5 reasons bloggers love listicles

Some people love them, some people hate them but there’s no doubt they are addictive – listicles. You know the type of thing:

·       6 ways fingernails are a window into your health

·       The 8 most common investment mistakes

·       41 perfectly timed photos you won’t believe

For me they are like Maltesers. I know I should just ignore them and get on with my life but somehow I can’t resist them. I think most people are like that (about listicles, not Maltesers).

Which is why listicles make great blog articles. So, with no apology, here are 5 reasons why bloggers should love listicles.


1.     They are easy to write.

Let’s face it, writing is hard and for many business people writing a weekly or monthly blog is a chore akin to cleaning the oven. (Imagine having to do that every week). So, yes listicles may be lazy journalism as Patrick Kernan argues in his ironically titled blog 7 Reasons Why Listicles Are Killing Modern Media but that’s the point.

There’s no need to worry about the blog’s structure, how it flows and tying it all up in a need bow at the end. Just think of 5, 9 or however many things and write them out in a list. Hey presto, a blog.

2.     They make for great headlines

I worked once on a lifestyle website sponsored by a well-known electronics company. I asked the editor one day why every article was a listicle with a headline such as, 6 reasons to buy an Ultra High Definition TV, 3 things to watch on TV this weekend etc. His answer was simple – day in, day out they get the most hits. As simple as that.

The important thing about headlines is that they must promise the reader something. They have to intrigue the reader and promise to satisfy that intrigue. Listicle headlines tap into people’s natural curiosity. Which is why I find myself reading articles telling me how my fingernails reveal the secrets of my health when what I really wanted to do was read the news.

3.     Readers know they are going to be easy to read

We are all bombarded with information from every angle, night and day. Facebook, Twitter, news websites, newsletters, blogs and the rest. It’s hard to know where to start and what to read first.

The great thing about listicles is that they’re finite. You don’t have to plough through several paragraphs to find the interesting bits.

Not that there isn’t a place for that type of reading, of course there is. But listicles let you go straight to the highlights. They’re the reading equivalent of Match of the Day. And you know exactly how many highlights you are going to get. Most people think, yeah, seven reasons, I can cope with seven, I’ll read that.   

4.     Lists work well online

Jakob Nielsen is a web usability consultant who has studied how people read online. One of his key findings is that “most website users don't read all your words. Instead, they scan the text and pick out headlines, highlighted words, bulleted lists, and links.” Blogs that are broken down with this online ‘furniture’ are more effective at putting across your message.

And most interestingly of all, he says: “Numerals often stop the wandering eye and attract fixations, even when they're embedded within a mass of words that users otherwise ignore. Why do users fixate on numerals? Because numbers represent facts, which is something users typically relish.”

(The above quote copies Jakob’s strange use of bold not mine, but who am I to argue?).

5.     You’re in good company

Don’t go thinking listicles are modern inventions for which the Internet is to blame. You shouldn’t be embarrassed to use them, as listicles go back a long way. Some examples include:

·       The most obvious ancient one of course – the 10 Commandments

·       T.E.Lawrence’s autobiography, written in 1922 and still in print, The Seven Pillars of Wisdom

·       The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, the best-selling business book by Stephen R Covey.

I said one great thing about listicles is not having to worry about how to end the blog so I’m not going worry about how to end the blog.

The end.