Why you should be producing listicles…or not


The “listicle” is a dirty word amongst some writers. A gander at everyone’s favorite resource for information – Wikipedia suggests:”In journalism and blogging, a listicle is a short-form of writing that uses a list as its thematic structure, but is fleshed out with sufficient copy to be published as an article.”

For some, it’s a construct of lazy writing and shallow concepts with nary a shred of meat on its bones. Cries for the return of long-form content echo across the journalistic world while the web publications roll their eyes as they watch their share counters go higher every day.

Yet it’s currently one of the most popular ways to present content. Our social media feeds are flooded with headlines like “10 ways to lose weight for beach season” or “5 ways you can improve your content strategy”. Each of these with hundreds or even thousands of shares. The popularity of the form is evident, but does that mean you should jump on the bandwagon? Here’s why you should and shouldn’t.

Why you should

1. It’s much easier to produce


Writing in long form can be an arduous task and there’s generally more skill involved. It’s also easy for writers to create because all they have to do is list out key points and flesh them out. It’s a very cohesive way to write and work on your thoughts.

The lower level of skill required also means that you’ll be able to spend lesser on writers. That’s not to say you should forsake quality for the cheapest option, but you’ll have more options to choose from so let the laws of economics sort out price for you.

2. Its quantitative nature lets readers know what they’re in for


Time and attention are increasingly precious in a world crowded with content, and a sign to show readers what they’re in for can be a very wise decision. A number gives readers an estimate on how much reading they’ll have to do.

Smaller numbers suggest a quick, easy read while larger numbers will attract readers looking for more information or options on the topic. Tough the longer pieces tend to get more shares as readers will find more value there.

3. Your readers can pick and choose the content


The short point form like format is great for readers who are trying to pick out content that’s relevant to their interests. It can be difficult for readers to parse out the main arguments of an article in long form, but they are presented straight up with a listicle in his hand. In the words of a designer, it’s a good user interface.

4. Short and concise format appeals to most

The modern age is about the speed of information and immediate gratification. By nature, the listicle is the perfect medium to deliver this experience.

5. Format allows for more images



One of the best things about listicles is that images just feel at home here, you can stuff them in at every item, which not only gives you the opportunity to boost your SEO, but also help you engage your readers more and create more memorable content.

Why you shouldn’t

Now before you get up and start working on your next mind-blowingly witty listicle you might want to sit down and read why you might not want to do so. Listicles are still a relatively younger form of presenting information. It may be the norm of hip and trendy lifestyle publications, but there may be little or no place for it on your local finance paper.

You may be asking yourself: “If listicles are such an easy and efficient way of conveying information, why do some people hate them so much?”. Many writers feel that it’s a form of lazy writing. It’s certainly easier as I’ve discussed earlier on in the article, but it also creates a writing process that is perhaps a little too convenient. Gone are the days where writers would have to think of perfect segues into secondary points, gone are the long thought out paragraphs that break down ideas and examining each component to form conclusions. Give the readers what they want – short and sweet articles that, fortunately enough, is easy for writers to produce.

The writing abilities of young writers breaking into the scene with a flood of listicles as their first assignments is a troubling phenomenon. It is not an accurate reflection of the true potential of journalism, and it is least of all, the proper avenue to develop proper skills in writing. The act of writing in long form also forces a writer to think harder about the subject. Writing fleshes out an idea, and getting into the flow of it may unveil new ideas and options they’ve previously not considered.

Short form writing greatly reduces the occurrence of introspection leading to shallow and content that leaves readers unsatisfied at times. As a writer of the modern age, I can say with absolute certainty that it is true, and my writing ability has been hindered by writing too many listicles. I can now fully appreciate my secondary school teacher screaming in my face about submitting my essays in point form. Mrs Loh, I am very sorry, you were right.

Listicles are also not very cohesive for big ideas that require a lot of fleshing out. The brilliance on Nietzsche’s Beyond Good & Evil would lose a lot of its gravitas presented as a listicle with images of cute cats littered around. Unfamiliar ideas and topics also require a lot of context to make sense of or to fully appreciate. It’s a sentiment I’m sure anyone who has ever copied notes for an exam would share. Some of your classmate’s notes may appear incomprehensible or befuddling without the proper context and relevant knowledge established in the prior lecture.

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