Well-managed blog carnivals definitely take on a life of their own. The publication of a carnival’s latest edition becomes an event that regular readers look forward to. This anticipation is intentional, as scarcity is built into the design of the carnival. The most frequent posting schedule I’ve seen for a carnival is weekly, but biweekly is by far the norm; some even run monthly. But even though a carnival may run on a regular schedule, every other Wednesday, for example, like clockwork, one cannot just expect readers to seek the newest edition out. The host with the most must announce its arrival with all the pomp and circumstance it deserves.
Face facts. Noble conceits of community, responsibility, and expression aside, the primary reason anyone wants to host a carnival is obvious. It’s all about the ATTENTION! You can admit it…we’re all narcissists here. You publish your thoughts, observations, and experiences online because you think that people actually care about them, or at least would once they got a taste of your personal brand of blog brilliance. Your desire to reach a broader audience is natural. You wouldn’t be a micropublisher if you weren’t interested in being read. Traffic and links are the currency of carny life.
When you really look at it, the wandering carnival is a wondrous construct designed to attract readers from a broad array of sites and focus their attention with laser intensity on a single lucky one. Picture the carnival as a lens. The broad disc of the lens concentrates traffic from every site that announces the carnival to the site of its appointed host. Like a magnifying glass harnessing solar energy to burn defenseless ants, such a distilled dose of interest has the power to crash an unprepared website or at least put a major dent in its bandwidth. And I’ll tell you this: if you’re not shooting for such a destabilizing deluge of readers, you are underachieving.
Yes, it’s true that, on one level, the wandering carnival’s purpose is to bestow one colossal aggregate audience on its host du jour. And yes, you want to be that fortunate soul, the recipient of a veritable stampede of new visitors. With hope, one day you will be. But you’ll do a much better job if you realize that the obligation for exposure is reciprocal. The image of a lens focusing light to a point is a cone. Take that first cone, the one where everyone else is funneling traffic to you, and now attach another cone point to point. If you’ve followed my imagery correctly (I’ll have to work on some diagrams) you’ve envisioned the successful carnival as an hour glass. It is broad at its top, represented by the participants and promoters, narrowest at the center where the host resides, and broad once again at the bottom, where the host sends traffic to each participant.
Thus, the responsibility of the host is simple. You’ve already been spreading the word about the coming carnival festivities during the RECRUIT stage of this process. Most of the blog regulars as well as your own readers know that the big day is coming. But when that day arrives, after you’ve slaved for hours over a startlingly fresh and innovative presentation and just want to get some sleep, you’ve got to take that next step or your labors will be for naught. You’ve got to advertise!
A real-world carnival is a great example of how important marketing is to its blogging namesake. A carnival doesn’t just pull into town, pitch its tents, build out the midway, and start frying funnel cakes waiting for customers to wander in. The publicity, in the form of posters, ads, and maybe even commercials, arrives well in advance. A successful carnival generates an aura of excitement. It promises questionable thrill rides, delicious junk food, rigged games of chance, gewgaws, gimcracks, and what-nots. Also implicit in the experience is the vulgar thrill of associating with seedy, potentially dangerous gypsy types. What could be more fun? But the whole machine runs on customers. So does its internet counterpart.
Without effective promotion, a carnival is a sad and profitless place. Just like you, the blog carnival participants are in it for the exposure, the traffic, the glory. Do you want to be the ringmaster who lets his carnies down? That doesn’t sound very healthy to me.