You may not know what a listicle is, but, if you're a veteran web surfer, you certainly have read them. Yes, listicles are those list-articles that beckon for your click from the links at the bottom of almost every web page. "7 Things To...", "6 Ways To...", "10 Celebrities Who..." But, yielding to today's fascination with meta, it's important to understand the pitfalls of listicle literature, provided, of course, in a listicle format below:
1. Promises, Promises: The listicle link tempts you with an intriguing title. "9 Secrets You Never Knew About..." But when you click on the site (and your presence is registered), the content of the pages duplicates last year's issue of the National Enquirer or is rehashed health information from a 1990s-era Reader's Digest.
2. New! Isn't: Let us count the ways the writer can say "Eat Less and Exercise More."
3. The Cookie Jar: Many listicle sites are more interested in you than their product. You accept cookies, and, unwillingly, tracking and malware, when you click on "8 Products That..." "...We Will Market to You Ad Infinitum."
4. Twittformation: A listicle item may contain more than 140 characters, but not much more. So, either the short paragraph contains little new info beyond the cliché or common sense, or what's presented is superficial. "7 Beauty Tips For..." Yup.
5. Enthusiastic Experts: Many listicles use quotes from experts relevant to the subject matter. While some experts are "legit," others may be marketers of the services or products being pitched by the listicle (and displayed in the side-bar or the pop-ups).
6. Peer Pressure: Peers can be even more convincing than experts for many readers. Listicles are quick to quote folks willing to give persuasive testimonials about the "awesomeness" of a recipe or recommendation that echo the demographics of the targeted readership.
7. Filler: The listicle writer has run out of ideas before reaching the needed number of items, so these items are rehashes of earlier items, a homily you've heard repeatedly from mom, or one of the "things you learned in kindergarten," or should have.
8. Summary: All the previous listicle content is summarized in 2-3 sentences. After all, didn't the old teaching adage say, "Tell them what you're going to teach them, teach them, and tell them what you've taught them"? And besides, a summary adds one more item to the list to increase the "number" (see Filler above).
No question that it's tempting to click on that listicle come-on. But, like the siren song of the loss-leader that promises a low-cost product over the fine print "only one at this price" or "while they last," most listicles are likely to leave you wanting... hungry for something more than an informational appetizer. On the other hand, with today's busy schedules, fewer and fewer of us seem to have time to read and digest full scoops. Maybe what we really need is a meta listicle list: "10 Must-Read Listicles in 10 Seconds."