3 Reasons for Why Human Restraint Is Powerless Against the ‘Listicle’


There’s a certain sadness in knowing that BuzzFeed has become the preferred “news network” of America’s Millennial generation. Generally speaking, what’s being reported by the aforementioned site isn’t even newsworthy; however, it’s too sticky for readers to not become instantly hooked.

What’s the secret behind BuzzFeed’s success, you ask? The “listicle.” Using a couple of brain cells, it’s easy to deduce that a listicle is little more than the metaphoric love child of both an article and a list. 

Incredibly, ever since BuzzFeed first made the listicle popular a few years back, digital consumers looking for editorial entertainment haven’t been able to get enough of the piece type. 

Sure, it might be a bit of a guilty pleasure, but seeing as how listicles have a number of influential factors working on their behalf, it’s unlikely that the trend subside any time soon. The following are the three most prominent of those factors:

1) Inescapable Intrigue

Think you’re immune to catchy headlines? You try passing on a piece entitled, “23 Inconsolable Death Row Murderers and Their Shocking Final Statements.” Needless to say, it’s much easier said than done. 

Let’s face it—as humans, we’re a curious bunch. The more shocking, scandalous, sensual or petrifying something is, the more we can’t help but peel back the proverbial covers and take a peek at what’s lurking just beyond our reach.

2) Quantifiable Solutions

We want answers, but we don’t want them to be too complicated. Most of us have already had a bad experience or two with entry-level chemistry courses in high school or college to know that nothing is really quite as simple as it seems on the surface.

For example, if you were looking to break into patent law, you might be attracted to a listicle providing “6 Simple Steps for Becoming a Powerful Patent Lawyer.” Listicles are calming in that, supposedly, they provide us with anything and everything we need to know. They almost become a check list of sorts, if you think about it. Sadly, this is rarely the case.

3) Short-Hand Totality

There’s an odd paradox involving today’s readers. They want the whole story, but they don’t have the patience to sit still and take all of it in if it requires more than five minutes of their time. Lists, regardless of whether they’re pushing seven or 101 points of interest, present the whole picture. Even better, skimming is highly facilitated by this medium’s structure.

In fact, says Maria Konnikova of The New Yorker, “Once we click, lists tap into our preferred way of receiving and organizing information at a subconscious level; from an information-processing standpoint, they often hit our attentional sweet spot.”

So, do listicles hit your “attentional sweet spot”? Why or why not? In the comments section below, take a moment to share your opinions with Echelon’s devoted body of readers. I’ll be routinely checking back to interact and engage, as well.


Lucas Miller is the Founder of Echelon Copy. When not writing, editing or running, he's working tirelessly to perfect what he claims is the "World's Greatest Pompadour." Additionally, for what it's worth, his editorial works have been featured on Social Media Today, Business2Community, Ragan's PR Daily, Spin Sucks and many other top-tier PR publications.