Be the Carnival Host with the Most!It is the indisputable obligation of the host to promote the heck out of his or her edition of a carnival. Promotion is part of the job; if you ask for the ringmaster’s hat, you better be prepared to say glowing things about the acts. But the host is not the only party invested in a successful carnival run. If we look at the blog carnival as the magical traffic-generating engine it is designed to be, then we have to acknowledge that the carnival participants share the responsibility to attract readers.

I’m not aware of any carnival that has an explicit requirement to this effect, nor would I make such a mandate for contributors to IATB. We’re all independents out here and I, for one, have no interest in either telling other bloggers what they need to post on their sites or having someone else tell me what to add to my own. But I think it’s long past the time someone addressed the social contract implicit in the carny culture: Anyone who submits a post to a specific edition of a roaming carnival should help promote that edition.

The etiquette here is based on fairness and reciprocity. Each individual participant contributes content with the expectation of being remunerated in traffic. A given host contributes time and effort, often a considerable amount, seeking the same pay-off. So where are all these readers supposed to come from? In theory, every participant entreats his or her site visitors to review the newest edition of the carnival in question. In practice, however, a handful of blogs usually do the heavy lifting to generate interest while others barely lift a finger.

A carnival is a communal activity, a collaborative effort that often does exceed the sum of its parts. I’ve personally benefited a great deal from my involvement with certain blog carnivals, not only in terms of sweeter stat traffic and a broader audience, but also in the sense that I’ve moved from being a lone micropublisher to becoming a participant in various communities and networks on the web. Whatever it is you wish to achieve with your blog, whoever it is you hope to reach, there’s a good chance you’ll meet or exceed those goals if you can hook up with a group of like-minded souls. The right carnival can do that for you, but, pardon the cliche, you’ll only get out of it what you put into it.

Promoting a carnival to which you’ve contributed is as easy as posting a brief announcement on your blog with a link and some kind words. If you care to embellish, you can take your announcement a step further by adding graphics; most carnivals offer at least one promotional badge while others present an array of eye-catching buttons and banners. That’s all there is to it. A modest effort on your part can have a profound effect on the success of the carnival as a whole. The more popular and respected the carnival becomes, the greater benefit you’ll accrue from your association. A rising tide lifts all boats, etc. etc. Even if you feel no particular obligation or kindness towards the other participants in the carnival, consider your own readers. Assuming you got involved with a carnival consistent with the themes of your blog, your readers would probably love to check out other sites speaking on the same topics.

Those of you who are regular participants in a particular carnival enjoy a greater share of the glory as well as the responsibility. Believe me, membership has its privileges. By contributing regularly to a specific carnival, you gain a chance to win new readers over time rather than needing to make that critical connection with a single post. Such active participation may also endow you with some of the prestige of the carnival itself, assuming it has any. The least you could do, in such an instance, is to add a permanent link, perhaps even signified by a badge, to the carnival’s homepage on your blog.

Everything I’ve written so far is simply my opinion regarding a blog carnival courtesy that is rarely addressed. Some of you may disagree that such a reciprocal responsibility exists. My experience, however, is that most carnivals depend almost entirely on their contributors for readers. This is not to say that the participants are the only ones reading these carnivals, though that surely happens. It’s more that very few independent resources for carnival promotion exist. So the marketing must be done in-house as it were.

Blog carnivals have, as I’ve said, been very good to me. Therefore, I feel the obligation to give back. I’ve promoted every single edition of a carnival that’s featured my work, along with a few that haven’t. This is my way of thanking the principals, not just the carnival founders or operators but also my colleagues, the other participants, for their ongoing contributions to our grand collaboration. Yes, respect, perhaps even admiration, is a factor here. It would also be churlish of me to spurn the social contract when my favorite carnival, I and the Bird, enjoys such phenomenal fellowship in the nature blogging community. But self-interest plays a role as well. You may just be a bit player now, a sporadic contributor working to achieve recognition in a crowded field of carnies. Yet, you aspire to one day be the host with the most. Your success as a carnival host will depend a great deal on the support you get from your contributors in terms of quantity, quality, and, as we’ve discussed, promotion. How much support, then, do really expect to get if you weren’t supportive yourself?

Do you feel that carnival contributors have an obligation to help promote the carnival?

Written by Mike
Mike is a leading authority in the field of standardized test preparation, but he's also a traveler who fully expects to see every bird in the world. Besides founding 10,000 Birds in 2003, Mike has also created a number of other entertaining but now extirpated nature blog resources, particularly the Nature Blog Network and I and the Bird.