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ABA’s Periodicals, How Are We Doing?

JAG OK 12In the May/June 2013 issue of Birding, I devoted my “Birding Together” column (pp. 9-10) to the state of the ABA’s periodicals, detailing some of the changes we’re making to our publications. Here, I’d like to throw the floor open for discussion and your questions.

Briefly, here are a couple of framing thoughts and questions from me.

First, we are all aware that we’ve lagged a bit in our publication schedule the last few months, with periodicals not arriving as promptly as they should. This is an issue that we take seriously and we’re working hard to close that gap.

Mayjun2013fig2Beyond and far, far above that, I want to thank the incredibly dedicated team of staff and volunteers who put together our publications. They do amazing work month after month. Working with these people is a true pleasure, always challenging in the best sense, and nearly always fun. I know from the many compliments I hear and overhear that the majority of the ABA membership is pleased with and proud of their work, as am I.

I’m proud of the dynamic, interactive content they’re providing and I’m thrilled with the way all of you have joined in, making ABA membership an ongoing conversation. I’m proud that they’ve maintained the tradition of excellence and authority that has been the hallmark of ABA publications, while rapidly evolving our content and its production and presentation to suit the ABA of 2013 and beyond.

But I’m not looking for this post to merely generate a bunch of “amens,” as nice as those are to hear. What I and what all of us want to know is your thoughts, ideas, questions, and concerns about the direction of the ABA’s publications, online and off.

What changes are you seeing that you like and want more of? What has you bothered, or concerned for the future?

Finally, a request. Please let us know the status of your membership with the ABA. Are you a current, past, or prospective member? Does your relationship with our organization span more than one of those categories?

You have the floor. Thanks for joining the discussion.


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Jeff Gordon

Jeff Gordon

Jeff Gordon is the president of the American Birding Association. There's very little about birds, birding, and birders that he doesn't find fascinating, though he's especially interested in birding culture and the many ways we all communicate our passion for birds, including this Blog.
  • Jack Snipe

    I am a current ABA member, and really enjoy both Birding Magazine and North American Birds (NAB). Just one gripe: Could ABA update the North American Birds (NAB) link on your homepage to a more recent issue? I have been staring at Vol. 65, No 2 (Dec10-Feb 11 2011) for way too long. The ABA’s Birding Magazine link seems to have the most current edition posted (Vol. 45, No. 3 May/June 2013), but not for NAB (?). I also find that it is not possible for someone to determine what the current issue of your periodicals is from your website (especially NAB), or when the next edition is scheduled for mailing. It would be nice if you could add this little bit of information, so that we can know when to expect a new issue, or to be able to check on a late issue. Bird on!

  • Jack,

    These are excellent suggestions. I will talk to David Hartley and Greg Neise, our web guys, about how we can implement them. We’re working on a major redesign of the home page and its navigation and easily being able to tell where we are with the print periodicals should be a goal of that. Thanks.

  • duncan himes

    To Jeff Gordon: Best likes in magazine:
    1. great places for birders to visit like Serra Bonita in current issue
    2. birding adventures to find rarities and difficult birds, ie black rail
    3. descriptions of splits, potential splits, etc
    4. conservation effort
    I take Africa Geographic–with has incorporated alot of bird places and adventures–a favorite magazine, sits on coffee table a long time.
    thanks for your efforts, duncan

  • Paul Hurtado

    Current ABA member. I’m a science guy, so I might be a bit biased here, but I’d love to see a bit more science in Birding. Now, don’t get me wrong, there’s definitely a good bit of science already in Birding — I’m just cheering on that trend. For example, a page or two about recent (relevant) scientific advances in ornithology, field ID, habitat/resource conservation, etc. would be excellent! Ducks Unlimited, for comparison, has a great Conservation section in their member publication. Granted, they have a greater focus on habitat conservation (not that should remain vacant, cough-hint-cough 😉 ) but I think a lot of members would appreciate that material. Some of this could also be on the website, e.g., mention of recently published studies complete with clear citations and links that take you directly to those scientific articles online.

