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How to Create and Host a Blog Carnival

This guest post is by Greg McFarlane of Control Your Cash.

Everyone has them, except possibly R.L. Stine. I’m referring to those days when you’re lacking either the inspiration or the energy to write something fresh and/or inventive.

If you can somehow get those days to occur on a regular schedule, say weekly, there’s a solution. Outsourcing.

I’m not talking about running guest posts, nor contributions from freelance or staff writers. I mean leveraging the work of dozens of other bloggers in your genre, for your mutual benefit.

Host a blog carnival: a roundup of timely posts from other bloggers, concentrating on a particular area of interest. Your colleagues write the posts, then you assemble, fold, collate, and link to them for presentation to your regular audience.

My blog, Control Your Cash, hosts the weekly Carnival of Wealth. As you can probably deduce, the carnival is germane to my blog’s focus on personal finance. The Carnival of Wealth goes live at around 2pm GMT every Monday and features bloggers from, at last count, four continents.

Every week I receive dozens of submissions, which means that my biggest challenge is getting each week’s edition of the carnival down to a workable size. The carnival posts frequently receive the most comments and trackbacks of any posts on my site. In other words, hosting a carnival means something for everyone. In descending order of importance, that’s:

  • interesting content for my readers and my contributors’ readers
  • an increase in legitimate visitors for my site
  • an increase in legitimate visitors for the contributors’ sites
  • a respite from research for me
  • inbound and outgoing links aplenty for everyone.

Where it all began

I’d love to take credit for creating my carnival from scratch, but the truth is that I picked it up secondhand. It’s the brainchild of Shailesh Kumar at Value Stock Guide, who started the carnival a year and a half after he began blogging about personal finance. During that period, while he got to know similar bloggers, his own blog found its voice—a fusion of personal finance and lifestyle, vaguely similar to what I do at Control Your Cash.

As a submitter to other carnivals, Shailesh had trouble finding ones whose area of interest overlapped his own. His posts were too personal finance for the lifestyle carnivals, too lifestyle for the personal finance carnivals. So he created his own, an amalgam of the two. As Shailesh puts it, “There was no one carnival that addressed this super-genre.”

Leveraging the goodwill and/or notoriety that come with commenting on other sites, the Carnival of Wealth’s founder received 20-odd submissions for each of the first few editions. Most of those were via invitation, rather than from bloggers who read the announcement of the carnival and then decided to submit.

As a carnival builds, a combination of momentum and prodding helps it grow. It requires haranguing your submitters to tweet about the carnival, and to share it on social networks, which they’ll probably be happy to do anyway. Simple courtesy dictates that anyone who submits to a carnival should offer a reciprocal link, but even the promise of a unilateral link is enough to attract other bloggers and help a carnival grow.

(If you’re wondering, I had originally offered to host the Carnival of Wealth once a month. And did so. Then, after a few months, I got the opportunity to take it over permanently and jumped at the chance.)

How it works

The mechanics of hosting a carnival are straightforward. To keep the submitters happy, I’ve made it easy for them to submit their posts. My carnival has a dedicated page at BlogCarnival.com, with rules for submitting and a firm deadline. Each submitter includes a summary of her post, and if it fits (many of them don’t come close), I run it.

BlogCarnival.com sends me the submissions as they’re received, which I then hold onto and leave unopened until I’m ready to begin assembling. One thing I’ve learned is that it’s inefficient to deal with each submission as it arrives, and then add it to the carnival if it passes muster. Better to let the submissions collect until the deadline, then address them en masse in one concentrated writing session.

Hosting other people’s work in a carnival doesn’t have to mean surrendering the tone that distinguishes your blog. Far from it. I make it a point to showcase every edition of the Carnival of Wealth in the same style that my site is infamous for.

The best part of hosting a carnival is that it guarantees me a slew of readers who wouldn’t normally visit my site. Fans of the submitters who make the cut will leave comments on Control Your Cash, and hopefully bookmark it.

The Carnival of Wealth is anomalous in that the same blog hosts it every week. Most carnivals rotate among a series of bloggers, each of whom gets penciled into the schedule months in advance, whereas I seldom incorporate guest hosts. (In fact, I only do so when the Carnival of Wealth conflicts with my spot in the rotation for someone else’s carnival.)

I’d rather have people visit my site. And I’d rather have my readers know they can find the Carnival of Wealth as a regularly scheduled feature on Control Your Cash, as opposed to anywhere else. Plus the carnival roundups are just plain fun to write, and doing so gives me the opportunity to read some brilliant posts that I’d never have discovered otherwise.

Hosting a carnival can be a lot of work in the initial stages. But it’s work with a huge capacity for leverage. When you host a carnival, it fosters relationships with like-minded bloggers and readers. Done correctly, it can’t help but make your blog grow.

