Why the Media Love a List

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Broadcast, print and social media – all, without exception, love a list.

Channel 4 milks this formula with its regular, late night, list-based programmes.

100 Greatest Tearjerkers…50 Greatest Comedy Characters…I enjoy these celebrity narrated TV shows – however the downside of committing to them is I’m inclined to fall asleep before the top 5 is revealed.

I did however make it to the end of their most recent “100 Greatest Stand-ups of all time” and was pleased Billy Connolly came top.

Women’s magazines love a frivolous list – “top ten make-up must haves”… “20 ways to tell if he’s the one” etc.

I loved NME’s recent list of the “Top 100 Greatest Albums of the Decade” – although I disagree with their top ten – apart from Radiohead who made the top ten with In Rainbows. Well deserved in my opinion.

And although I am aware that it’s mindless and chauvinistic – I can’t help but take a sneaky peek every time FHM bring out their annual “100 Sexiest women” list.

Bloggers aren’t above using the list formula either with product reviews and lists of top 20 / 50 apps etc. In fact, bloggers like lists so much – they even create lists of other bloggers.

I liked this tongue in cheek blog post from Social Collective which suggests the Top 13 ½ Buttons of all-time.

But no aspect of the media loves a list more than national newspapers.

A top 50 / 100 list can create page-lead – or even double-page spread opportunities for PRs looking to build brand awareness.

One of the reasons newspapers love lists is because, on a quiet news day, they provide an opportunity for editors to fill pages by using pictures to illustrate survey findings.

Here are a couple of examples of recent list-based news stories:

Sir David Attenborough heads lists of most honoured by Britain’s universities

Top 50 Most Common Lies

Top 50 Coolest Things on the Planet

So what is our fascination with lists?

A list is presented in bullet form so it’s easy to digest. Readers don’t need to trawl though reams of text – the information is there for them to sift through.

I think we like lists because we often don’t agree with the order they’re in – or we feel someone or something else should have made the top spot.

Everyone has an opinion when it comes to a list. Lists provide talk-value – they provoke a reaction which results in debate and conversation.

Written by Harriet

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