If You Can’t Keep a Secret . . .
I hadn’t really thought about the Harry Potter leaked ending, except to shake my head at the industry that used to be my home. To spend $20M on a secret that couldn’t be kept seemed such a waste . . . How I remember the thoght process that gets companies to do that sort of thing.
Then this morning Ann Michael and I were discussing Seth’s insight on publishing and the Internet. He pointed out what I would have never thought.
Five hundred year old technology (books) is just too slow for the Net. The act of printing, storing and shipping millions of books takes too long for a secret to ever be in a book again.
He suggests that, well, read Seth’s post for his brilliant solution. He advocates using the Internet to control the secret. I sure hope Seth doesn’t mind if I use my publishing experience to take his idea just a little further.
Fact: As Seth said, the secret was in always in jeopardy — from the moment the manuscript was written. The company should have seen that $20million, $40million to protect the secret was playing to a weakness.
One thing I’ve learned from Seth is that every weakness can be a strength. Here’s what I would have proposed, had someone asked my opinion. . . . Don’t worry, they didn’t.
How to Release the Harry Potter Secret OR How Choosing for the Customer Is Choosing for the Company
The problem wasn’t having the secret where people could get to it. The problem was the company thought of the secret as a problem rather than an opportunity,
Strategy always begins with the customer. In this case, the customers are kids (of every age) who grew up with the series. $20million of security was choosing for the company not the customers.
If I think about the kids, here’s where I end up.
- I would ask J.K.Rowling to reveal the ending to me as soon as she was able. I would spend a fraction of that $20million building a cool online video game with seven levels to match the seven questions of the Harry Potter Campaign. I’d spend the security there. Fewer people involved, much more control.
- I’d release the game that reveals the end of the story, three weeks before any pre-launch copy.
- To register to play the game, I would ask that each player sign in with a name, and a parental permission with verifiable email address (if the player is under 13).
- The game would be as difficult as any game on the market. It would also have cheat codes and book with hints as salable products. It would take hours– whatever is the industry average — to complete successfuly.
- When a player made it through the last level, he or she would reach a Howart’s Honor Code screen. The screen would announce the success and point out how difficult it was to achieve it. The Honor Code would leave the question to winner to hold or pass on the answer as they honor their own work. They earned it. People value what they earn.
It’s as Seth said, no one can keep it a secret — but we can control how it gets out. The company could have made finding the answer part of the Hogwart’s World. It could have been an experience. It could have been fun. Besides, I’m not sure that if I worked 10-20 hours to find out an answer that I’d give it away, . . . well, maybe secretly.
Who knows? I might play the game again and again — even after I read the book.
If I knew what I was talking about I’d still be working in that industry . . . right? I’m probably just confused. That comes from thinking like a kid.
–ME “Liz” Strauss