5 Reasons Lists are Winning the Web

1. People love lists.

Need proof? You’re reading this list right now. I mean if you thought lists were pointless and a waste of time and blah-blah-blah, you’d be off to Facebook or Twitter by now. But you’re not. Why?

Girl making heart

2. They’re short and definitive. (And silly.)

In today’s world, two things are in short supply — time and attention spans. We don’t have time for nonsense. Or do we? I mean go to Buzzfeed for two seconds. (Not now. I mean later.) It’s packed with crazy lists like “22 Ways Your Cat is Your Significant Other.” And they use these random numbers, too. “7 Amazing This” and “16 Astounding That.” You just have to click. And that’s the thing.

Silly cat and boy

3. They make people click.

If people can get information quickly, they’re much more likely to engage. Even if it’s goofy information. (In fact, the goofier the lists are, the more likely people are to share them.) People can relate to this stuff — big time. Take “22 Toys You Couldn’t Live Without in the 90’s.” Truth is, if you grew up in the 90’s, you had 90% of those toys and so did your friends.  You get such a kick out of reliving those memories — you want your friends to take a stroll down memory lane with you. So before long these same lists are appearing over and over and over again on news feeds, showing up on Twitter, Facebook and Google+ (well, maybe not Google+.) And this all fits perfectly into the economics of the web. Clicks equal money. And since lists on websites get a lot of clicks, websites keep cranking them out.

make you click

4. They’re fast, cheap and easy.

Creating a list of say “20 Signs You’re Actually Jimmy Fallon” takes hardly any time at all to produce. Come up with 4 or 5 lists and that can equal a pretty good payday for the blogger who gets paid, not only by post, but also by impressions (i.e. views). And since these posts get crazy clicks, and shares, bloggers would be nuts not to ride this gravy train all the way to the bank.

Couple swimming in money

But lists like these do disguise the fact that there’s no story, no narrative, no point of view. Writing, on the other hand, takes some thought. Writing takes research. Writing takes time. Coming up with a list of reasons lists are winning the web took me no time at all. Writing the supporting content did.

5. They’re EVERYWHERE.

Lists aren’t only on fun sites where you can waste a few minutes at work. They’re even on harder news types sites such as CNN (15 Best TV and Movie Wedding Dresses), and money sites like CNBC (4 Ways to Reduce Your Tax Bill.) So long as lists remain profitable for websites, getting users to click out of their curious nature and their desire to save time and quickly stay in the know, lists are definitely here to stay. (I could go on, but I simply must check out “13 Animals Who Think They’re People.”)

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