Posted by Dom
You may have noticed that there’s a new Harry Potter book out at the weekend. Across the land on Friday night, hordes of fans will be queuing up to get their hands on the seventh and final title in the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
Away from the controversy over whether Asda will actually be able to sell the blockbuster (see our news story on the resolution of the Asda/Bloomsbury spat here), and debates over whether the dominance of one title is actually good news for the book industry as a whole, attention has focussed on one issue – the ending.
Various rumours have, of course, been floating around the internet pretty much ever since it was announced that this was to be the final bow for the series. As anticipation rises ahead of the Friday midnight launch, spoilers and scanned pages of what may be the entire text of the book are now spreading across the internet – read the news article here (note: no spoilers in the report!). Genuine fan sites such as http://www.the-leaky-cauldron.org/ and http://www.mugglenet.com are vowing to be spoiler free, but it’s going to take some seriously dedicated online policing to prevent spoilsports slipping through the net and ruining publishing’s greatest mystery for unfortunate surfers.
Which brings us to the question exercising the mind of the MSN UK homepage team at the moment – how should we cover the launch of the book and, more pertinently, its actual contents?
We’ve had feedback from you before about our homepage ruining various TV and film cliffhangers for you – most recently when people complained that we’d thoughtlessly revealed the identity of a contestant booted out of The Apprentice, only minutes after it had been shown on the programme. In these days of Sky + and TV on demand, people are more and more choosing to watch what they want, when they want – and don’t want their enjoyment spoiled by catching sight of a random news story on a website.
On the other hand, we’re duty bound to report all aspects of the Potter launch, and we will be reviewing the title itself – Tech and Gadgets editor Patrick Goss will be blogging his thoughts as he ploughs through the weighty tome on Saturday morning. And our message boards will be full of thousands of fans wanting to share their thoughts on the conclusion of the series.
If you’re a Potter fan who isn’t planning to read Deathly Hallows for a while, it’s going to be very hard in our media-saturated world to avoid all possible TV, radio, magazine, newspaper and web avenues which may or may not be describing just what happens in modern literature’s most talked-about ending.
So, this weekend, how would you expect the MSN UK homepage to cover the Potter launch? Should we bury articles about the book far down the page? Should any feature or message board talking in any way about the book’s contents be plastered with ‘SPOILER ALERT!’ warnings? Would you be angry if any mention of the ending crops up on our site, or do you think individuals should be responsible for their own browsing habits, and just avoid areas where they might come across plot revelations? How long, indeed, after launch night is it acceptable for us to be talking about the book’s conclusion openly?
Let us know your thoughts on this thorny literary issue – we’re listening to what you want and, rest assured, will be doing our best to tread carefully online over the weekend.