As a writer, I began to despise listicles, the popular internet article organized through numbered lists.
Websites like Buzzfeed published clickbait lists about worthless trivia facts that garnered page views and social media shares.
Meanwhile, many substantial articles about serious subjects languished with little to no attention.
But I’ve developed a newfound respect for the format and have even written a few of my own.
Here are five reasons why I put away my snobbery toward listicles and learned to embrace (or at least tolerate) them.
1. Listicles work.
Let’s just start with the practical reality—listicles work. They generate page views on your website and social media discussion.
We recently made changes at the Facts & Trends website to include more articles, some of which were list types.
During one recent meeting discussing our increase in web traffic, one team member pointed out the 10 most popular articles that day were all listicles.
The addition of listicles to our assortment of posts played a role in our growth.
2. Listicles aren’t new.
While they may have exploded in popularity over the last decade or so, Buzzfeed did not create the listicle.
The word may have originated relatively recently, but humans have been organizing content into lists for a long time.
David Letterman conquered late night television with the top ten list. We could even say God used the format when delivering the law to Moses.
3. Listicles are about organization.
There’s a reason we create to-do lists. They help us remember and give structure to different pieces of information.
That’s the basic reason for listicle. They provide easy organization for both the writer and the reader.
Much of the time spent in crafting an article is about how to craft the information in a compelling, connected way. Listicles give a shortcut.
With a listicle, a website can quickly gather and present what the reader needs.
4. Listicles make it easier for the reader.
Not only do listicles make life easier for the writer, they help the reader as well.
When information is presented in lists, readers can quickly scan the article to find what is of most interest.
With more online content being consumed on mobile devices with smaller screens, lists help those readers better grasps what is being presented.
In this way, listicles are a service to readers and provide easy to consume information.
5. Listicles can be introductory.
This is one the reasons that most sold me on listicles. They can draw people to your site and introduce them to you and your content.
You probably don’t want to turn your entire site into list-driven articles, but you can mix them into your website to potentially draw more readers.
Listicles can also serve as a jumping off point for subject matters. They aren’t promising to provide an exhaustive exploration.
Use a list to provide basic knowledge and point readers to further content on your site that gives deeper context and more information.
You may have been like me and thought listicles were a scourge of the internet, but hopefully this listicle gave you a different way to think about them.
Listicles shouldn’t be the only thing you publish on your website, but you shouldn’t automatically ignore the good they can do you, your site, and your readers.