I worked in publishing for six years. It was my first job out of college and I kind of just ended up staying in that industry for a while. During that time, I certainly learned a lot, which was especially beneficial to me as an independent writer even though I wasn’t actually writing for my job.
Through working in the publishing industry, I had personally and professionally witnessed the many changes that had occurred within the companies where I was formerly employed.
I witnessed the publishing industry evolve and pivot right in front of my eyes. I witnessed it shift from being heavily fixated on print publishing to fully embracing the “new age” of digital publishing.
In that time, I saw how much content itself has drastically changed. I saw how the depth of content had been diluted and how the over-saturation of clickable content, such as slideshows, photo galleries, and worst of all, listicles, have quickly risen to the top.
Snackable bites of information became more popular and more prominent as opposed to long-form, thought-provoking pieces — And this was especially true for digital content.
With the rise of digital advertising, advertising sales had created a stronger demand for more appealing, more easily digestible content in order to get more eyeballs on publishers’ websites since the audience had largely shifted mediums (no pun intended).
Rather than purchasing or subscribing to a physical magazine, readers were instead able to view content online, which is preferred now anyways since we’re constantly on our phones throughout the day.
To meet the demand for advertising needs, writers and editors received more pressure to publish more timely content at a much faster rate. Then eventually, the supply exceeded the demand as we can see from the overwhelming amount of content that is being churned out each day.
And as mentioned earlier, the worst of them all (in my opinion) has resulted in the surplus of listicle-form articles.
To be completely transparent, I am one hundred percent guilty of publishing listicle articles myself — And quite a decent amount, as a matter of fact.
As a freelance writer, many of the writing opportunities that I had been compensated for had involved requests for listicle-type articles. And to be honest, some of my most viral articles were, in fact, listicles (Though, I’m not necessarily proud of that).
I did, however, understand the need from smaller blogs or newer online publications for large volumes of content that were highly clickable and easy to read. After all, those blogs and publications needed to increase their monthly page views somehow and what better way than to round up a herd of independent, up-and-coming writers who were ecstatic to get their writing viewed by a larger audience.
But the thing is, for me, writing those same types of articles over and over again got pretty boring.
Which is why I’ve grown to hate listicles
For starters, it caused my creativity to dwindle and it gave me a lack of variety. As a writer, that was simply not sustainable.
I needed a change. I needed more depth, more thought-provoking topics, and more emotion in my writing. And none of that could shine through in listicle-type articles.
Again, I must emphasize that I completely understand why they’re so popular. I get why they’re so likable and shareable. I get why they receive so many claps even right here on Medium — They’re straight to the point and they easily outline all of the major talking points in bold-lettering so that you can merely skim through it. I mean, you can’t get any more direct than that.
Plus, from a writer’s point of view, listicles generally follow the natural process of drafting an article in terms of jotting down what you want to say — Except, by the end of it, there is less of an emphasis towards editing or going into much deeper explanation. And if a higher word-count is needed, then you can just write out a few more talking points.
To me though, it just seems like the easy way out — It’s like publishing your to-do list or New Year’s goals and adding in some extra fluff to make it look more like an actual piece of substantial writing.
But, don’t get me wrong. Often times, I do read them, I will clap for them, and I typically do take something away from listicles, even if it’s something as tiny as “stay away from toxic people” in an article titled something along the lines of, “10 Ways to Immediately Improve Your Life”
Now, there is nothing wrong with writing, reading, or even thoroughly enjoying listicles. I think they do fill a need in the realm of never-ending content — They’re almost parallel with those cheesy romcoms that you say you hate, but you secretly love.
The only thing I want to say is that I just hope that listicles aren’t your sole form of writing or reading and that it’s not used purely for clickbait.
Writing is an art form and it should be treated as such. So, just don’t use listicles as your cop-out for meaningful content.