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Pottermore website looks to lure lapsed Harry Potter fans back into the fold

Pottermore website looks to lure lapsed Harry Potter fans back into the fold

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"Squee!" was my word for 2007.  The ultimate fan girl sound, made all the more appropriate by the fact that I picked it up from Pottercast, one of the hour-plus long Harry Potter podcasts that I listened to immediately upon release every week.    Not only was a I huge Harry Potter fan, I was a fan of the Harry Potter super-fans - those leaders among geeks who founded the two most popular Harry Potter fan websites out there, Melissa Anellli, webmistress and one of the early writers for The Leaky Cauldron, and Emerson Spartz, founder of Mugglenet. "Squee" just seemed to encompass all the nerdy-joyousness that a new Harry Potter tidbit entailed.

I'll admit it now - nearly four years later - I was obsessed with Harry Potter and the Harry Potter fandom.  My online "favorites" folder was a mile long, and almost all Harry related.  I'd check the fansites hourly, especially as the release date for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Book 7) drew near.  I'd spend days puzzling over any new item on J.K. Rowling's highly interactive website, or coming up with more and more intricate theories about what might happen in Book 7, and I'd feel like one of the cool kids because I knew what all the Harry Potter community inside jokes referred to.

Copyright Scholastic Inc. All rights reserved

And then - shortly after Harry Potter 7 was released, I quit.  Just like that.  Cold turkey.  I suppose I could have kept up with the site for the Harry Potter movies or theme park news, but it felt like a poor substitute for the continual anticipation of "What's going to happen to Harry/Ron/Hermione next?"

That was - until last week.  JK Rowling's team sent the top ten Harry Potter fansites publicity emails including geographic coordinates and the address of a website that uses Google Maps to show a street-view of the entered location.  Type in the coordinates from the-leaky-cauldron.org for example, and you get a view of Salem Common, in Salem, Massachusetts.  Zoom in a little closer, and a huge "E" shows up on the corner of North Washington Square and Brown Street, with a little pop-up message informing the reader that "The Salem Witches Institute visited the Quidditch World Cup."

Harry Potter and Pottermore Publishing Rights copyright J.K. Rowling. Harry Potter
characters, names and related indicia are trademarks of and copyright
  Warners Bros. Ent. All rights reserved

Now my life has changed just a bit in the four years since I last obsessed over Harry Potter.  Due to the recession my company is half-staffed compared to the quasi-economic boom time of 2007.  I've also gotten promoted.  And married.  With a huge-ish high-energy golden retriever named Remus, who is apt to eat drywall if left unexercised and unattended for long periods of time.

And all this amounts to one striking conclusion: These days, I don't have six hours a day to spend online looking for the latest & greatest on Harry Potter.  But last Wednesday when the coordinates were released, I couldn't help myself.  I spent my lunch hour traipsing from one site to the next, looking up coordinates, finding letters, and combining them like some epic word jumble to figure out what the heck it all meant.

J.K. Rowling smiles enigmatically in front of the "Pottermore" logo. Harry Potter and
Pottermore Publishing Rights copyright J.K. Rowling. Harry Potter characters,
names and related indicia are trademarks of and copyright  Warners
Bros. Ent. All rights reserved

Then real life set back in and Harry Potter had to be set aside in favor of an afternoon of budget meetings and an evening of lord-knows-what-but-I'm-sure-it-was-important.  By the time I emerged from adulthood, the Potter community had discovered the word was "Pottermore" and the youtube channel and @Pottermore account had been revealed.  Even CNN got ahold of the story.

In the week since then, I've broken my ban on Harry Potter fandom and spent my "free" time perusing my old haunts - Mugglenet and The Leaky Cauldron.  The sites are so much more polished now than in 2007 - run more as a business than as the hobby it was born from.  The forums have discussion groups neatly separated according to book or movie number, and the podcast has sponsors.  Some of the community from 2007 is still around - but there are all-new jokes that I don't understand and the community is much more movie focused than it was when the books were still coming out.

Harry Potter and Pottermore Publishing Rights copyright J.K. Rowling. Harry Potter
characters, names and related indicia are trademarks of and copyright
  Warners Bros. Ent. All rights reserved

And now, the question remains: What is Pottermore? According to this morning's announcement, Pottermore will be a free online "reading experience" that allows the reader to become involved in the storyline.  "Just as Harry joins Hogwarts, so can you.  You visit Diagon Alley, get sorted into a house, cast spells and mix potions to help your house compete for the House Cup."  Rowling has written more than 18,000 words of new content for the site, and though the site will also offer exclusive e-book sales, you can experience the new content without purchasing anything.

