List articles – or ‘listicles’, because apparently the internet is too lazy to cope with a whole two words – are everywhere. And no wonder – they seem a sure-fire way of pulling in hits from people who like their arguments chopped up into bite sized pieces. One-time comedy site Cracked effectively built it’s once-reputation on such features, and like everyone else, I was happy enough to read these ultimately trivial time wasters for a while. But enough is enough – now, every click bait site cranks this stuff out with snappy headlines in the hope of grabbing passing eyeballs and satisfying a public urge to be vaguely entertained by empty-headed thought. And so – with our sense of irony fully engaged, thank you very much – here are five reasons why these articles are just the worst, and need to stop.
They are shameless click bait
Against your better judgement, you’ve clicked on ‘Ten things you didn’t know about [insert current pop culture icon here]”. Now, you find that you have to keep on clicking, because despite the fact that web pages are of infinite length, this nonsense has been split up so that each point – none of which is important, and most of which you actually did know – is on a separate page. All the better for those essential page views and advertising revenue, after all, and fuck the convenience of the reader. Articles like this tell you nothing beyond the fact that a website thinks you are a moron and is using you as click fodder to help line its own pockets. Our advice? The moment you are asked to ‘click to go to page 2’, you instead click onto another site, one that doesn’t hold you in complete contempt.
They are dreadful examples of journalism
There are, of course, exceptions to this rule – before you all start pointing them out. But as a generalisation, the sort of website that cranks out endless listicles is probably the sort of website that doesn’t have a lot of concern about the standard of the writing therein. After all, they only want your clicks, and probably bank of the fact that most people will click headlines without checking the source. I’ve read countless list articles that seem to have been fed through Google translate two or three times, so incoherent are they, and others where half-baked ideas or sloppily researched nonsense is trotted out as ‘fact’. If you insist of reading listicles, at least take note of which websites crank out the most illiterate rubbish, remember that name and double-check the next time someone dangles a “six great movies that you’ve never seen” piece in front of you. Don’t reward lazy incompetence, especially from sites that want to pretend to be news sources.
They rarely tell you anything you don’t already know
This, of course, depends on the subject matter and your knowledge of it. But by and large, if you have more than a passing interest in the subject at hand, you won’t learn anything from one of these pieces. Usually, they are not written by people who are obsessively interested in the subject matter, but rather by jobbing hacks who have simply typed ‘celebrity meltdown’ or whatever into a search engine and then picked the first however many that pop up. The amount of new information that you’ll pick up from these pieces is negligible. And that’s because…
They are too short to ever explore the subject at hand properly
Again, there are exceptions. Again, they are rare. Most list articles pack all their reportage into a single paragraph. Many pack it into a single sentence. And a lot don’t even bother with words, instead slapping up photos, video clips and memes. if you are lucky, you’ll get a caption; if you’re not, you have to reply on whatever the original YouTube poster decided to call their clip. There might be some trivial amusement in seeing a bunch of clips of famous people falling over all collated for you so that you don’t have to go to the supreme effort of typing ‘famous people falling over’ into Google, but really, this isn’t even fast food – it’s a half-eaten Twix bar in place of the three-course-meal that you deserve.
It’s all just opinion anyway
Listicles habitually have grand, definitive titles – ‘The Ten Funniest Comedians Ever” or “Six Facts That Prove Someone I Disapprove Of Is Awful”. And the very nature of the list tends to suggest a sense of authority and authenticity. But let’s not be fooled – at best, this is just someone’s opinion, not the last word on the matter, and is entirely based on a subjective viewpoint. At worst, the hack doesn’t even believe what they are writing (because they have no real interest in the subject), and so just crib their opinions from other people. But of course, that’s what click bait is all about – either getting people who agree with you to seek affirmation of their own beliefs, or people who disagree with you to be infuriated by your apparent definitive list of reasons why Donald Trump is Satan Incarnate / the Second Coming. Anything to attract those juicy, juicy clicks. But it’s all nonsense, and all staggeringly insincere.
Listicles are the most insincere, naked form of click bait out there, and should be thoroughly discouraged. We promise to only publish them now and again…