Charlie Redmayne has left Pottermore to take the top leadership position at HarperCollins UK. Redmayne has been with the interactive Harry Potter website since the beta release in 2011, but is now leaving in order to fill the shoes of retiring CEO Victoria Barnsley.
HarperCollins is a publishing company in a state of flux and Charlie is joining the executive team during a time of restructure. Over the course of the last few months, News Corp shareholders agreed to split the company into two publicly traded entities. The larger company, 21st Century Fox, will include Fox Broadcasting, the Hollywood studio, and television channels. The news division now oversees all of the newspapers and HarperCollins.
It has come full circle for Charlie. He initially spearheaded HarperCollins UK digital division and was with the company when it started to really focus on digital. He will bring the startup mentality back to one of the largest publishing companies in the world and redouble its efforts to be more tech savvy. Charlie displaces Victoria Barnsley who has been the CEO for the last 13 years.
When it came to promoting Pottermore, Charlie traveled the media circuit more than his peers. He attended the London Book Fair, Future Book, and many others. He met with Good e-Reader on a few occasions and really introduced some innovative ideas to the company. One of his biggest accomplishments was abandoning bulky encryption and going with digital watermarks. This tactic won Pottermore the Digital Strategy of the Year award, presented by the UK Booksellers Association. He also made Pottermore very profitable, and although financial figures aren’t normally disclosed, it did push out 5 million in sales during the launch month.
Not only does Pottermore sell all of the Harry Potter digital ebooks, but it also has an online world for Harry Potter fans to explore. The premise is to live in the Harry Potter universe by playing a minor character in the school. Players can choose their house via the Sorting Hat, engage in spell duels, and save the school from dark magic. It is proving to be very popular.
The one thing Redmayne will bring to the CEO position is his trailblazing innovation towards making HarperCollins more relevant. We have all heard about the recent merger between Penguin and Random House; it just launched yesterday and will account for 1/4 of all books printed and 1/2 of all the books on the NY Times Best Seller list. The stakes of been raised in the game of publishing and HarperCollins needs to step up its game in order to compete.
Sources have disclosed that one thing Charlie wants to do is implement the Black Crown model for some of the company’s new properties. When big movie titles come out, there is often a video game released to build synergy between the two products. The new television show, Defiance, has created buzz with creating a persistent online game world. Random House capitalized on this growing trend of media convergence with a new, story-based video game that was launched in conjunction with an ebook. The project was called Black Crown and is powered by Failbetter Games’ StoryNexus platform. Charlie is going to experiment with ebook campaigns that are similar to this and take more risks with transmedia storytelling.
In the end, Charlie is joining HarperCollins during a time of massive upheaval. HarperCollins needs to create buzz about its books and step up its marketing efforts. Charlie will bring the startup mentality to the organization and use the skills he learned at Pottermore. I don’t think they could have hired a finer man or a better fit for the position.