Sunday, April 9, 2006

The Future of Carnivals: Too Many Carnies, Not Enough Attractions?

Author: Nick
Category: Money
Topics: ,

I should be finishing (read “starting”) this essay for my application to the leadership development program at work, but I’d much rather refresh my feed reader every 10 seconds.

The latest item to pop up in my reader: this week’s edition of the Carnival of Personal Finance hosted by My Money Blog. Jonathan poses some interesting questions in his introduction to the fine selection of posts from the personal finance blogosphere:

How is one supposed to choose? I don’t know, but do our readers really want to sift through that many posts? Do hosts really want to spent all their time writing HTML? What about when we reach 100 posts? or 200? Or maybe I’m wrong, and everyone really does just want a huge link dump to choose from.

It is a difficult situation facing Jonathan and the other hosts of blogging carnivals, especially one as popular as the Carnival of Personal Finance. How does one say yes to including some posts in a carnival while saying no to others? How does one draw the line between “good” posts and not-so-good ones?

I’m scheduled to host a carnival in a couple of weeks, and I’m on the list of future hosts for the Carnival of Personal Finance, so these are questions I’ll need to find answers to soon. For now, here’s the little bit of advice I can offer to future hosts on what I would like to see in carnivals.

  • Interesting format. Who is going to read a carnival that is presented in a plain, boring format? Not me, and likely not many people will read the entire carnival. An appealing layout that presents the selected entries in an eye-catching format is vital to a successful carnival. While you can host a carnival on any piece of empty land, the ones that people remember are the ones that make the best use of that piece of land.
  • Personal touch. Many carnival submission forms send e-mails to their hosts with ready-made HTML that can be dropped right into the article. It always saddens me to see a host who does just that and nothing more. While becoming a host to a carnival can be relatively simple, it should still be treated as an honor. It’s also going to be the first post a lot of people see in your blog, and you’re going to want to show why your blog is worth a return visit. So show the world why your blog is so awesome and give your carnival a personal touch that makes it stand out from the ordinary.
  • Carnivals are a big time investment. Don’t think you’re going to put together a good carnival in an hour or even a few hours. Work on your format well in advance so that you don’t have to spend a lot of time designing HTML when the entries start rolling in. Block off a good 6-10 hours (or more for bigger carnivals) where you’ll be able to work on reading (yes, you have to read all of the submissions in full or you’re cheating yourself, your readers, and your submitters), selecting, preparing, and editorializing.
  • Don’t be afraid to play favorites. If you like a particular post a whole lot, do something special to highlight it. You’ll make the blogger feel extra special, and you’ll help your readers find a new blog they might really enjoy.
  • Reward original and entertaining posts. It may benefit you the most to include links to big-time blogs, but you wouldn’t want carnival hosts to ignore you if you were a smaller blog. While I’m a fan of “the more, the merrier” in carnivals, if you feel you must limit your selection, be sure that it really includes the best, most enjoyable posts from a variety of bloggers.
  • Please, above all, have fun! Carnival hosts are too darn serious. There’s a reason they’re called “carnivals”–they should be entertaining to read and to put together. If you don’t think that reading other bloggers’ work and presenting it to your audience will be fun, you shouldn’t volunteer to host a carnival. Sure it’s hard work putting together a carnival, but it should also be a rewarding experience all around.

If you’re working on a carnival and you’re stuck for ideas on making it a memorable one, feel free to get in touch with me or your carnival’s creator for some ideas.

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