Pottermore opens in beta on July 31, 2011 (Harry's Birthday) for one million test-users.  Pottermore will be open to all users in October 2011 (my guess is a Halloween release date, so that the beginning of the virtual story coincides with the date of Harry's parents murder by Voldemort).  The content for Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Book 2), will go live in spring 2012.

Harry Potter and Pottermore Publishing Rights copyright J.K. Rowling. Harry Potter
characters, names and related indicia are trademarks of and copyright
  Warners Bros. Ent. All rights reserved

I thought my fun with the Harry Potter fandom ended in 2007 after the media frenzy following Deathly Hallows.  But, as my creative-rescheduling this week has proved, when a Harry Potter puzzle presents itself, I don't need a Time Turner to fit it all in.

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  • I walked away from the fandom exactly because of the whole "celebrity fan" nonsense.  I'd been through that with the Disney fan sites in the early 2000s and was done with it.  I was more of a Leaky person than a Mugglenet one, but got a lot from LiveJournal at the time (2005) as well.  I still keep in touch with Heidi, who also walked away from the super-fan nonsense.  

    That said, I may take a break from Minna de Bokujo no Monogatari to try this out.  If Jo's behind it, it'll be quality stuff.

  • Hi Shelly,

    Thanks for commenting.  I think my perspective on the "super-fan" issue is a bit different now than it was when I was following for HP6 & 7. Harry Potter was my first experience participating in a fan community, so I think I was a little star-struck by Melissa, Emerson, and the others at the time.  I remember listening to the podcasts, and thinking "I wish I could be friends with these people -- they're awesome!" Now, in large part because I've met some Disney blogging "superstars," I'm a lot more amused by the hero-worship, and I take it a whole lot less seriously.  

    I do think that the Harry Potter community was a great relationship-forger-- I have a few friends that I wouldn't have met without Harry Potter helping to bridge the gap. And a few friends that I only get it touch with on days like today, just to "squee" together for old time's sake.

  • I'm a 48 year old male and a bit of a late comer to the Potter films. What I really enjoy about them is watching how all the child actor have matured in their abilities over the years. Jaime, you're right as far as the so called "hero worship." They're just people. But if you really wanna blow the super fans away, read an interview with one of the various stars and note something that, that star doesn't like. Then do something positive about it and make sure you notify that star's manager. You may be surprised at what'll happen next. You may get an invite to join that person's personal Facebook page. One never knows.

  • Hi Wec,

    I agree with you very much about the early movies--I really didn't enjoy the first few due to clumsy acting, and a writer who conformed much too closely to the dialogue of the books, often at the expense of good moviemaking. That said, I've come to enjoy the later films much more, and I feel that the actors have certainly grown into their roles.   Thanks for commenting!

  • Harry Potter has actually comprised much of my life.  I was six when the first book came out, and now I am almost twenty.  I have grown up buying almost anything with the 'Potter' name on it: folders, pencils, video games, LEGO sets, I even bought the glue that came out of the troll's nose.  I waited for the next bit of news no matter how small.  I pre-ordered the last three books and was first in line at midnight to get each of them.  I was always a big reader, but this was more than just books.  To me, it was an entirely new world and a anxiously awaited each of the films.  I have gone to openning night for each of the films, and after the release of the final book, I was able to convince my parents to let me go to the midnight showings of these last three films.  I know that I will be in tears because to me, this is my life.  These characters are real.  I've cried over deaths of these chaaracters because they are more than that to me.  I am glad Pottermore was announced before the final film was released because I'm just not ready to let go.  I still re-read the books and watch every Harry Potter Weekend that ABC Family puts on.  I check MuggleNet everyday, just like I have since before the fourth film was released.  If I ever have kids, these will be the books I will gladly read to them every night.  These books are the things that will be passed down from generation to generation because they really are timeless.

  • Hi Taylor,

    It's great to hear from you!  I think "not ready to let go" Is a great description of how I felt after Deathly Hallows was released. Because I wasn't crazy in love with the movies, I found it a bit easier, emotionally, to let go of HP entirely at that time--but if I was in the same situation now, I'm sure I'd be feeling the same as you are. As it is, I'm just so excited for anything new from Jo, and I'm looking forward to hanging out on the Leaky and Mugglenet boards again when I can fit it in.

    Also--about passing the books down the line because they are timeless? So very true. I can't wait 'til my little niece reads them for the first time. She's almost eight now, so it should be soon!

  • The films have been terrible ever since David Yates took over, and it's slowly turned me away from the fandom.  I'm not really all that interested in seeing the final film because I'm sick of what he's done to the film series but my friend wants to go really bad so that's the only reason I'm going.  I'll wait for Pottermore to become more developed before I check out the site.  But I still have a high interest in visiting Wizarding World at IoA.

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