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!)

starlight revue
I could find a pertinent picture but I liked this Starlight Revue cap

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!

anime train
on track….

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.

monster girls
everything she says sounds smart

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.

anime binoculars
that hairclip drives me crazy

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.

anime hug girls
I guess I’m just going to put cute girl pics when I can’t find relevant ones

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…

cat pyjamas

38 thoughts

  1. Hey Irina.
    So I’ve been following you for a while now (about a year or so) and I really like your blog and content and I’ve been meaning to ask you a few things if it’s ok.

    You post everyday, in fact sometimes I can’t keep up and read all your daily posts, how do you stay motivated to do that?
    Another question, I’ve recently gotten out of a long slump of mine and started to finally post frequently on my blog. I wanted to ask for the future, How can I get more attention/popularity for mine?
    Perhaps I should try to improve the content? or Would shorter more frequent posts be best?

    1. Frequent (but not too frequent) and most importantly consistent posts seem to work best but it does take a while to build up an audience no matter what. As for motivated, I’m just a touch OCD. For me a writting schedule works really well.
      Nice to hear from you G. Thank you so much for taking the time to comment

      1. I’ll try that. As for not posting too frequently then that’s not really a problem, I always take extra time to double check my writing since english isn’t my first language (no matter how many years you spend studying a second language there’s always a few doubts).
        I’ll try making a writing schedule for myself though adhering to it is another issue which I hope I’ll be able to handle.

        Thank you.

  2. “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. ”

    For the first couple years on my blog, I tended to not even read lists for that reason. Then, I remembered that taking other people’s word for stuff like that was a bad idea, so I started reading the lists anibloggers produced.

    Like DerekL said, “Most anime bloggers are out to generate discussion.”

    I’ve read a lot of lists that were not only fun to read, they got me to thinking. They started conversations. They helped me see things from another perspective.

    That’s kinda the point, isn’t it?

    And, yes, lists can help drive clicks to your site. But only good content can engage those folks once they hit your site.

    Not that you need it, but I heartily endorse your 5 Reason Anime Top Lists Are Good Content!

  3. That’s a good list. I’ve only made two of them so far even though only one was anime related. It was fun and I want to try it and be creative with the lists.

      1. Thanks. Did you check out the ones I did post a while ago? They were the Top 7 musicians who should score films and Top 7 underrated anime villains respectively.

  4. I think WatchMojo had a hand in making Top 10 lists casual, shallow fare. As someone who used to watch the channel quite a bit, there was a constant lack of detail and compassion for it, as the channel is literally posting the results of polls voted on by the public and announcing results with short summaries on said things. There came a point where it just became a popularity contest and didn’t provide any mental effort, and has since become the butt of many jokes.

    I think it’s not so much top lists themselves, but how easy it is to take advantage of them. Anyone can look up a stat sheet for, say, football and look at the quarterbacks with the best statistical ratings and rank them top 10 according to that. Such little effort makes people feel ripped off, so it’s become more of a stigma due to the rising popularity of top lists in the mainstream.

    1. True, mind you I often enjoy personal essay posts that don’t require any research at all but are well written

  5. I’ve always meant to do more lists as a fun break from my usual posts. But I’ve only gotten as far as putting making lists on my to-do list…

  6. I love lists and they’re a lot of fun. They also really help me out when I’m feeling a rut or blogging blocks, as you said it helps you focus. I’ve noticed I prefer the sillier and more creative lists with otaku stuff, at least with reading them. When it comes to writing them, I’m not great at thinking of very unique ones but it’s still fun.

  7. Awww. All I have to say is that I’m a natural list lover. I love creating them, and I love reading them. Lists are fun.

  8. Listicles? I wouldn’t want to be kicked there.

    I *love* your sprawling all-over-the-place posts. A post is often like visiting Europe. You can adhere to a strict schedule and route and check off your boxes and meet all your objectives. Or you can wander wherever your wanderlust takes you and enjoy every place you visit for as long as you want to.You may not tick off as many places from your :too be visited” list but you will learn more and enjoy it more.

  9. Pete is spot on with regards to Buzzfeed and it’s numerous imitators… But there’s a key difference – those lists are meant to generate clicks. Most anime bloggers are out to generate discussion.

    You only have to look at the discussion generated on the lists Karandi regularly posts to see that the blanket claim “top lists are bad” is unmitigated bull.

  10. I personally don’t like “top” when they claim it like it’s an end-all, be-all.

    Like Pete said, I prefer lists that are clearly opinionated from the get go. The voice of the writer is much better heard through that avenue.

    1. If you actually want to write a good list – it takes a lot of effort. At least for me

  11. I do like a list, but I always struggle to write them. I can spend hours trying to figure out which is better than which, only to completely change my mind five minutes later or remember something I forgot to add and have to start all over again.

  12. The simple reason that top lists are seen as somehow “inferior” is almost entirely due to Buzzfeed and its numerous imitators. The list articles on those sites are the epitome of the low-effort listicle, tending to consist almost entirely of photographs, memes and artwork that other people produced, with the writer’s entire contribution tending to be the occasional pithy comment or title for each image.

    Unfortunately, since Buzzfeed et al established that format so early on in the age of clickbait, that tends to be the default that people assume when they see a “Top [x] [y]s in [z]” sort of article — often unfairly, as you point out.

    List articles can be a good way to structure content; as you correctly note above though, it’s important to acknowledge that they are entirely subjective and thus any time you put the word “Top” or “Best” in there makes some people bristle a bit, because your “best” may not be their “best”.

    This tends to be why on the few occasions I’ve done list articles, I tend to express them as “My 15 favourite…”, “37 cool…” or “9 reasons why”; something a bit more personal than the implications of the writer being the final arbiter of all content that “Top” and “Best” can carry. (Arbitrarily-chosen numbers are fun, too; break out of the expected 5/10 structure once in a while and people will often pay attention for novelty value!)

Leave me a comment and make my day!