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List features: The Journalist Get out of Jail Free Card. Every journalist one time or another has opted out of writing an in-depth analysis of the ethical, cultural and political structure of videogames’ overpowering hold on the youth of today, in favour of writing the top ten reasons why Lara Crofts’ boobs were better in the old days… because that’s what generates the hits. So: in the spirit of that, here’s our list of the top five reasons why list features are terrible.
Writing is difficult. Trying to quantify and organise a list into some arbitrary numerical series isn’t so much a calculated thought as it is a personal take on the matter. Why is it that in a list about the 10 Most Disgusting Way to Die In Gaming is getting hit by an automobile in Frogger worse than having your body ripped apart in Pac-Man? I don’t know – and I wrote the list. You see, at the time of writing, it seemed perfectly logical that getting hit by a bus was more disgusting than Pac-Man’s body face thing being teared apart as Frogger’s death is more graphic. However, looking back, maybe I was wrong as having your jaw pulled clean of your face sounds a hell of a lot worse than a hit and run. I have no clue, and reading other list articles you can see the same stubborn problem refusing to go away.
With a normal article, there is never really more than say one or two points that the author will backup with research as well as their own experiences. This is something that is scarce to find in list features. When I was writing for a predominantly list based website, I was repeatedly edited for quote: “putting my opinion in my work.” Lists aren’t meant to contain any form of personal estimation of the material, and are merely there to judge from one value to the next, which – as explained above – doesn’t work when author is an apathetic twat.
Pick absolutely anything you want, anything your little mind can muster up. Create five, ten or even fifty reasons why videogame dogs were better in 8-bit and discover how simple it is to reel off point after nonsensical point. The content for each point only has to be a paragraph or two anyway, so if you’re finding it far too difficult back up your point; just ramble some irrational drivel to fill each word. Even now, I’m merely pressing keys to make the letters dance on my monitor, in a desperate attempt to fill out this paragraph. Dance my pretties dance!
Even with this article – after performing a quick internet search – I found five of what I’d called decent articles on the subject of why list features are awful. Repetition is something that we have the internet to thank. Any average Joe with a half decent connection and a loose grasp of the English language can now create a Blog in seconds and write a list on whatever they fancy. Now take into account that there are literally hundreds of thousands of blogs and websites out there, you’re going to find it rather challenging to create a list on something that has never been done. Even if you create what you think is an original list, I guarantee that a large percentage of your points are going to overlap with someone else’s.
So what do you do? How do you create something completely original that will make you stand out among the hordes of other writers? Well isn’t that the question of the day?
I don’t want to sound like a smelly, free-lovein’ hippie, but lists – in my experience – are predominately designed to drive up traffic. When you break it down, everything in a business is designed to increase audience views or purchases and there’s nothing wrong with that. However, the reason entertainment websites – such as videogame sites – love list features is because it’s a quick simple way to not only drive traffic to your website, but has amazing SEO. SEO or search engine optimisation is basically how ‘visible’ your website or page is when searched through a search engine such as Google – or if you work at Microsoft, Bing. This means when someone searches the top ten reasons why 8-bit games are better than HD ones, the search engine is basically scanning every article online – using an algorithm – to find the most applicable results. Thus, companies follow various steps to ensure that their content has the top spot on these search engines.
So: why are list features great for SEO? Well, search engines look for key information such as words, the title of the article, number of links and content traffic on the website. List features use quite a few titles as each point on the list needs a header of what it is. Lists also contain a large number of links such as videos or pictures as it’s far simpler to add a picture or video than actually write. Lastly, list features are incredibly easy to create, edit and publish in a small space of time and therefore, content traffic is rather high.
I’m not going to act like I’m above everyone riding my golden high horse to the promise land because if I do read a list feature, sometimes I skip to the end – don’t pretend like you don’t do the same thing Ben. This is precisely why I have kept this mock list at five because most of the people who click on this article – even before they’ve read a single word – will most likely ‘bounce’ from this site, back into the world of the internet. Farhad Manjoo from Slate.com explains this phenomenon in his article entitled: You Won’t Finish This Article, so have a read of that if you want the nuts and bolts of human attention span online.
Readers are fucking lazy, actually, they’re almost as bone-idle as the writers themselves. Readers don’t want to wade through the maze of messy human opinions in favour of just finding out the answer as quick as possible. The internet has truly destroyed our attention span to read anything above 500 words, so in the spirit of that fact. Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah I hate white people. La la la la la la.