JD Roberto has a few things to say about list articles.
There are a lot of clever little pieces of writing floating around the interweb, all competing for your attention and a spot on your social media feed. This one is almost certainly not worth your time. For unknown reasons, social media clickers like things crammed into neat, little, digestible lists. For a writer, this is a rather low form of creative work, but also the most in demand and the most likely to end up getting shared over and over again. A good list article can get a lot of clicks. Clicks = traffic = eyeballs = advertising pennies. The interweb is a lot of things; free is not one of them.
This article will not generate those clicks and you should not bother with it. Read on to find out why:
#1. The title of this article dramatically undersells. It’s not caustic or shocking, it’s doesn’t promise kittens, sex, a young child overcoming a horrific illness/accident, or in any way suggest you’ll end up feeling superior to whoever you’re going to read about. You’re only reading this because I told you not to read it. So this is about you being contrary and nothing more.
#2. Worse, the title of this article is more or less accurate. That’s a no-no. Titles need to be inflammatory or tear jerking and, whenever possible, a bait-and-switch. An article about how your insomnia should be called 5 Ways My Wife Has Ruined Our Time in The Sack. Once you get the click you can launch into your tirade about how she chose a crappy mattress. The click is what matters.
#3. This article ignores the Infomercial Principle — identify a problem the viewer doesn’t even know they have and then offer advice for solving it. That makes this article much less useful than 8 Ways To Stop Your Chinchilla from Ruining your Home Business or, say, 11 Signs Your Boyfriend has a Lesbian Lover. This article has no solutions and is intended only to make you think a little bit about what you read and share on the internet. But you won’t because you’ve probably already scanned past this part.
#4. I’ve included a photo that isn’t an overblown, heavy-handed metaphor for the theme of the article. There’s no overly attractive couple photographed mid foreplay / argument / exasperated bill paying session and no one is walking in silhouette with a child/puppy/septuagenarian. I do get points for randomly scraping an image off the internet and using it as my own, but to mitigate that I chose something inoffensive and delicious. Who doesn’t love blueberry pancakes?
#5. This article is glaringly absent of Coulterisms. If we’ve learned anything from cable news it’s that audiences want to be outraged or, at the very least, hear something offensive and outrageous. Little by little we have traded thought provoking for thoughtlessly provocative. So unless I say something like “List articles are less attractive than a wildly obese nudist clubbing a baby seal with an ivory cudgel wrapped in veal,” I’m probably not going to get the number of angry comments one needs to consider an article a success. And I’m not saying that. Seriously, that was just an example of a thing I would never say so let it go.
#6. This article is really, really bullshit because there aren’t even 7 reasons on my list — despite the promise of 7 reasons in the title. This is especially problematic because when you write a 7 reasons article you’re actually supposed to throw in a BONUS reason (which means writing an 8 reasons article, deciding which one should be last and calling it a 7 reasons article).
BONUS: Finally, this article fails because I’m not even going to round out my list with a fuzzy, heartfelt dollop of pot-holder wisdom that back peddles all my previous snark. Instead, I’ll teach you a fun drinking game. Get your friends together and see who can turn the classic literature of your youth into viral, clickable web content. Will your friends shotgun a PBR in honor of that Jane Austen opus “Girl gets dumped by her boyfriend, what happens next will leave you speechless!”? Would you raise a glass to that F. Scott Fitzgerald piece called “8 Ways Decadent Parties Will Fuck Up Your Life.” I know I would.
Photo credit: Janine/flickr