The whole internet’s got listomania.
Your Twitter feed, your news feed, and your Facebook wall have been saturated with listicles for as long as you can remember. But is there a reason why everybody’s writing lists?
Here are six reasons why all of us, readers and writers alike, are drawn to lists.
1. Listicles Stand Out
Your readers are busy people, and your blog is but one of the millions of blogs published every single day.
So how on Earth are you going to encourage people to read your blog when they could be reading literally thousands of others instead?
The correct answer is to write the sort of headline that’s impossible to ignore. But even the most carefully crafted of titles still runs the risk of being lost in the overwhelming flow of information.
So you have to make your title stand out. But how?
DO YOU WRITE YOUR TITLE ENTIRELY IN CAPITALS?
Of course you don’t. Nobody’s going to read that.
But lists contain numbers, and numbers amid text stand out.
Which means that, when people are skimming their social media feeds for something to read, any article that features a number in the title is going to stand out.
But if everyone’s writing lists, won’t numbers cease to stand out?
Perhaps. But that’s why…
2. Certain Listicles Stand Out Even More
In this blog post, I’m only actually going to make five points. The entry you’re reading now is essentially a continuation of the last point. However, I included it as an entry in itself because I wanted to push the number of entries into my list from five to six.
You see, though everyone’s writing lists, most people are compiling their lists in multiples of 5 or 10. And frankly, people are bored of reading about the top 10 of anything.
That’s why we see so many lists with seemingly arbitrary numbers attached.
Buzzfeed writers are the undisputed masters of the listicle. At the time of writing, the following posts are listed on their homepage:
- 36 Things That Would Be Very Different if “Muriel’s Wedding” was Set in 2015
- 12 Things All Brides With Anxiety Need to Hear
- 32 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About “First Dates”
- 16 Birds You Won’t Believe Actually Exist
- 24 Astonishing Pictures of People Recreating “Mad Max: Fury Road” in the Desert
36? 12? 32? 16? 24? Why did they choose these numbers?
No particular reason, other than they’re not multiples of 5 or 10.
If blogs with numbers in their titles stand out, blogs with less rounded figures tend to stand out even more.
3. Listicles Are Great for Busy People
Look at this headline, again from Buzzfeed:
By the title alone, we can tell three things about this post:
- That it’s about the TV show, Breaking Bad
- That it’s espousing the view that Breaking Bad was really quite good
- That the post is going to make 36 points
So immediately a busy reader will know:
- What the post is about
- Whether the post is relevant to their interests
- Roughly, how long the post will take to read (36 points! That might take a while, I best save it for later)
There’s no ambiguity; listicles let readers know exactly what to expect from articles while giving a rough idea of how much time will be required for reading.
So, at a glance readers know exactly whether or not a post is worth reading and, if so, whether it can be breezed through now, or whether it would be better saved for later.
4. Listicles Are Authoritative
We’re easily swayed by numbers.
Just like figures and statistics lend weight to your arguments, adding numbers to your titles can add authority to your post.
Which of these seems more authoritative:
- Why listicles are so powerful
- 18 reasons why listicles are so powerful
Or to put it another way, if you were presented with each of those titles side by side, which one would get your click?
5. Listicles Are as Easy to Write as They Are to Read
If I want to blog about a complex topic, it’s much easier to organise my thoughts into a list than it is to craft a cohesive essay with a clearly defined beginning, middle, and end. And the resulting post, whether you call it a listicle or not, has the added benefit of being easier for my busy readers to process.
Does this mean that bloggers who write listicles cannot be bothered to properly structure their posts? Are people simply too lazy these days?
I don’t think so. It’s more likely the case that bloggers are just as busy as their readers. Whereas readers don’t have time to read absolutely everything that’s vying for their attention, bloggers, too, are usually faced with tight schedules and pressing deadlines.
As we’re all so pushed for time, listicles might be said to be good for everyone.
Which leads me to my final point…
6. Listicles Take Away the Hassle of Writing Good Headlines
As you may by now have gathered, listicles invariably have good headlines, in that the very nature of how they’re written tends to encourage readers to click through.
As we’ve previously said, the most important factor of any blog post is its title. And when you write your blog post in the form of a list, the title more or less writes itself.
But of course, this is not to say that your every blog post should be a listicle. Some topics simply don’t lend themselves to the format. Some things deserve to be covered in a greater depth. And apart from anything else, if everyone wrote listicles about everything, the format would grow stale and lose its effectiveness almost immediately.
But listicles are still read and they’re still shared, so they’re still effective. Yet if we return once more to content kings Buzzfeed, we’ll see that they tend to vary their approach. For every listicle that appears on their homepage, you’ll see things like:
- These Pit Bull Brothers Are The Cutest Things You’ll See All Day
- How Well Do You Really Know Pixar Characters?
- How An Anxious Space Geek Became Hollywood’s Most Unlikely Star
- We Have To Talk About Selena Gomez Right Now
The content within is neither here nor there; in their own way, these are all good headlines. Whether through engaging the reader’s attention with questions, or through piquing their curiosity with hyperbole, they all serve to encourage the reader to click and read.
Listicles aren’t going anywhere any time soon. But if you really want your blog posts to be read and shared, presenting your information in a list format should be but one strategy from your larger bag of tricks.