Monday, December 12, 2016

Crafting Iris Publications for Members

By Patrick O'Connor

The Society for Louisiana Irises is the only AIS section that publishes a color journal on a quarterly basis.  IRISES, of course, is produced for AIS members four times a year, but twice is the rule for the other sections.  It is a challenge to maintain a quarterly schedule, and the financial challenge has become especially acute.  SLI is now working to produce three issues a year but with added content.

The financial capacity to maintain quality publications will continue to be an issue, and the outcome is uncertain.  Every effort is being made to craft content that will appeal to members and, hopefully, sustain memberships.  The key question, and one without a clear and obvious answer, is, “What do members want?”   Another might be, “Do they even know?” 

As you might suspect, you are about to be asked for your input.  Readers of this blog, however, probably are wizened old iris enthusiasts (or maybe not old but very likely wizened nonetheless) with well developed and definite interests.  Newbies may be more the issue, since many are often short timers with a much higher probability of failing to renew membership.  What can we put before them that will excite their interest in Louisiana irises and cement their participation for years to come?

Blog readers are bound to have insights into this question or at least opinions that we would be grateful to hear.  You can use the comment section below.

First, however, let me share an overview of the history of our quarterly journal, the Fleur de Lis and its predecessor the SLI Newsletter. 

A newsletter has been published since 1941, but it morphed into a magazine format with the development of computers and desktop publishing.  A review of the past 25 years shows that we have produced a substantial quarterly publication of reasonably consistent size.  There has been a slight decline in the number of pages in recent years, and a financial analysis indicates that at present SLI can afford to print about 24 pages three times a year.  In the past, 32 and 36 page issues were published from time to time, but at color printing prices that size issue would depend on improvement in finances or a significant reduction in costs.  (The latter is being worked on in the form of electronic distribution of the Fleur, but that cannot occur in the immediate future).  Efficient use of printed pages is essential, and increased coordination with the SLI website must occur.  Some features must be moved to the website to free up space in the Fleur for high priority material.


What kind of material has the Fleur de Lis contained lately?  Here are the highlights.  In the most recent four years, there were 138 items (articles or other material using significant space but excluding advertising).

      Convention Preview:  8 percent dealt with SLI convention attendance, including registration forms, schedules, summaries of tour gardens, and the like.
      Garden and Planting Reviews:  24 percent consisted of reviews of iris gardens or other types of gardens.  Many were reviews of convention tour gardens but some dealt with non-iris gardens and companion plants.
      Awards:  7 percent involved awards for show winners or individuals who were honored.
      Culture:   5 percent were devoted to Louisiana iris culture.
      Iris People:  5 percent dealt with individual iris activists; unfortunately almost all were obituaries.
      Species:  4 percent were articles about the Louisiana iris species.
      Organization:  14 percent involved SLI (or other iris organization) business or reports on activities, including meeting minutes and financial statements.
      Cultivars and Hybridizing:  5 percent involved varietal reviews of hybrid cultivars or the work of hybridizers.
      Scientific:  2 percent were reports on academic studies of the Louisiana iris species.
      Articles from Archives:  1 percent were “old”, reprinted articles from past issues.

The remaining editorial space was devoted to regular columns and miscellaneous other matters.

We would appreciate comments on how space as been allocated among these categories with a view toward providing members the kind of material that will excite their continued interest.  Equally, we would love ideas for good articles.  Perhaps something that appeared in the journal of another section that would be applicable to Louisiana irises also and that we could shamelessly steal and adapt. 

The comments section below is easy to use.  Please just share the perspectives of wizened iris enthusiasts about how an important iris publication could better serve our membership.

By the way, new members are always welcome, and they receive the beautiful Fleur de Lis. The details are on the SLI website at:  http://www.louisianas.org/index.php/membership

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