It’s harsh, I know. Since the dawn of the universe, list posts have been a go-to format for many bloggers. Well, except for the segment of high-minded individuals who will have absolutely nothing to do with such posts. They’re in a minority, but they will let you know they don’t like lists. They might even give readers a list of reasons why they don’t like lists. I’m about to give you a list of reasons why list posts are the bane of this digital existence, and why, ultimately, they really need to die and horrific death in the flames of web content hell.
One. They’re easy.
Translation: they’re lazy. I can write a list of things with my eyes tied behind my back. In many ways, a list post is the primordial form of a more realized and thought out article. It’s an outline of ideas with little or no substance. Yes, list posts do look neat and organized and are easy to skim—just like an outline, but what does anyone really get out of it, reader and writer alike?
List proponents always cite the skim-ability of these types of articles, but what does article skimming accomplish? As a reader I might click on an interestingly titled list article (Six Things You Definitely Didn’t Know About the Formation of Earth), look at it for a couple minutes and move on, forgetting most of the details of the article—essentially accomplishing nothing. As a writer or blog owner I’ve gained that click and maybe they’ll see another link in or around the article and click that. Lists are content filler and cheap link bait, with very few exceptions.
Two. They’re subjective.
Subjectivity isn’t necessarily bad and blogs tend to be subjective anyway, but lists take it to another level. The content of a list is completely up to the writer and it calls the authority of the author into question. Ten Best Dinosaurs Ever? If I write all about the Ten Best Dinosaurs Ever what gives me the authority to make these determinations? Deinonychus may be number one, but am I a paleontologist, a time traveler, an actual dinosaur? Probably not (though, you never know).
But does the reader care about the state of my authority on the subject? If any given reader agrees with the content, she probably won’t give much thought to my authority. I’m effectively on her side. However, if I write a list of the Ten Best Dinosaurs Ever and include controversial choices readers may have never heard of, can’t identify, or they don’t like, my credibility is gone. Like the dinosaurs.
Three. They’re derivative.
Chances are exceptionally good there’s a list out there just like yours (and mine). That’s much of the nature of human creativity. We evolved to be copycats and our originality stems from how well we can hide that derivation. Writers of list posts spend most of their writing time hunting for and gathering several other lists based on their topic of choice. Then they pick and choose and one or two from each list, write their thoughts on the matter “in their own words” and done.
Or, they just make it all up.