Is Pottermania Dead?

Monique Trottier is a Techvibes Guest Contributor.

When it comes to Harry Potter, the big question among the media is whether Pottermania is dead. Among booksellers and publishers, the question is who will be the next JK Rowling? And will there be another series as popular as Harry Potter?

As the former internet marketing manager at Raincoast Books, the Canadian publisher of the Harry Potter series, and as a book reviewer at SoMisguided.com, I’m interested in the answer to those questions. In fact, they were two questions posed to me at Portus 2008 in Dallas, TX .

Sponsored by the Harry Potter Education Fanon, Portus 2008 (July 10-13) was the fifth gathering of Harry Potter scholars, students and fans. Over 700 people were in attendance, which answers the first question. Is Pottermania dead? No.

Will there be another Harry Potter is a much harder question, but the answer can be found online by examining the phenomenon of Harry Potter in relation to the factors at play regarding social media and participatory culture.

What made Harry Potter unique was that the publication of the series spanned a 10-year period (1997-2007) that paralleled an explosion in broadband adoption and the introduction of powerful social media tools and websites:

  • Email
  • Real Audio
  • Yahoo!
  • Google
  • Ecommerce
  • Amazon.com
  • eBay.com
  • MP3s
  • Napster
  • MySpace
  • LiveJournal
  • Blogging
  • Podcasting
  • YouTube.com
  • iTunes
  • Online Chat
  • Instant Messaging
  • Forums
  • Wikipedia

The online tools made available during that 10-year publication period enhanced the power of the fans. It meant that fans around the globe could connect and interact in ways not previously available. Those tools also meant that author J.K. Rowling, her publishers, and the webmasters of fan sites could extend the message of Harry Potter beyond the confines of their own websites. They could generate buzz throughout social networks and the blogosphere. Across the world wide web. They could play off the energy of each other.

Blogging and content management tools allowed fans to easily create websites. Mugglenet.com, one of the best (and first) Harry Potter sites, was launched in 1999 by then-12-year-old Emerson Spartz.

MySpace.com and LiveJournal were two sites that played a huge role in terms of virtual communities and giving fans easy ways to stay in touch.

The launch of Wikipedia got fans thinking about creating databases of information. The Harry Potter Lexicon was launched in 2000.

MP3s, iTunes and YouTube.com resulted in over 200 different Harry Potter podcast programs and over 400 different Wizard Rock bands.

Is Pottermania dead? Will there be another Harry Potter?

There are less Harry Potter podcasts in 2008 than in 2007 or 2006, but there are more than 1 billion “Harry Potter” webpages, 3 movies still to come, the opening of Universal’s The Wizarding World of Harry Potter theme park, and fan conferences planned well into 2010.

Again, Pottermania may have died down, but it’s not dead.

And, will there be another Harry Potter? Only if all the factors are in place.

  • Compelling stories that fans want to read, re-read, study and build upon.
  • A grassroots community with a passion for sharing, collaborating and creating.
  • Strong voices and personalities.
  • And the tools to amplify and make persistent those fan conversations and activities.

An entire generation of young people learned to read, write and engage with the world through the lens of Harry Potter and the fandom. Participatory culture is what they have always known. It’s certainly possible that the world may see another Harry Potter. It’s also possible that it will be written collaboratively and that our notions of mass culture, copyright and publishing will be completely transformed.