By Paul Parcellin, Staff Writer
February 16, 2016

Maybe you feel that you should be reading heavier material, but face it, “listicles,” those entertaining chunks of information that are a cross between a list and an article, are like pieces of candy. You probably can’t resist reading them, and neither can visitors to your website.

It’s a challenge to produce good content that visitors want to read, so why not make it easier on yourself and offer them the kinds of stuff they want the most? If you do, there’s good chance they will spend more time on your site and perhaps convert. 

‘Snacking’ on News

A 2013 News Republic study concludes that readers are more likely to skim through news for short periods of time – “news snacking” – rather than poring over long texts. Listicles, by their very nature, are the kind of text that readers can skim and perhaps take away interesting information in the process of doing so.

Why they’re Popular

Listicles cut news and information right down to the basics. You know immediately what the material in a listicle is about from the headline. Readers know that perusing a list is quick. And if the headline names the number of items in the list, such as “The Top 10 Affordable Vacation Destinations,” you’ll know immediately that this won’t take long to read and to absorb the information. 

Each item in a listicle is a self-contained unit – even if you stop reading before you’re done you can still get interesting, informative and entertaining pieces of information that stand on their own. You can put them down and finish reading later without losing the thread of the article’s meaning.

Do Readers want Less?

You may wonder if readers will feel cheated if they don’t get a large quantity of information, but the opposite could be true. Most people assume that having many options available to you, whether you’re buying groceries or purchasing a home, will make you feel more comfortable. But psychologists Claude Messner and Michaela Wänke concluded in a 2011 study that reducing the number of choices that you have can actually make you feel better. The sooner you can make a decision, such as what you’re going to eat or what you’re going to read, the happier you become. 

So, narrowing down the choices available may actually be more attractive to site visitors.

Listicle Writing Tips

Post listicles that complement and enhance longer articles.

Create listicles that are relevant to your audience – don’t post them simply because they are listicles.

Brainstorm your own ideas for listicles rather than using topics that have already been covered.

Use listicles to talk about facts that many people may be unaware of, such as “7 Things you don’t know About Life on a Space Station.”

Include the number of items in the listicle in your headline: 8 of the Best Tools for Content Optimization.

Post Script

It’s likely that listicles will remain a popular for some time to come. The format seems custom tailored for online consumption. Many of your readers will see your content on their smartphones, and listicles are compact in scale and quick to read, which makes them ideal many Internet users.