We’re Reinventing Audubon Online. Any Suggestions?

We’re Reinventing Audubon Online. Any Suggestions?

Tell us what you want in our new website.

By Mark Jannot
Published: March-April 2014

Last issue in this space, after waxing philosophiquizzical about whether or not a digitally manipulated photo of a great horned owl had been justly disqualified from our annual photo awards competition--and musing on what the rules are and ought to be when it comes to altering photos--I tossed you an invitation: Shoot me an email; tell me what you think; let's start a dialogue.

Whoa. You people like dialogue.

Within a few days of the magazine arriving in members' homes, I had received several dozen emails, and they're still coming in steadily. Now, I don't know whether or not that volume will sound impressive to you, but I can say that in a decade of writing Editor's Letters (not, to be sure, at Audubon) I have never experienced such a response. And as striking as the quantity is, it's the quality of the correspondence that blows me away. As you can read for yourself in the small sampling of letters published on page 8 of this issue, Audubon readers are notably thoughtful, engaged, and passionate (if occasionally cranky, a quality I tend to prize when it's deployed well in the service of persuasion). The care and consideration and smarts that went into the letters I've received has been genuinely inspiring. (For the record, while it would be wrong to say that any consensus emerges from the mailbag--that's why the input is so edifying--I have noted a strong current of support for our fairly strict no-manipulation policy, though perhaps supplemented by the creation of a new "manipulation encouraged" category. We'll be giving that serious consideration.)

Pleased and enlightened as I've been by your input on this particular topic, I naturally began to consider how we might make a habit of this dialogue thing, get each other going on other topics of mutual interest, especially those on which reasonable people might find grounds for passion and debate. Let's just try it, shall we? Here, as a conversation starter, is something I'd dearly love to know your thoughts on.

We have embarked on an ambitious strip-to-the- studs reinvention of what Audubon is (and can be) on the Web. I'm guessing you haven't spent much time on either the magazine's or the organization's website lately; few do, and why would they? Much of mag.audubon.org is a repackaging of stuff that's published more beautifully in this print edition, and Audubon.org is a typically sleepy nonprofit site, home to repurposed press releases and dusty policy statements, not exactly viral click bait. Our plan is to rid the world of the two mystifyingly separate sites, creating a single Audubon.org that serves both the reader's and the organization's interests: abundant and awesome photos and videos and stories and instruction to inform and delight anyone interested in birds; reports and analysis on habitat threats and conservation opportunities to outrage and inspire and move them to action; new ways to interact with Audubon and one another.

We'll unveil the new Audubon.org this summer. Normally, an editor would wait until that moment to trumpet the launch in his letter to readers. But where's the dialogue in that? I'd rather give you the chance to barrage me with thoughts, ideas, questions, concerns. What would make Audubon.org worth your time and attention? How can it serve you? What kinds of connections would you want to see (or not see) between Audubon the organization and Audubon, its journalistic offshoot? Bring it: markjannot@audubon.org.

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Mark Jannot

Mark Jannot is Audubon's Vice President for Content.

Type: Author | From: Audubon Magazine