Thought on Hosting the Carnivals

I have had a lot of questions about my experience hosting both the Carnival of the Vanities (COTV) and the Carnival of the Capitalists (COTC) in February.  For aspiring hosts, here is an FAQ:

What are these Carnival things?

In 2002 Silfray Hraka was looking for a way for smaller blogs to get more attention - kindof like rural electrification for the Blogosphere.  He came up with the idea of the Carnival of the Vanities, a weekly roundup of posts from smaller bloggers, hosted each week at a different site.  Today, the COTV is in its 128th week and dozens of other spin-offs have been created.

How much of a traffic spike did you see?

This seems to be the number one question.  As a submitter each week to both the COTC and COTV, I usually see between 100-300 new visitors for the post I submitted, depending on how compelling the post's description looks.

For hosting the Carnival, of course, the traffic spike is more dramatic:

My normal mon-tue-wed traffic (unique visits): 300

Day of COTC: 1680

Day after: 500

2 days after: 325

Note that I actually got a bit more traffic from the Carnival of the Vanities:

Day of COTV: 2400

Day after: 600

2 day after: 325

The key of course is Glenn Reynolds linking.  Glenn can't read every small blogger that would like him to link to them, but he does a good job of publicizing various Carnivals that highlight smaller bloggers.   Glenn deserves all of our thanks for this.  By the way, I am pretty sure I got more non-Instapundit traffic for the COTC than the COTV.

I think that I leave my Sitemeter stats un-password protected and that you can view them here (link is to the monthly page but you can navigate around).  Here are the hourly stats for the COTV.  Below you can see my daily visits and page views for February.  I will leave it as an exercises for the reader to figure out when I hosted the Carnivals (COTV was first):

Febt

I do not really know how to track RSS feed traffic, but I think that the above numbers do not include RSS traffic. I do know that in the month I hosted these two carnivals my Bloglines subscribers have gone from 2 to 25.

The only other traffic related observation I can add is that my page views went up even higher on these days.  I generally run at 1.6 page views per visit but on these two days I went well over 2.  Hopefully that means that new visitors were looking around.

Is it hard to host a Carnival?

No, not really, it just takes some time.  I probably spent about 6 hours each to host the carnivals.  The COTC is very easy - submissions end up in a Gmail account in relatively standard format.  About 6 days before the publish date, the COTC folks will send the host an email telling them how to get into the Gmail account.  The COTV doesn't have this submission system, and relies more on the host providing an email contact in advance that people can send submissions to.  Make sure at least a week in advance of COTV that you post on your web site, preferably sticky at the top or with a link high in the margin, instructions for bloggers who want to submit to the Carnival you are hosting.  (Here is my post - I fiddled with the date in Typepad so that it would stay on top of the page for the whole week).

When hosting, do you need a theme?  How about Categories?

Both are optional.  I did a theme for my COTC just for fun, but did not have time, or any good ideas, for my COTV.  I highly recommend categorizing the entries because it makes the reading experience so much easier.  It is not hard to do as long as you put them in categories as you are building the post.

When Hosting, how do you keep up with all of the submissions?

I had 50 submissions for the COTC and 47 for the COTV.  I took everything, by the way, even if the post was a little out of bounds of the rules.  It is not too hard to keep up with the submissions as long as you:

  1. Create a draft template a week in advance and
  2. Add submissions every day rather than waiting to the last minute. The COTC submissions were easier to handle than COTV - COTC submissions came spread out through the week whereas COTV all came in the last 2 days.

A lot of my time was spent reading all the posts.  Not only was this fun, but I preferred to create my own summary of the post rather than just using the submitter's summary (which was often waaaaaay too long).  I tried to be fair as possible to everyone, particularly those I disagreed with.  I will say there were a couple of submissions I just did not understand or get what they were saying in their post -- in these cases, I used their description.  By the way - after you publish your post, check the links!  No matter how careful you were, you will have made some mistakes.

When Hosting, what did you do to publicize the Carnival?

First, I was careful to collect as many trackbacks as I could.  Some submitters included these in their email, but some did not.  Since I read every post, I always skimmed down to the bottom to see if there was a trackback.

Second, I sent every submitter a reply email saying that their post was included and giving them the link and trackback where they would find it on my site.  This did not take as long as you would imagine, since I copied the first one I wrote and just hit reply-paste-send on all the others.  This also let submitters check their links to make sure everything worked.  By the way, you may have a different policy, but I claimed editorial privilege and did not accept an requests to change my summary of their post.

All the submitters will generally send you traffic, as well as a number of regular readers.  As mentioned before, Glenn will generally link as well, and you can send him a brief reminder with the link, though both times I hosted he had the post linked before I thought to email him.

How do I sign up?

Instructions for hosting the COTV are here.  To submit to the COTV, go to Silfray Hraka's main page, scroll down for the list of hosts, and visit the host site for instructions.  Instructions for hosting the COTC are here.  You can submit to the COTC by filling in this form.  A list of other Carnival spin-offs is here.

Good luck

  • Confessions of a Carnival Host

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  • "... kindof like rural electrification for the Blogosphere"

    Cool characterization. Nice post.

  • "I do not really know how to track RSS feed traffic, but I think that the above numbers do not include RSS traffic. I do know that in the month I hosted these two carnivals my Bloglines subscribers have gone from 2 to 25."

    So would you say that sustained traffic after the hosting does not increase measurably from the pre-hosting volume? The graph sort of looks that way.

    That said, the increase in Bloglines suscribers presumably indicates that you have established some longer-term relationships with readers.

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  • I have written about the carnivals several times. I have hosted four different carnivals and have a similar experience and, pretty much, agree with your recommendations, though the details may differ between various carnivals. I have recently summarized all the known carnivals here:

    http://sciencepolitics.blogspot.com/2005/02/meta-carnival-1.html

    ...and pointed out some even newer ones in subsequent posts as they came out.

  • ...and I have written about hosting carnivals here:

    http://sciencepolitics.blogspot.com/2005/03/hosting-blog-carnivals.html

  • Good comparison. I've hosted COTC, COTV, BOTV, and coming up the New Blog Showcase Carnival and the Jewish Carnival. It's a lot of hard work, but totally worth it. And quite fun.

    Don't count on Instapundit linking you, though. The last time I hosted COTV, I sent him THREE e-mails letting him know it was up -- all politely worded -- and the link never appeared.

    The next two weeks' Carnivals appeared almost instantaneously.

    This is not bashing. Just an observation.

  • Bob

    What one needs to become a "Host"?

  • This blog posting is great. Your views are very true. Everyone should start thinking as you are doing.

    Andrea Jasperson
    http://www.hosts4u2.com