Accio Pottermore

Sunday morning, I watched the TweetDeck column, cordoned off by hashtag, explode with updates. “OMG I got in!!” “Where’s my email?!” “Registration is now closed, nooo!” I saw tweets in English, Spanish, French, German and Italian, and probably a few other languages I couldn’t have identified.

It was all for Pottermore.

The site is spending exactly one week — seven days for seven books — giving one million fans the opportunity to answer trivia for a chance to access the site early. Early adopters get to join a beta version of the site sometime in August and September; everyone else has to wait until October. By my calculation, about 142,000 registrations are allowed in any given day (a million spread out over seven days), and when that quota’s been filled, registration closes.

Despite going live when most of the U.S. should have been sleeping (about 9 a.m. in the UK, 4 a.m. on the East Coast), Pottermore registration lasted a little more than an hour before it closed. Fans who missed out have six more chances to get in.

What the project ultimately is remains to be seen. The site itself describes it as an “exciting new experience from J.K. Rowling based around the Harry Potter books.” (Editor’s quibble: Can something be based around something else?)

If you follow the publicity campaign, you’ll read that Pottermore will allow fans to have an interactive Potter experience. They can get wands, be sorted into houses and follow along with the books’ progression. The nitty gritty is still, of course, a mystery.

It got me thinking, though — if Pottermore is a success, might its model be adapted for other purposes? The main draw appears to be immersion in the story with other fans. But this is a fictional story — what if the subject matter was a long-term investigative reporting piece? Could this model represent an evolution from passive reading/viewing to active audience participation? Pottermore will definitely have a social media aspect. Could that be used in other models to mine data for reporting ventures? Could a Pottermore-like infrastructure turn into the next great crowd-sourced project?

I think journalists and social media managers would be wise to observe Pottermore’s evolution and apply what they learn to their own work. It’s untilled ground thus far, which makes it much more exciting.

It’ll be a few weeks before I can use Pottermore for myself and report back on what I find. Fortunately I managed to solve the clue and register for early access in time. One of my nerdier moments, if I may say so.

I’ll keep my username to myself for the moment, but here’s a clue: It works for both Harry Potter, and A Song of Ice and Fire. Double geekiness.

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