July 24, 2007
C3 Team Continues Analysis of Harry Potter Spoiler Controversy

Tuesday afternoon, and it's time to catch up on some relevant issues here on the C3 blog. One thing that has C3 and its consulting researchers talking is all the discussion flowing out the Harry Potter book release and concerns about spoilers related to it.

The release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows has gotten a lot of people up in a stir. There are all the people who crowded Harvard Square on Friday night, or sites all across the country, although that created a fervor I've encountered before back in Kentucky and that echoed the recent "happening" that was the iPhone release. This is all about event-based marketing and the importance of the release in an experience economy.

But people online are talking almost as much about the unofficial releases as they are about the official ones, including the New York Times review that some people felt provided too much information, as well as online leaks of the book before the official midnight book release.

I wrote about all of this last week, pointing out that this is all about linear consumer experiences and likening it to the fact that many people are following the same television shows, albeit at different points along the way through boxed DVD sets.

Jason Mittell writes about some of these issues as well, pointing out that books are inherently a non-simultaneous event. What is new to television has always been the case with books, since even if two readers started at the same time, they would likely not reach the finish simultaneously. So, with all the couples who bought matching Deathly Hallows copies for each night stand, reading Harry Potter could still not really be called a simultaneous experience.

Jason also has a great followup post regarding the amount of information the reader has to be able to draw on to fully appreciate the latest Harry Potter book when they might have read the previous book in the series quite a while back.

It's similar to the point several have made about the need to re-watch the first two Bourne movies before watching the latest one in theaters (although on a much larger scale, considering how long those Harry Potter books can be).

Rob Kozinets also weighs in on these issues over at his blog, Brandhtroposophy, pointing out the irony, among other things, that many of the outlets reporting on the New York Times review revealing too much are, in the process, revealing more than the Times. He also writes about how readers have the desire to spoil endings for each other, so these concerns are not new.

Rob, who wrote his piece last Friday prior to the launch, says, "In this, the final dawn before the ultimate breaking of the story, Harry Potter's secret climax is both everywhere and nowhere at once. It is instantly visible and yet its culmination is frustratingly out of reach. We have waited over a decade to find this out, and we want to know the end and we want it now. We can't wait any more."

Be sure to come back here tomorrow, when C3's Eleanor Baird will be looking more in-depth at the response to the New York Times review among fan sites, and issues related to all this discussion of "spoilers" for the final book in the Harry Potter series.