New ways of communicating – and creating content – come and go with the click of the mouse. Despite their popularity (and proliferation) listicles are sometimes criticised for being lowbrow, badly written and uninformative. Some writers even refer to them as lazy and ‘too convenient’ – yet they’re insanely popular. So what’s the magic of the listicle and why has it become such a deeply ingrained part of the digital experience?
Not everyone regards sites like Buzzfeed, with their distinctive use of listicles and GIFs, as informative or valuable content. Purists detest the idea of having to craft content to fit this style. But the trend can’t be dismissed – content sites like Buzzfeed have become the new breed of content hubs.
The listicle isn’t a new concept. It goes all the way back to a Buddha, who organised his thoughts and beliefs about human existence into lists. Listicles have been used for centuries as a teaching method and a quick way of remembering information – just not online, until now.
Today, the bulk of the information we encounter online is divvied into Top 5s, 10 steps and 3 must-dos that always promise to be the keys to productivity or finding a soulmate. The whole Internet’s got listomania – Twitter, Facebook and news feeds are all dominated by listicles. Here’s why we’re obsessed with writing lists:
Listicles allow us to distill information in a digestible way for both writer and reader. The critics will say we can’t refine aspects of real life into five bullet points. As a writer, a listicle isn’t the holy grail of breakthrough content. But it’s a good place to start – it’s like a table of contents.
In this information age, where we’re bombarded with content at every turn, the popularity of listicles reflects the need to filter and process endless reams of information. Getting to the point and relevance is important – and the listicle is the perfect way to do this.
Pick and choose
With information being thrust at us by the page-full, our brains automatically try and master a sorting mechanism to make sense of it – and to determine if it’s deserving of our attention at all. This is why we gravitate to the listicle. The brain sees organisation and simplicity, and can quickly give the article a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ – click link or open tab. The listicle helps us judge what we want to read, more quickly.
In addition to being easier to read, listicles are also much easier to write. Want to write about a complex topic? It’s much easier to organise thoughts into a list than it is to craft an essay with a defined beginning, middle and end. Call it laziness, but it makes volumes of content much easier to churn out which is essential for content marketers. It’s also a way to get to the sales pitch quicker than ever before.
Fast facts, savvy stats
Readers likely read listicles for one main purpose – to answer a question in seconds. Listicles are a great way to organise and present hard facts, like statistics and numbers. It presents them in a more digestible form. Audiences are looking for content that eases their curiosity quickly and concisely. Serving them this kind of content makes it more likely they’ll return to a site when they’re looking for answers and solutions in the future.
Call me engaged
Listicles are also a superb way to provoke conversation amongst readers and encourage interaction. If you’re looking to boost engagement – start with a listicle. For some reason, they simply get people talking. They’re the social lubricant of the digital space.
The listicle lives on
The listicle is peaking in popularity – and it seems like it’s not going anywhere anytime soon. Listicles will never replace long form content – in fact, long form is on the rise in a big way – but they’re a huge part of the new information diet.
Embrace the power of the listicle, integrate it into communication with customers or target audiences. Just do us all a favour – make sure you share information that’s either revolutionary or laugh-out-loud hilarious. If not, I can think of 25 Reasons You Shouldn’t Publish a Bad Listicle.