15 Simple Reasons Why Everyone Loves Listicles
#5 is Clickbait
Let’s face it; listicles are everywhere you look. They dominate social media and other online communications, as well as in printed formats where they are on every magazine cover. But how did they get to be so popular?
Here are fifteen reasons why listicles are so popular to write and so popular to read.
1) There are plenty of subjects
One thing many writers struggle with is subject matter. I know I frequently have a hard time thinking of a list of articles to write for the coming week. Once I have an idea, I can run with it, but when it comes time to sit down and write my idea list, that’s when writer’s block sets in.
Until I think of listicles.
Then the ideas pour out; 10 things I like about that and 3 things I hate about this. Any subject can quickly grow into a dozen when you start playing with variations of listicles.
2) Listicles are easy to write
I don’t think of myself as a lazy writer. Some of my editors do, but I don’t. Once I start working on a piece, I will dig into the research and scope out the article, writing until it’s complete regardless of the word count
But if I have to choose between an easy article and a difficult article, which one do you think I will write?
Don’t get me wrong. Writing, in general, comes naturally to me. Once I start, the words flow, and the paragraphs line up. I usually don’t stop until I write the last line, and it rarely takes what I would consider a lot of time.
And then the editing comes. At that point, I try to think like an editor and read for the things they would. Pesky little details like cohesion, flow, and order. Bah!
Listicles have to follow and fulfill a common theme, but each item on the list usually stands alone. You write an outline of how many things will be on the list, then knock out each one as a unit. Once I have my list, the article pretty much writes itself.
3) Listicles are easy to Read
Even if the audience is going to read the whole thing start to finish, listicles are easier to read than regular articles. Readers are grabbing and devouring information in small, easily digestible chunks. Kind of like the hors d’oeuvre section of the buffet rather than meat and potatoes.
And knowing they are easy to read, people are more apt to open a listicle than something more hearty. Someone reading on their phone while they wait for a doctor to finish making golf reservations is more likely to click on, “3 ways to avoid doctors,” than, “The history of gynecology.”
Easy to read means more readers means more revenue.
4) People have short attention spans
People writing for social media celebrated a couple of years ago when Twitter expanded to 280 characters. They initially underestimated the number of characters it took to convey a cohesive thought. But what they didn’t underestimate was people’s attention span.
Twitter has become so popular because people want things they can read in a headline. They don’t want the details and don’t have the attention span to look for them. If they see a headline like “Why Broccoli is Bad for You,” all they see is broccoli is bad for you, and they move on. They don’t want to read the article. Listicles provide a list of headlines they don’t have to expand on to be understood.
Told you. But it’s true. Listicles are clickbait, but wait, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Back in 2006, when Jay Geiger coined the phrase in a blog post, it was more of a literal description. Something that lures someone to click on it and open the page, site, or article. Only later, with the proliferation of Pay-per-Click (PPC) ads, did clickbait develop a bad reputation.
Listicles are natural clickbait. If you are scrolling through a list of articles and see 3 Ways to Scroll Faster, you are more likely to click on it than a bunch of more traditional headings. Don’t believe it? You clicked on this one, didn’t you? Listicles stand out in a crown and are hard to resist.
Listicles are like an old pair of slippers. You know, the ones you put on when you are done for the day and don’t expect anyone to see you wearing them. Listicles are easy to slip on and off and aren’t likely to make you uncomfortable while you are reading them. You know what to expect and are rarely surprised when you open one.
Listicles are comfort food. People like what they know.
We love organization. We like things in proper rows, alphabetized, a place for everything and everything in its place.
All the pegs in properly shaped holes.
Listicles provide order in a chaotic world. You aren’t going to open up an article titled, “5 Things I Love About Asphalt,” and find seven things. Everything is organized and by the numbers. People like order and respond to it.
A few years ago, some college students did an experiment. Ten or so of them lined up in front of an empty and closed business. Pretty soon, people started lining up behind them. Why?
People like order and are attracted to it. Listicles provide order and organization.
8) Listicles are short
Listicles are shorter in general than traditional articles. It doesn’t matter how many things are on the list; there is a lot of white space in listicles. The number of actual words you have to read is fewer. The time it takes to read the article is less.
Some settling may have occurred during shipment.
People are in a hurry, even when they’re not. If I see two articles, one with a 3 minute reading time and one with a 7 minute reading time, I’m going short.
9) They are easily scannable
Most people don’t read most things anymore. Not all the way through. Often, we don’t even admit this to ourselves, much less others. I read it cover to cover, more often means; I skimmed the table of contents.
This is what makes a listicle so popular. They are easily scannable. Readers can scan down the list quickly, only stopping at the points that resonate with them, or they want to read more details.
I bet most of you stopped at #5
10) Mobile devices
Like Common says in the new Microsoft ads, “Look Around!” Everywhere you go, everyone you see has their face buried in their mobile device, most often a phone. These tiny gadgets deliver most of our information, content, and entertainment.
Did you ever try to digest content on a phone that wasn’t optimized for mobile? Pinching and spreading, scrolling and swiping, it’s ugly.
Listicles are easily formatted for mobile. The bold headlines and small chunks of data are optimized for mobile devices right out of the box.
Listicles are great for validation. Confirmation bias drives a lot of web traffic. We want to believe something and are looking for an article to confirm that we are right.
Listicles are perfect for personal validation. Whether you love something or hate it, you can find a listicle that will not only confirm your belief but give you 14 reasons why you are correct.
12) Easily sharable
Hand in hand with validation, listicles are easily shareable. You read it quickly and easily, and it confirms what you wanted to see, so you share it. You are much more likely to share a simple, to the point listicle, like 7 reasons to buy new shoes than say, The biography of Euripides.
And this sharability works out great not only for readers but writers as well. In our world, sharing is caring; and by that, I mean it’s a good way to make a buck.
13) Easy to remember
Listicles are easy to remember. You do not need to extract facts from a long, dry treatise on a subject. You just need to grab the bullet points. Plus, the human brain is inclined to remember things in numbers. A short list of numbered headings will be remembered long after the actual content of an article.
14) Everyone is impatient
I can’t believe you had the patience to read this far. Social media and cellphones have created an extremely impatient world. Us Boomers can remember a time when you had to wait until six o’clock just to find out what the weather was going to be tomorrow, much less if the world going to end.
Today’s world is such that everyone knows everything right now. Waiting for an article to get to the point just isn’t going to cut it in this century.
14 Reasons to Get a Hamster. Got it. What’s next?
15) People love numbers
Finally. Number 15. The last one. But an important one. People love numbers. We gravitate to numbers. If we see two signs across the way, and one of them has a list of numbers, that’s where we are going. We scan for numbers; we seek numbers, we love numbers.
WD-40, Heinz 57, Levi 501s; numbers sell. Numbers provide accountability, clarity, order, and commitment.
This is why they recommend that you title your listicle with a number instead of spelling it out.
7 Ways to Fall Out of a Tree will attract more readers than Seven Ways to Treat Broken Bones.
Why? People Love Numbers.
If you’ve been looking to expand your niche or you’re stuck for ideas, give listicles a try. They are fun and easy to write, and typically attract more views and reads than traditionally structured articles.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to write my next article:
27 Ways Listicles Changed My Life.