Friday, May 23, 2008

Top (Insert Number Here) Lists: Why Are They So Popular?

I am an avid Digg, Delicious, and Reddit reader and I have been looking through those databases for quite some time now. I have noticed a common trend when it comes to popular items that appear on these bookmarking sites. The common element is the presence of lists, and people love them just like Jim Kukral says.

That's right, lists. Most of the popular posts/bookmarked items that garner the most attention are 'top 10 lists,' 'top 100 lists,' etc. etc. To just make sure I wasn't crazy, I took a random trip to Digg for instance and looked at the "Top in All Topics" list on the right side, and noticed that 3 out of 10 of the topics shown were a "top (insert number here) list."

The interesting part is that in the most popular dugg items throughout the year, there are no 'lists' in the top 30 items ranked by number of times they were dugg.

What is so special about lists you might ask? Well, my personal opinion is that people tend to be in a hurry about 90% of the time. Also, by nature most people are lazy (well it's true!), and they don't want to have to read through a long article. Most people want to "cut to the chase," and that's exactly what lists do. For instance, I could write a 20 to 30 page article on the most prominent renaissance painters, OR, I could make a list called "the top 10 renaissance painters of all time." If I was to post these up on the internet, I would bet the second choice would receive more traffic.

Like I have stated, people want to be able to get to the main argument or content without having to read for a few hours or more. Another reason why people love lists, in my opinion, is that humans naturally try to make order out of chaos. We like to fit things in their places (even if there actually is no set place for something). It's like when you were younger and you had those blocks of different shapes (such as a square, triangle, circle) and you had to fit them in the holes that they corresponded. People like lists because it gives them order to something. Be it a list of the top 10 rockstars of all time, or the top 30 shoes ever!

The odd fact is that, we hardly ever remember the top 10 lists in the long run. It is usually the essays, articles and stories that capture our attention that are remembered the most. (Although I warn you I am a little biased towards essays and stories).


Caledonian Jim said...

Sometimes people, including me, have an obsession about their own position on lists . Example : at the moment I'm struggling to try and achieve at least 3rd place on the Entrecard Politics rankings, in order that my blog will appear on the "Campaign" page .

It's irrational really, because Entrecard is primarily a North American thing and my UK based blog probably has limited appeal on that continent - but still I strive !

DC said...

Well I think everyone is obsessed with trying to be valued by others (be it family, friends or strangers).

As for your content... I really enjoy reading your postings, they have that rare combination of wit, importance and readability. Keep up the good work.

PS- your titles are always an eye catcher!