Greg McFarlane is an advertising copywriter who lives in Las Vegas. He recently wrote Control Your Cash: Making Money Make Sense, a financial primer for people in their 20s and 30s who know nothing about money. You can buy the book here (physical) or here (Kindle) and reach Greg at [email protected].

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Comments

  1. Wow. I thought blog carnivals had died! I remember taking part in them a few years ago and they were a great way to connect with other bloggers and provide blog content.

  2. This is a very interesting concept…I shall definitely check this out. Thanks for the prompt, Greg! Much appreciated!

  3. Michael says:

    I’ll have to think about that after my blog transition. It looks like something that will definitely provide a lot of benefits for it’s growth for the future!

  4. The title of this post immediately caught my attention and I was not disappointed. I have always been fascinated by blog carnivals and how they work. I’m glad the Carnival of Wealth is working well for you Greg, and it is an inspiration to think out of the box. Thanks for this post.

  5. Dwayne@TWC says:

    A blog carnival sounds like guest posting on steroids. I have never heard of a blog carnival until now but it definitely sounds like something I would love to be a part of. Thanks for the new info, Greg.

  6. Great idea. I have seen them on other sites, will have to work on getting something going on my own.

  7. This seems interesting, I can imagine it would be a great way of showcasing someone new to your readers which ties in with yesterday’s post here!

    What I would be interested to know is roughly how many submissions Greg receives, and how many hours he spends preparing each post.

  8. It’s surprising that blog carnivals are still going on. I remember they used to be huge back in the early days of blogging but seem to have petered out. I suspect that a lot of people where spamming links to the Carnivals and as such many of them just stopped. In addition it never seemed like the folks at BlogCarnival.com have done a whole lot keep their site current and running well, it really could use a make-over. Regardless, this post was enough to make me think about starting up a carnival in my own niche since many in the same topic haven’t been active in five years.

  9. I like the term “Blog Carnival”. I have used this method a couple of times when my brain is fried. It is a nice way to push out another post and give some props to fellow bloggers.

  10. Anshul says:

    This is great although it wouldn’t be too hard to have carnival of “make money online” type of niche which is what I am into it. Thanks Greg:)

  11. Dzulhelmee says:

    Hi Greg
    I believe that the blog carnival idea is an excellent one. But I also believe that it also need some spicing up. Maybe you could hold a contest within the carnival period on who get the most comment etc and the winner will get some sort of a cash reward. Its only an idea, It is all up to you. Anyway great post !

  12. Stina says:

    Are there any blog carnivals for personal blogs? As far as I could see on the Blog Carnival website they all seemed very “niche” orientated.

  13. Sounds too much like hard work.

  14. trailsnet says:

    Great idea!! I feel a “Carnival of Trails” coming on.

  15. Annie Andre says:

    Wow, this sound like a fantastic idea. Thanks for demystifying this topic for me it’s been on my list of things to look into but i haven’t because i wasn’t really sure if it was worth it.

  16. I ran a blog carnival a few months ago and – yes, it is a lot of work. The biggest issue for me was wading through all the junk entries I received – and I’m not talking about just poor writing, I’m talking about spam. In the end I came up with about 8 good posts, 2 of those from the same blogger. That said, I’d probably be willing to give it another try sometime simply because I liked featuring the various viewpoints on the subject I chose as well as being able to support fellow bloggers.

  17. Dean Saliba says:

    I’ve seen people like Kristi Hines do this on her blog, I’ve never really thought about doing it myself but I guess it will get people checking out my site for these new links they might have missed.

  18. Joan says:

    Thanks for the info. I was just reading about blog carnival blogs last night! How odd – anyway, I think I am going to try doing these.

  19. I remember looking into Blog Carnivals years ago and even then most people said they were dying, but it might be worth looking into once again.

  20. Stefanie says:

    I LOVE blog carnival and have used it on many occasions. I wish that people would either be on the ball like you and publish their carnival frequently or that Blog Carnival would clean out the outdated stuff and keep it organized with legitimate blog carnivals!

  21. I started a blog carnival but with a slight twist: those who participate do so regularly. We’ve formed our own little blogging tribe and have a Facebook group that allows us to communicate easily with each other as well as our readers. Originally, the carnival was hosted on my website, but because I didn’t want it to be all about me, I set up a new site (http://wordcarnivals.com) where each blogger could add a profile of themselves as well as a permanent link back to their site. We blog together monthly, choosing a new topic from suggestions made by other group members. Each month, we compile our posts into an eBook which we then have available to give away freely or use as an enticement for subscribers on our own blogs. Our readers are all small biz owners and of course we like new blood so if there are others out there looking for a solid group to join, come look us up!