Why List Posts Are Like Vegas

When it comes to explaining Listly it is always smart to begin with the “why of lists”.

“For some reason our species is drawn to numbered lists”
(Inbound Marketing by B Halligan and D Shah)

People are eternally attracted to the idea of numbered lists. Whether you are reading Cosmopolitan, GQ or your favourite blog,  there’s a 30% chance that the content you are reading is a numbered list.

We get the idea that list posts are rewarding, and we keep going back for more, but why? What is the human motivation story behind the appeal of lists and list posts? What is the psychology of lists? I’ve broken down the motivations into four core reasons:

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Nick Kellet Nick Kellet
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Psychology of Lists

Why do we find it appealing to consume information in the form of numbered lists?

Source: http://blog.list.ly/2013/05/30/why-list-posts-are-like-vegas/

1

Lists are Skimable

May 26, 2013
Psychology of Lists | Lists are Skimable

Lists make a promise to the reader. List posts say this is going to be easy to consume.

When you open a list to read, you expect to be able to skim.

Lists are infosnacks. Lists give us easy to consume soundbites - lists are little gems of knowledge.

We skim lists for 2 reasons

  1. "To prove we are smart"
  2. "To make us smarter"
2

Lists Prove We Are Smart

May 26, 2013
Psychology of Lists | Lists Prove We Are Smart

Who doesn't want to be proved to be smart? It's human nature. We all like to feel good. Being smart is incredibly self-validating.

We only skim lists that speak to our heart space. We explore lists that cover our passions.

We expect to know a lot of the information on lists that we skim. part of the value of skimming is to validate ourselves.

We are defined by our preferences and we are eternally attracted to topics we care about. We also like and connect with other people who like what we like.

Lists help us find people like us.

3

Lists Make us Smarter

May 26, 2013
Psychology of Lists | Lists Make us Smarter

When we skim a list and we know the first 4 items, we are happy - we think we are smart. We know our stuff.

When we come to the fifth item on the list and it is new to us, lists make us smarter. Lists fill in gaps in our knowledge and this is highly rewarding.

Lists give us snippets of news that we can share with friends / connections that share our passions.

Lists provide a quick and effective way to find new cool stuff to share.

Lists make us interesting.

4

Lists Provide Random Reward

May 26, 2013
Psychology of Lists | Lists Provide Random Reward

If every list post was awesome, that would soon get boring.

Some lists are ok, some are good and some are amazing.

The reward that any individual list brings is totally random.

Opening a list is like scratching a lottery ticket. You could win big, but chance are you won't.

This kind of random reward schedule appeals to people.

To this end, lists are perfectly gamified. Lists provide a random reward schedule just like Vegas

They are the basic reasons that 30% of the web’s content is in the form of a list post.

Listly adds a fifth dimension – People love to share what they know. Listly lets people add to and vote directly to lists. We think that is significant. People want to participate.

We don’t want to read alone or write alone. It’s much more fun to collaborate and share what we know.

Analytics have proven to publishers that lists work, we just think they can work harder.

Clearly at Listly we think lists are great, but our goal is to make them awesome.

So that’s the why of Listly.

Lists haven’t changed since the inception of HTML and that’s why Listly exists. Our goal is to enhance one of the most effective forms of content.

We make lists collaborative, shareable and embeddable.

Listly is to lists what Slideshare is to presentations or YouTube to Video.

Unlike Slides and Videos, content on listly keeps evolving over time. We make your content more valuable over time.

Listly’s goal is to bring interaction, participation and engagement to your blog – live inside the content and not just in the comments section. We believe people want to participate as 1st class citizens.

Listly offers Reddit like capabilities to source and aggregate opinion and to build community,  unlike Reddit the engagement happens right inside your blog.

There’s lots of uses for Listly from bookmarking and organizing (on a personal level) to lots of collaborative uses, to help you scale your content marketing efforts.

Here’s a summary:

Collaborative: You can contribute to the list (and help fill in gaps by sharing your knowledge).

Social: You can’t vote and comment on the content directly in the list. Lists connect a community of people who care about a specific topic, passion or area of expertise.

Embeddable: You can embed your lists live inside your blog posts (as can others). Metrics show you how/where your content is consumed.

Shareable: You can share individual items or whole lists. You can share both via Listly and via an embedded list. Items that are shared are highlighted to add context and help people find the precise thing that’s being shared.

Evergreen / Slow Changing: Regular HTML list posts are static – they don’t change. We believe that content can and should evolve over time. This serves equally the publisher and the consumer. It also helps your content get found.

Here’s a slidedeck that catalogs some of the posts on the web that explore why we love and hate lists.

Why do you like to read list posts?
What keeps your curious? Or do you not like lists?
Image Credit: tim_uk via Flickr.com and Creative Commons.

 

 

NIck Kellet (130 Posts)

Nick’s ventures range from a visual segmentation tool sold to SAP, to an award winning board game. Today, Nick is co-founder of Listly, raising the profile of lists to be on par with Slideshare & YouTube.