The Strange Case of the Missing Fan Site is the Coke to’s Pepsi in Harry Potter fandom. The site is the click bait tool of Emerson Spartz, founder and CEO of Spartz Media, now Dose (see the 2015 New Yorker profile: ‘The King of Clickbait’ for all you need to know about him). Though primarily aimed at the movie, memorabilia, and phone app-gaming focused tribes within the Hogwarts Horde, MuggleNet has hosted both the MuggleNet Academia and Reading, Writing Rowling podcasts and Beatrice Groves’ ‘Bathilda’s Notebook’ entries for serious readers of J. K. Rowling and Robert Galbraith.

The news? This website has been down without explanation since 13 December 2019.

The home page offers the following explanation: 

Dear MuggleNet Community,
For the past several years the MuggleNet community has been growing and we came to recognize that MuggleNet needed a new home that could properly support it in the future. Over the past year, we have been working to transition MuggleNet to new ownership. During the transition process, we had to temporarily stop operations. We understand the site’s importance to the readers and appreciate your patience as we work diligently to get the site back live again as quickly as possible. When we do, you’ll be the first to know.

The MuggleNet twitter feed has the following pinned to its sweet spot:

Which is not very helpful, of course, to anyone wanting to know what’s up. Leaky-Cauldron has been silent about both the down time of its rival and whatever has caused it and none of the media sources that track this kind of event have even noted it, not to say shared an explanation for the disappearance.

I was only alerted to MuggleNet’s going AWOL by a 17 December email from one of my contacts on their leadership team that wrote to ask about any MuggleNet Academia properties (websites, Facebook pages, etc.). I was the co-host of this podcast with Keith Hawk, who produced the shows and underwrote all the costs. When Keith left MuggleNet, he took the fifty six shows down from their site as their owner and posted them on where they are all available today. The email I received suggested MuggleNet was being sold and they needed a list of all assets to complete the sale. I responded that they’d have to talk to Keith Hawk, but that, other than the podcasts, I was unaware of any other “existing properties.”

This message about a ‘sale in progress’ seems more likely than the year-long “transition to new ownership” or a technological failure a la Peeves. In response to a RowlingLibrary tweet asking about the down site, ‘Fiyero’ in Anaheim, California, tweeted a link to this 9 December press release from Dose, Inc., on Dose, Formerly Spartz Media, Raises $25 Million Series B Financing, Led By Tribune Media. The self-important and techno-jargon of the release’s subtitle gives the flavor and the gist (a dose?) of the spin in play here: “A strategic technology and advertising partnership will fuel continued development of best-in-breed digital publishing technology and new multi-platform programming opportunities.”

In brief and un-spun, Emerson Spartz has sold his click-bait company for $25 million and MuggleNet along with other Dose properties will become part of the Tribune Media empire. MuggleNet is down while in transition to Tribune Media servers, I guess, with whatever translation, upgrades, pruning that process may or may not involve.

Or maybe not? MuggleNet is hardly the lone jewel in Spartz’s portfolio but it is the founding piece from which entrepreneurial experience Boy Genius Spartz grew the rest of his click bait monetizing corporation. And that jewel took a big hit on 19 December when Rowling issued the #IStandWithMaya Tweet Heard Round the World. Could the terms of sale be in a new process, one of renegotiation of price, now that fandom is in the throes of throwing off fealty and allegiance to ‘Rowling the Transphobe’?

MuggleNet broke its silence on Twitter only once since the site went down and that was, as you’d expect, on 19 December to join in the chorus of fandom leadership saying, “Transgender Rights are Human Rights.”

The tweet, with its gif of a transgender flag in motion, was literally an exercise in flag-waving and virtue signaling.  I may be a cynic, but the note’s appearance suggested to me that someone was worried that MuggleNet would lose market share and re-sale value if the website did not promptly and strongly communicate to fandom the site’s allegiance to the transgender community in some fashion. The Tribune Media masters were convinced it was in everyone’s interest for there to be a break in media silence.

Note, too, the “we technically are not supposed to be tweeting” bit. This suggests the ‘systems failure’ and ‘year long transition to new ownership’ explanations are intentionally deceptive. It points to there being negotiation issues between buyer and seller about control and management of Spartz properties, specifically MuggleNet, that have to be worked out with the system down. And that the MuggleNet crew are answering to new leadership or the terms of transition to same. Perhaps TribuneMedia has specific parameters and procedures about what will and will not be posted on its website assets?

I have no idea of course if this actually is the case or what those issues might be if this is in truth what’s happening. I post this only as a marker about a curious event in Harry Potter fandom, the disappearance of one of the two biggest fan sites into the virtual ether. Feel free to share your ideas or information about this mysterious vanishing act in the comment boxes below.


  1. Louise Freeman says

    I should point out that they were in the middle of a 25 day holiday trivia contest when they went down, suggesting the shutdown was not expected.

  2. David Llewellyn Dodds says

    Hmm… down on St. Lucy’s?:

    ‘Tis the year’s midnight, and it is the day’s,
    Lucy’s, who scarce seven hours herself unmasks;
    The sun is spent, and now his flasks
    Send forth light squibs, no constant rays;
    The world’s whole sap is sunk;
    The general balm th’ hydroptic earth hath drunk,
    Whither, as to the bed’s feet, life is shrunk,
    Dead and interr’d; yet all these seem to laugh…?

  3. I’ve received some blow-back from volunteers and staff members at MuggleNet for disparaging the fan site as a “click bait” site. This is a note to clarify my thinking on this subject and to prevent further misunderstanding.

    I am not a fan of the movie and merchandising posts at MuggleNet because I have no interest in those things; I understand, however, that the great majority of fandom members want to hear about those subjects and that the audience for the serious readers materials available on MuggleNet, namely, Katy McDaniels’ Reading, Writing, Rowling podcasts and Beatrice Groves’ Bathilda’s Notebook pieces, only exists because MuggleNet serves fandom in giving them what they want.

    MuggleNet has never asked me or, to my knowledge, any of the Potter Pundits I know who have worked with the site to shorten our podcasts and articles, to write about hot topics, to make our contributions more accessible (i.e., dumb them down), or to give them deceptive headlines to draw readers. They are not, in other words, a ‘click-bait’ site or organization — and anything I wrote that suggested this was wrong.

    I used the words ‘click-bait’ with reference to the organization that owns MuggleNet, now Dose, formerly SpartzMedia, a corporation entirely about the creation of ‘clicks’ and the monetization of same. As long as MuggleNet is part of the Dose portfolio, unfortunately, they will be associated with that group and that practice. Please read The New Yorker profile of Emerson Spartz linked in the post above if you want to know more about him and the company he directs.

    I apologize for my part in this misunderstanding. I admire and am grateful to the volunteers and leadership of MuggleNet and look forward to a continuing positive relationship with them as reader of their posts and as a guest on their podcasts.

  4. MuggleMaestra says

    There is a post almost daily on Facebook called “Fandom Chat:hosted by”. Don’t know if these are recycled or current.

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