May 24, 2017

Three types of list stories

Choose from definitive, listicle and framework lists

Not all list stories are created equal. BuzzFeed’s Jack Shepherd lists three types of lists for Nieman Lab:

Three types of lists

Wish list The definitive list — all I want for Easter is a date with a girl with nice eyes, or at least one nice eye and a really cool patch; plus eight other things — is just one type of list that Buzzfeed favors. Image by Ian Muttoo

  1. Listicles. “‘109 Cats in Sweaters‘ is literally that,” says Shepherd. “There’s nothing more going on there.”
  2. Definitive lists. Lists like “The 50 Cutest Things that Ever Happened” tend to go viral. “50 Cutest Things,” for example, has garnered 316,000 Facebook “likes” so far. “50 Cute Things”? Not so much.
  3. Framework lists. These lists exist only to structure a narrative. Take, for example, “54 Reasons You Should Go To A Dog Surfing Competition Before You Die.” “That’s just a way of organizing this story that I’m telling about this amazing experience I had watching these dogs surf in San Diego,” Shepherd says.

“A list is just a scaffolding for a story … a way of organizing information,” says Shepherd. “I mean, The Odyssey is 24 chapters. You could call that 24 Chapters About Odysseus. That’s, like, a really great list. Really top notch. Really, really viral. Super viral.” 

Which type of list makes the most sense for your story?

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