Updated: Feb 16, 2020
I’m never sure whether that made-up marketing term embarrasses me because it’s stupid sounding or because it sounds vaguely inappropriate.
Yet I am sure that the writing strategy it describes can be extremely effective. People like listicles. They search for them. And they click on them.
Those factors are all big deals for anyone trying to get noticed on the internet. Hence the reason why they’re just as popular among writers as they are among readers.
A listicle, for those who don’t know, is an article that consists of a list. Rather like NativeMarketing.com’s “9 Reasons Why Listicles Still Work,” it's probably going to involve:
A brief introduction of the topic
The promised number of bullet points to back it up.
Concluding statements – brief or otherwise – are completely optional. Short, sweet and to the point is the name of the game.
Which means that, compared to many other articles, minimal work needs to go into a listicle. Here’s why…
As Reason #4 of the “9 Reasons Why Listicles Still Work” explains, “They’re digestible.”
They break up… complex ideas into bite-size pieces that readers can understand more easily, As Maria Konnikova of The New Yorker says, “They create an easy reading experience, in which the mental heavy lifting of conceptualization, categorization, and analysis is completed well in advance of actual consumption.”
Along those same lines, as Reason #2 states, “Listicles are quick.” They're:
a small time investment. And if the content is bad, the reader hasn’t wasted more than two or three minutes… 43% of readers skim blog posts anyway…
Both points are true. In a world where so much information is so easily accessible, even intellectual consumers have become somewhat overwhelmed.
How can we take it all in? By rushing through it, of course.
I’m not saying it’s a good response, but it is the way most of us handle our lives these days regardless. Keep that front and center in your mind when deciding how many bullet points to add to your next listicle.
More is not necessarily better. Keep it to a reasonable length.
I recently came across a listicle that promised 51 lessons learned from 2019.
Fifty-one! That doesn’t sound like a quick compilation either to read or to write.
Admittedly, I didn’t reach out to its author to ask how long it took him to put it together. Nor can I tell you how long it takes to read through it.
I got antsy well before I hit the magic number he promised. I think the piece was over 10,000 words in total, which makes it one of the worst listicles I’ve ever heard of.
For that matter, I don’t know how good of a non-listicle it is either.
I promise that’s not stated to be offensive. It was an honest and even admirable mistake on the author's part, I’m sure. But it was a costly one nonetheless, eating away time, effort and perhaps even sanity the author could have put toward something else…
Writing another article
Writing another 10 articles
Writing another 20 articles
Spending time with family or friends
Making a delicious, non-microwavable meal
Learning a new hobby
Getting caught up on non-listicle to-do lists
Kicking back and relaxing
Getting a life.
Except in very specific cases with very specific audiences, most readers simply aren’t expecting the articles they read to be that long. And, except in very specific cases with very specific audiences, most readers also don’t appreciate articles that are that long.
So do yourself a favor and give them what they want. Everyone’s a winner that way.