The folly that is listicles

Stephanie Denning writes in Forbes why millennial love listicles, articles in the form of a list.  Like most modern journalism the headline at best partially covers what follows.

Listicles are snacks from a user’s perspective and fillers from an editor’s perspective. Cheap to make with lots of nice pictures, no need for people who can write, my guess they will be computer generated within a few years. The fact that they are easy to share does not mean people actually read them. In fact most things that people share they did not read before they shared the social media button.

Even listicles require minimum standards, they compete with Snapchat and Instagram for screen time. Some publications can get away with listicles, think of “5 ways to turn a bad hair day into a good one” but when it comes to actual information rather than entertainment most people prefer an article written by someone who knows what they’re talking about rather than some list. An article reads easier and a well written article has a summary at the beginning so the reader can asses if the article is of potential interest to him.

An editor who clearly is not a millennial (but neither am I) invites one to write about how a younger generation thinks about the important phenomena of listicles only to explain in the comments what the author really means: “Stephanie is, I think, suggesting…” Yes Dad.

There is this whole silly notion that sharing is the new content but what actually happens is that all those magazines and websites are bleeding red ink because they have been reduced to content provider to fill the framework that is social media. In a desperate attempt to escape the clutches from this James Bond 2.0 type of villain they suggest “now read this next” at the end of the article (if you are lucky) which does not work because the reader only has a casual interest in any particular publication.

Clicks do not make money, nor do shares. Good journalism costs money but do not worry if Forbes is to perish no doubt some one will create a listicle of all the things management could have done to prevent it.