This is a bit off topic, but a reader (and self-proclaimed newbie) named Ranjan left a comment early this morning asking what’s a Blog Carnival, and how do you participate? Both are good questions, so I thought I’d answer them here (along with three more questions that Ranjan didn’t think to ask). Let’s take them one at a time.
(1) What’s a Blog Carnival? In short, a Blog Carnival (or Blog Festival, such as this one) is a collection of links pointing to articles on a certain topic. There are Carnivals covering just about any topic under the sun. These Carnivals are typically published on a regular basis (often weekly, although this can vary). The vast majority of Carnivals “float” in the sense that the hosting duting rotate around from one site to another, although some Carnivals. That being said, some Carnivals are hosted at the same site week after week.
The best Carnivals are more than just a link-fest; rather, the really good ones get creative. The creator comments on the articles that have been submitted. They make it funny. Or they weave the entries together into a story. Or they they really think outside the box and create something totally different.
(2) How can I participate in a Blog Carnival? Simple. Just find a suitable Carnival and submit your stuff. Perhaps the easiest way to do this is to visit the aptly named Blog Carnival, which is a repository of pretty much all Blog Carnivals, and also allows for direct submission via their website. Of course, you can also track down the Carnival homepages, figure out who the host is, and then submit directly. But a one-stop submission site is far easier. (Note that The Conservative Cat also used to host a handy submission form, but ended up taking it down due to spam-related issues.)
(3) Why would I want to participate in a Blog Carnival? This one wasn’t actually asked, but I’m going to answer it anyway. For newer sites, the biggest reason to participate is exposure. It’s frustrating to pour your heart out on the pages of you blog if nobody notices. No matter how good your stuff is, you won’t attract a readership until people know that you’re out there. One possibility is to network with other bloggers. Exchange links, leave (on topic) comments on their posts, link and use trackbacks, etc., etc.
Blog Carnivals add another dimension to this strategy. They let you reach out to the readers of other (often popular and highly trafficked) sites. They allow you to showcase your work. Another reason to participate is search engine optimization (SEO). After all, each and every Carnival that you participate in provides you with a direct link to one of your articles, usually from a topically-related site.
Of course, you don’t just have to participate… You can host. In this case, you can get a lot of exposure due to the fact that Carnivals often attract a reasonably large number of visitors. Sure, they’re there to see what others have submitted, but now they know you’re out there. And don’t be shy. Go ahead and say a few words up front about what your site is all about, how to subscribe, etc. Just to overly-pimp yourself, because the submissions are really the star of the show.
(4) How can I be a good Carnival participant? First off, only submit articles that you’re proud of and that you put some effort into. Ask yourself whether or not this is something that you really think that others might be interested in, either because the topic is so timely/interesting/whatever, or maybe because the writing is just so good.
Second, try to submit well in advance of the deadline. Having hosted Carnivals myself, I can honestly say that last minute entries are a pain in the butt. No, it’s not a problem if a few roll in under the wire, but it’s not much fun if the vast majority show up at the last minute.
Third, be sure to send a short description of what you think your post is about. This can be incredibly helpful to the host, who may be dealing with as many as 50-60 entries.
Finally, be a good citizen and link back to Carnival once it’s been published. People put a lot of time into hosting, and some Carnivals can push quite a few visitors in your direction, so why not return the favor as best as you can and write a quick post pointing to the Carnival?
(5) How can I be a good Carnival host? Step one: sign up. Most Carnivals require nothing more than prior participation in order to be considered as a host. So find the Carnival’s homepage, contact the owner, and get yourself on the list.
Second, start early. Carnivals can be a good bit of work, so piecing away at it as submissions come in can result in a substantially better product.
Third, do a good job putting the Carnival together. Here again, it’s important to be creative, or at least attentive. Comment on the posts that have been submitted. Don’t be afraid to editorialize a bit — tell people what you think, highlight the best posts, etc.
Fourth, don’t flake out. Post the Carnival when it’s supposed to go up, and by all means don’t drop the ball entirely — doing so shifts the burden of hosting to someone else (most likely the Carnival creator/maintainer), and it does so at the very last minute.
Finally, advertise it by dropping each of the contributor’s a quick note giving them the full url of the Carnival, and asking them to share it with their readers.
So there you have it… My thoughts on the ins and outs of Blog Carnivals.
For those that are interested, here are links to some of the finance-related Carnivals out there:
The Carnival of Personal Finance
The Festival of Frugality
The Carnival of Debt Reduction
The Festival of Stocks
The Carnival of Investing
The Carnival of the Capitalists
The Carnival of Business