There seems to be a lot of strong opinion against publishing list posts on blogs. Over and over again, I read complaints from folks who just don’t like to see lists on blogs.
Yet, over at Freelance Folder where I serve as blog editor, list posts are consistently some of our most popular posts. They tend to get more comments and more page views than other posts.
The complaints against list posts include:
- Too easy to write (sign of a lazy writer)
- Don’t provide the reader with enough information
- Too impersonal
- Not original enough
I’ll address each of these complaints separately, and then describe some of the positive features about list posts.
Too Easy to Write
This complaint fails to take into consideration that there are varying types of lists posts. While it’s true that some list posts are extremely easy to write, others require lots of research.
For example, I could write a short list post on my pet peeves about writing (based entirely on my opinions) fairly quickly. I could probably write a post like this in about a half hour.
However, a resource list post of the best tools for writers can take a great deal of research on my part. For resource posts, I don’t just randomly include the first tools I come across. I have to make sure that they are good tools and, in some cases, I download the tools onto my own machine to test them. I’ve been known to spend an entire day on such posts.
I can’t really end my rebuttal to this complaint without noting that a post isn’t bad just because it is easy to write. A post listing my pet peeves about writing could possibly be quite entertaining, depending on my writing style and tone.
Don’t Provide the Reader with Enough Information
In many ways, this complaint is valid. A resource list post provides less information about a specific tool than a review of that tool. But, reviews of a single tool are often perceived as being biased even when the blogger tries their hardest to be objective.
In addition, a resource list post can be a great starting place for someone who needs it. It gives the reader several options to choose from and they can continue their own research from there.
To this complaint, I would answer… it depends.
When it comes to list posts, writing styles vary from blogger to blogger. Some bloggers do attempt a neutral writing voice, especially when creating a list of resources, because they understandably don’t want to seem biased about a particular product.
Some lists DO lend themselves to incorporating the writer’s personality. Humorous lists (such as the one I described earlier about pet peeves) provide a good example of an instance where a personal voice could easily be incorporated into the writing.
Original ideas on blog posts are relatively rare. (Don’t get me wrong, I’m NOT talking about plagiarism here. Plagiarism is ALWAYS wrong.) What I mean is that if you blog in a relatively crowded niche, many of the big issues (the ones that everybody cares about) have probably already been discussed somewhere else.
However, I don’t think that this means that a blogger shouldn’t discuss these popular topics just because they’ve already been written about. After all, the topics are popular for a reason–that reason being that people care about them. A good blogger can take a common topic, turn it upside down, and make it fresh again by using their unique voice to write about it.
Some Benefits to List Posts
There’s no denying that list posts are popular. One reason that they are popular is that they meet a lot of the criteria that readers look for in a blog post. They can be informative (think resource lists), they can be entertaining (think of my pet peeves example), or even validating (think about a list of common problems).
List posts are also extremely well suited to online writing. From the headline to the bullet points, the average reader can tell at a glance what the post about. In addition, the list format makes a post easy to scan (and if we’re honest, that’s what a lot of us do when we “read” posts anyway). List posts also tend to do well on social media.
Of course, just because I’m defending list posts here, doesn’t mean that I think blogs should post nothing else. Here on WritingThoughts I try to include posts of varying types. I deliberately avoided making this post into a list.
What do you think about list posts? Do you love them or hate them? Explain why in the comments.