21 Apr 2009 7:10 am   //   Filed under: Media, Stray data, Technology

15 amazing insights into numbered lists

  1. All hail the triumph of the numbered list!
  2. For some reason, curious readers can’t resist a series of facts boiled down into numbered sentences.
  3. Editors who write magazine coverlines have understood the magnetic power of numbered lists for years. (See every Cosmopolitan cover ever.)
  4. Recently, numbered lists reached a tipping point on the Internet. They’re everywhere.
  5. As much as I like lists, creativity suffers under this format.
  6. Blame lies with CPM advertising and Digg’s home page—a huge driver of impressions, and one that favors nifty lists. For example, a top story on Digg today is “Ten Fictional Movie Presidents that Rocked.” Digg is an exercise in headline writing. It’s no different than the cover of Cosmo.
  7. Some businesses have sprouted that do nothing but post random lists of “50 best” or “100 best” things online and sell advertising around them. At some point, you’ve probably clicked on a link to such bottom feeders as OnlineBestColleges.com, Smashing Magazine and Free & Cool.
  8. I don’t know how many lists of “## Best Photography Sites” my company’s site appears on, but it’s at least two.
  9. I am also guilty of exploiting this phenomenon. Example: 20 Great Animal Portraits. It works, trust me.
  10. Not everyone understands lists, however. Some lists are way longer than they need to be. Do you really want to read about 99 Essential Twitter Tools And Applications? Of course not.
  11. You know who’s the master of this format? Casey Kasem.
  12. Also, David Letterman.
  13. Also, people who write books of jokes for kids.
  14. If I had the time, I’d start a site called “The Top 1,000 Numbered Lists on the Internet.”
  15. This post isn’t really a list. It’s just a bunch of numbered paragraphs.