I love lists and seem to have one for everything I do. I sometimes even add something onto my list just so I can tick it off. There’s something so satisfying about writing a to-do list at the start of the day, and then seeing everything crossed off by the evening. Why? Because a list is so manageable and easy to read; they’re short, snappy and to the point.
Listicles are the stories that go viral because they promise to condense information into manageable chunks. When you commit to reading a feature in The Guardian or Telegraph you don’t know how many things you’re going to learn, read or digest. However, with a list it upfront tells you before you’ve even opened the article.
Buzzfeed have got it spot on. They’ve managed to perfect the art of listicles that you just can’t resist reading. ‘43 Things Kids Born After 1999 Will Never Understand‘; ‘32 Pictures You Need To See Before You Die‘; ‘13 Simple Steps To Get You Through A Rough Day‘. Surely it’s a content managers dream to work for Buzzfeed. Who wouldn’t want to spend their days composing genius listicles that make witty points which everyone can relate to?
There’s no denying it, lists have certainly redefined and broadened what we class as journalism. But as an aspiring journalist, by no means are they a lazy form of writing. There’s still so much research, thought, expertise and skill that goes into creating a listicle.
‘Proper’ journalism doesn’t have to mean writing 1,000-word features or reporting breaking news. The nature of journalism is evolving; there’s still journalists that write long form features and report breaking news, but we’ve also seen new roles come into play to fit the digital/social media age.
Lists can be witty, serious or interesting just like a news story. Yesterday, I saw a list on Facebook which said ’10 emotions we went through after finding out Cheryl Cole had her baby’ and it had gone viral. It used Facebook as a way of reaching a wide audience and matched the right tone with the right audience. The modern age reader wants lists, so why not continue giving it to them? Regardless of how lazy people think the format is, it’s a talent that not many journalists can perfect.
I think Anna Lawler, a writer for The Guardian, summed up the importance of listicles quite fittingly so I’ll leave you with this: “News reading has been replaced by ‘news snacking’; checking news content far more frequently, for short, sharp bursts of attention. If news snacking demands listicles, the supply should fulfil that need.”
Don’t just take my word for it, watch the video below which explains why listicles are so interesting to the modern age reader: