, and the promise had been made by J.K. Rowling. We had to deliver on that and that was quite stressful. But we got there and we delivered it.
We saw what was being published and said on social media and people were rightly pushing and pushing and pushing. That created quite a lot of pressure. We went as fast as we could, but we wanted to make sure that when we launched, we launched something that was a really high quality product.
PN: Were you a Harry Potter fan before becoming CEO of Pottermore?
CR: I’m very old – I’m 46 years old – so I discovered Harry Potter by reading it to my children. My children are huge Harry Potter fans of the books I read to the them. I read the first few books, then they read them themselves as they grew older. I was a fan,but it was through reading those stories to my kids that I got into it.
PN: What will we be seeing from Pottermore this year?
CR: We will be seeing more content to engage with and new developments with the site. We will see more books rolling out. I hope we are getting faster and better at doing that. I think that some of the feedback we got on the last rollout was that it was great and people got it before Christmas and weren’t expecting it.
At the same time, there was a little bit of disappointment in some areas of how much there was [in the release]. I think we need to strike the balance. We work very hard to make sure what we produce is really good. We’re working with an extraordinarily creative person in terms of J.K. Rowling. We need to make sure we get it right. There will be much more stuff coming out onto the site.
We’ll also be rolling out into more territories. At the moment we’re in English, both in the U.S. and U.K., French, Italian, German and Spanish. The site will be rolling out in Japanese. At the moment only the Shop’s in Japanese. We’ll also be rolling out in South Korea and Brazil. Those I can guarantee, but we may be rolling out into more countries as well.
Otherwise, you will see [the e-books in other languages.] They may not have their own shop but there will definitely be shops for Korea and Brazil. In some of the other territories, we’re going to make the ebooks available from the existing stores. You will see new digital platforms – the Book of Spells on PlayStation is just the beginning of what we’ll do in Playstation and other platforms.
[All of the different experiences will be about] experiencing Pottermore on all the platforms and access for us to do so. [Pottermore] will continually evolve. One of the great privileges of running a digital business is that we’ll be talking about things next year which we didn’t even know we’re going to exist this year. We need to react to those opportunities and make sure we stay at the forefront of what we’re doing.
PN: Will the Pottermore Shop be increasing it’s selection this year?
CR: Yes – absolutely. At the moment we’re selling the e-books and digital audio. We just made the products from the Warner Bros. store available too through an affiliate relationship. I hope that we’ll be bringing in some enhanced content. That’s not a promise, but we’re hoping to do that.
We will be making e-books available in other languages. We will, I hope, be also making other products and “experiences” to make the Harry Potter world available from the Pottermore Shop. That’s what our plan is, and I hope you’ll be seeing that over the coming months.
PN: Has feedback for Pottermore exceeded your expectations?
CR: Feedback on the Shop has certainly exceeded my expectations. From the publishing industry perspective, it is seen as something that has broken the mold and really changed publishing.
I have also been delighted by the number of fans that found the purchasing experience very easy. They like the fact that we’ve gone with a light-touch DRM, in terms of watermarking, which meant we [didn't push] any device and gave them the freedom of having to read the books on any device. On the experience side, the feedback has been great. People love Pottermore, but I know there’s also been some criticism. We need to react to that and keep getting better and better, and I promise you we will strive to do that.
It’s a big and complex piece of technology, and we work very hard to make it as good as it can be. When I came in and when we launched, I said it’s pretty good, but it will be brilliant. I want to make sure before we start really pushing this out, that it really is brilliant. Frankly, the books were brilliant, the films were brilliant and Pottermore must always be brilliant.
PN: What is your response to critics of Pottermore who say Pottermore has no value?
CR: Obviously it’s not for everybody. If you’re not a Harry Potter fan, then I wouldn’t think it does have value. But, if the extraordinary way that J.K. Rowling wrote those books and the magical world she created in her mind and the extra content that has come out of that and the product that has started rolling out with things like Playstation and other platforms – then I think it has immense value.
I think it is changing the mold of publishing. It is what digital publishing will become, and that it’s certainly what people aspire to be now, I think Pottermore is seen as a real leader. I hope it is something that Harry Potter fans will have a fabulous time engaging with on all different things that we do.
We built an e-book store that has finally made the e-books available and enabled people to read them and I think that that has had significant value. I think it will become a platform that will bring new fans of Harry Potter into the franchise, which is fantastic to have new kids discovering Harry Potter for the first time. It certainly has immense value to the publishers who publish the books, to Warner Bros. who made the films, and to Universal, who created the theme parks because there are millions of Harry Potter fans using Pottermore who could become their customers. So from a business perspective, it also has immense value.
But ultimately, what it was always meant to be, was J.K. Rowling giving something back to her fans. Running a website that has so many millions of people using it for free is an immensely expensive undertaking and I hope it does have value because it is certainly something that J.K. Rowling is investing a huge amount of time and money in making sure it happens. Nothing like this has ever been done before and it is a groundbreaking adventure.
We hope you have enjoyed this exclusive interview from Pottermore News. It was a pleasure interviewing Charlie and it has been great sharing it with our readers.