7 Reasons Why Lists Aren’t Going Anywhere

For one thing, as a content format lists work really well.


by Dave Robson

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Lists are the Celine Dion of journalism: Everybody professes to find them annoying, but they are still massively popular. Pundits accuse the listicle of dumbing down — of “Buzzfeedizing” — journalism.

So why does arranging your content into a list make it irresistible? Here’s why.

1. Lists Make Content Bite-Sized

Every entrepreneur out there has heard of an elevator pitch and probably has a couple in their backpocket. Well, every piece of sponsored content you write is an elevator pitch — so get to the point.

2. Bite-Sized Content Is Easy to Digest

Humans think spatially. When we see things broken down into steps, bullet points, or into a list, we have an easier time remembering it all.

3. The Faster We Think, the Happier We Feel

Psychologists have long known about something called the “paradox of choice” — that is, the more choice we have, the worse we feel. And if the Internet offers anything, it’s an abundance of choice. However, a recent study found that the faster we decide on something, the better we feel, which makes a list an obvious choice, since the readers know just how much time they’re committing.

4. Lists Offer Easy Achievement

We like getting things done, even if those things are reading articles online. Since it’s easier to read a list, and you’re more likely to remember the stuff on said list once you’re done, you’re more likely to finish an article broken down into lists than something more in depth.

5. And Achievement Leads to More Achievement

Since reading that list was such an easy achievement, why not read another? Don’t believe that happens? Well, when is the last time you got stuck hate-reading stuff on Reddit, Buzzfeed or Gawker? Exactly. Even if you don’t like it, it’s easy to do, so you do it.

6. Lists Provoke Opinions

Anytime you order something, rank something or offer simple opinions, someone on the Web will want to offer a dissenting opinion, and that’s how engagement starts.

7. Lists Get Shared

Look at the previous six things. People like sharing content that has those things. Bite-sized and easy? Well, that’ll get some retweets. Easy to commit to, makes you feel like you’ve done something, and likely to attract readers back for more? That’s worth some Facebook likes. And if people have the chance to say how much they agree or disagree with something, even better.