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Updated by Nick Kellet on Jan 14, 2016
Nick Kellet Nick Kellet
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5 Reasons Listicles Are Here to Stay


Lists Are Jumping-On Points

Lists are not a substitute for long-form reporting; nor is long-form reporting a substitute for lists. They’re different formats, suited to different subjects and different ends. Form follows function: You don’t (ideally) write a eulogy on the back of a receipt, and you don’t bring a thousand-word essay to the grocery store.Lists are the survey courses to long-form’s advanced study. A long-form article will take you through one topic in considerable depth; a list, compiled thoughtfully, will skim the surface of a broader body of content, giving you a series of contact points from which to explore further in your own time.

Lists Are Ethically Neutral

Lists are not rotting your brain or lowering the standards of journalism.This is not to say that there aren’t bad lists and sloppy lists and lists that would make a lot more sense in another format, nor that those things aren’t problems. But they’re problems with writing and editing, not a flaw of the format. Lists are not fundamentally vapid or valuable. They’re just another tool in the box.And no matter what the Guardian may tell you, they’re not that much easier to put together than regular articles, but then, Poole’s “list” is actually just a long-form essay with numbered paragraphs, so maybe he’s confused.

Lists Give Us Additional Ways to Interact With Information

The way we’re presented with information changes the way we process and interpret it. Lists let us process complicated information spatially, transforming it from cluster to linear progression. Lists can be categories; they can be timelines; but either way, they place digestible bites of information in context of a larger whole. I could have written this up as an essay, but in addition to the obvious smug parallelism (“Look! It’s a list about lists! Aren’t I clever?” said every journalist in 2014), making it a list changes the way you interpret the information and ideas I’m laying out from a monolithic structure to an active progression.Lists can also be a good way to engage readers directly, inviting them to connect the dots. (That’s true in fiction, as well. For a great example of the narrative power of lists, check out the Tim O’Brien story “The Things They Carried,” in the collection of the same name.) That goes double if you have to click through to proceed, taking you from passive consumer to active collaborator.

Lists Are Not Giving You ADHD

Do you even know what ADHD actually is? Or is it just a word you throw around when you want to complain about how much better things were in the Grand Old Days when you had to walk ten miles through waist-deep snow to put captions on cats, and the nuns hit you with yardsticks if you so much as looked at an article with bullet points?

Lists Curate

Welcome to the information age!

With the entire Internet at your fingertips, you can now devote the time you once spent reading a single daily paper to exhaustively sifting through hundreds of subtly different news sites or painstakingly researching, building, and maintaining your own list of favorite reporters and commentators.

With near-infinite information at hand, and reporting moving at more and more breakneck speeds to keep pace with social media, it’s easily to end up either trapped by choice paralysis or whittling away hours on end trying to keep up.

Regardless of Reddit’s motto, there is no front page of the Internet; but lists, at their best, give us focused, annotated tables of contents. They’re lane-markers in the deep end.