Writers don’t like listicles. They cite an absurd mish-mash of topics and a yawn-worthy, predictable structure. What’s more, they say, life’s complexities don’t always fit into the listicle template (so stop trying to force it, OK?!).
Yet, despite these grumbles, it’s basic human nature to want to find an easy solution to all life’s problems. Lists attempt to catch readers’ attention and provide straightforward answers to genuine, “help me” Google queries.
So the listicle can be a reader’s – and content marketer’s – best friend. But do they work?
Lists help working memory
Dr. Peter Doolittle, who researches the process of human learning, suggests that we’re consuming information much faster than ever before, thanks to working memory. He says working memory “is limited in capacity, limited in duration, limited in focus. We tend to remember around four things for about 10 to 20 seconds, unless we do something with it.”
To overcome that limited-focus barrier, the bite-size copy in a list makes sense. If an audience is processing content in a short timespan and then sharing, engaging with or linking to the listicle, it’s a success for content marketers.
If the topic is complex and requires lengthy discussion, the listicle formula may feel out of place, because it implies a quick read. But, it also might set readers up to absorb longer content more willingly.
Surrender to the listicle?
The concept behind a numeric format – digestible, clear, useful and helpful content – is nothing new. The listicle rules can be applied to long-form, short-form and even infographics and film. So, why not run with what works?
Adding that numeric title to your copy may:
- support readers’ working memory.
- prepare readers to absorb information quickly.
- assure readers of your helpful and direct intentions.
- conform to the brain-pleasing, digestible format that readers like to share.