Do I sound salty with that title? I’m not, for once! But I would like to randomly defend the top list format. You see, I only started doing regular top lists about a year into my blogging journey. This is because, when I started out, I read a bunch of articles on how top lists or listicles were a pox on editorial and journalistic content, especially when it comes to anime. I read a post that literally said: if you’re an anime blog and you post top lists, you are what is wrong with the medium… It stuck with me…
It seems that top lists had developed something of a bad reputation and were generally held as junk posts. The common arguments being that they were devoid of thought, entirely subjective and conveyed no useful information. I think I just found my new tag line! But after doing this whole blogging thingie for a minute, I’ve come to realize certain things I did not know back then. Namely, these 5 great reasons that top 5/10 anime lists are good content.
(This post applies to any top list really but you know I needed to throw anime in there somewhere. I have a lane!)
5) Format doesn’t dictate content
Just because a post is in list form does not mean it will be shallow. You can express the same ideas and ask the same prodding questions even when your paragraphs are numbered. Sure, some writers do take list posts as an excuse to put out low effort material but others will create brilliant and thorough essays really examining the core of their theme.
It seems as if people have made some harsh associations with the presentation and are less willing to give the content a fair chance. Kind of like with anime itself. Huh, huh!!! Brought it back! I am so proud!
4) They keep you on topic
For those of you who have ever had the misfortune to fall on one of my less organized essays, you know the pain of trying to follow a post that’s going all over the place. Keeping track of your thesis and organizing your thoughts on paper is not always easy.
Putting down main points to then flesh out and elaborate on is a fantastic way to keep yourself on track. You can use subheaders in the same way. They look fancier but at the end of the day, still a list of points you want to discuss.
I have used lists in that way when tackling subjects I found more complex or had a lot of different thoughts on, and to me, it was a helpful structuring tool. I also think it’s a clearer way to get your point across since you can simply spell it out before going into details. The only downside is that people tend to take lists less seriously.
3) People take lists less seriously
One of the downsides of public discourse on the internet is that the potent mix of instant gratification and anonymity makes people prone to overreaction. Perfectly reasonable folks find themselves fuming at a fairly neutral review for a show they just kinda liked and comment accordingly. It’s very easy for conversations to completely derail very quickly. Or be ignored.
Top lists have a calming effect. In general, the understanding that these types of articles are always subjective takes the edge off. Of course, you can still come across an angry reader or just plain troll, but it seems much less frequent. And this lighthearted nature is also less intimidating for commentators to leave their thoughts since they also benefit from this understanding of subjectivity.
This creates a comfort zone that can encourage authors to be more open or frank than they normally would. It lightens the interactions with readers which can encourage discourse? There is a lot of merit in lowering stakes.
2) Lists get views
Of course, I don’t mean popularity is a measure of quality. I have not hit my head lately. But popularity isn’t a deterrent to quality. What’s more, if for whatever reason the blogger is concerned with views (for instance if they have a financial stake in their posts), then picking a format that inherently likely to draw in readers frees them up to tackle content they would not consider otherwise viable.
There are very good reasons top lists do so well. The human brain craves patterns. Organizing data into recognizable and reusable blocks is the only way we survive the enormous waves of information incessantly thrown at our senses. So lists are both attractive and comforting to our brains on a basic level. A simple escalating chain. How to meet and orderly. I can feel my neurons relaxing.
Not only that but since our brains also crave “resolve”, readers are much more likely to scan through an entire top list post just to see who’s number one, even if they aren’t particularly interested in the subject.
1) I like lists
Of course, I would keep the most important argument as number 1!
Since I’ve started regularly putting together these lists I’ve come to really appreciate them in a different light. Because I really enjoy writing them. I’ll admit, they are actually some of my most challenging posts. I often find my month completely filled with scheduled posts except for Fridays because I couldn’t just write a top 5 post off the top of my head. Despite this (or maybe because if it), some of my favourite posts have been top lists and I tend to like them just a bit more on average.
I figure that shows through.
There’s something inherently joyful in top lists. They’re a little childish in the best way and authors take them as an excuse to play! I’ve even read bitter sarcastic top lists and they still come off as happier than the equivalent essays. Maybe I’m just projecting but I think other bloggers have fun putting lists together as well and that’s what I m seeing.
For at least these 5 reasons I think that top lists are just as valid as any other post format. Tell me, does the top list bias still exist? Have you come across it? Do you think top lists are lesser content? Maybe I forgot a reason why top lists are the cat’s pyjamas. I always wanted to use that expression. No idea what it means…