    It would also be nice to see the current scientific content made a bit more accessible online, and make “reusable” content more accessible to those at the nerdy of the ABA membership spectrum. For example, in a recent article in NAB about Kirtland’s Warblers (first article in, it would have been FANTASTIC to see those excellent data tables made available as downloadable spreadsheets on the ABA website. It would also be nice to see individual articles like this one available as single PDFs with associated citation information, etc. I love that I can download the above issue as a full PDF, but there’s still room for improvement here.

    There is a great wealth of information hiding in ABA publications, and it should be as easy to find online and download as peer reviewed scientific publications. Likewise, it should also be as easy to find online and share on social media as a Huffington Post article.

  • Good stuff, Paul. Thanks for your fine ideas. If I didn’t know better, I’d swear you’re a shill–’cause, ABA members, check THIS out:

    In case you’re not yet an ABA member (JOIN!) or you’re an ABA member without a password (GET ONE!) for online content, here’s a tease:

      Birding Online – May/June 2013

      The Purple Swamphen (Porphyrio porphyrio) in Florida

      by Bill Pranty • Bayonet Point, Florida • [email protected]

      Bill Pranty’s feature article in the May/June 2013 Birding provides a thorough overview of the taxonomy, management, and natural history of Florida’s Purple Swamphen population. But do you find yourself wanting to delve even deeper into the story? Pranty has assembled for ABA members a compilation, appearing below, of the surprisingly extensive literature that informed much of his Birding article. The literature below is presented in chronological sequence, so as to give a feel for our evolving knowledge of the still-unfolding story of Florida’s swamphens.

    Paul, this the sort of thing you’re looking for, right? Pranty’s article in the print version of the May/June 2013 Birding gives us all the basic facts, overview, and perspective–and then you go online to get 11 additional scientific articles, plus capsule descriptions of each.

  • Eleanor Wootten

    Am a member since the 80’s if memory serves me correctly (it seldom does, but have belonged for a long time). Have watched the whole make up of ABA magazine change over the years. It is by far the best now – thank you Jeff and Ted. The most recent issue of Birding had an article I particularly enjoyed, an interview with Rick Wright. I was struck with how the make up of birders has changed as he mentioned only to have to question my thoughts yesterday when I had the privilege of seeing the Rufous-necked Wood Rail at Bosque del Apache, NM and found the ease with which everyone visited on the board walk was heartening. Had been there the day before and saw similar visiting as people waited for the rail to come out. There were people there from all over the country. Made for a delightful time. Of course, the bird being so cooperative helped. At any rate, I like the interview with Rick Wright and feel I understand him more now even tho I have never met this birding guru. Thank you for the article.

  • Frank Murphy

    Long time original loyal member, back to when Birding magazine was small size and we never heard of email. I would like to see one international destination in each issue. I also enjoy broader USA regional articles like where to go birding in the great Northwest; southeast AZ, Texas; Canadian Maritimes, Nebraska, etc. I also like the current articles like book reviews, identification, conservation, but most of all I like to articles related to traveling somewhere for birds. Also, we need articles to keep us up with technology – best apps, best bins, best cameras, scopes, best phones… I like all of the current staff and think they are doing a great job in these difficult times for magazine publications. Thank you.

  • Amy Hooper

    Very late to the party but perhaps I still can add value to the buffet as a current member.
    I like
    * the poly-bagging – good protection that conveys quality.
    * bright photos on the cover
    * the simple TOC that clearly shows 64 packed pages plus multiple online options
    * putting faces to names on the Contributors page and the Interview department, which bolster the *community* aspect of this often-solitary pursuit
    * photos that bleed off the pages and offer visual alternatives to boxy images
    * the inclusion of graphics and sidebars to add more info
    * the Literature Cited portion of feature articles
    * the 6- to 8-page length of features — a meaty option when many editors have to trim to 4 and 6 pages so they can offer more features
    * white space within the layouts so that colorful bird photos stand out even more
    I would like to see those aspects retained during any retooling as well as another feature and more eye candy aka fewer but bigger, brighter photos in each issue. Gracias for the chance to participate!

  • Paul Hurtado

    Ha! Excellent! Yes, that sort of thing, and/or simply linking the citations to existing online content that is otherwise freely available on the web (or even behind a paywall). Clickable links in the PDF (e.g. using article DOIs would rock. 🙂

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