Social media listicles descend from 1890s women’s magazines
Social media seems to run on service stories, from “13 Comebacks For The Most Overused Breakup Lines” to “21 Ways To Demonstrate Your Passionate Love For Beer.”
That’s when magazines like McCall’s, Cosmopolitan and Ladies’ Home Journal gained traction for offering recipes, housekeeping tips and health advice to their female readers. Later, the term “refrigerator journalism” would refer to their readers’ practice of clipping out the most useful articles and posting them on their refrigerator doors.
How to Win Friends and Influence People
In 1936, Dale Carnegie’s bestseller How to Win Friends and Influence People demonstrated that giving people information they could use to live their lives better — quickly — could be a big moneymaker. That book kicked the self-help genre into gear.
Thirty years later, Clay Felker founded New York magazine and packed it with reviews, tips and special packages on topics like “The Best Doctors in New York.” That makes him, magazine historians say, the father of modern service journalism.
Taking a tip from magazines, organizations entered the field, adding terms like value-added pieces, brand journalism and, most recently, native advertising to our vocabulary.
News you can use
Today, you can find service journalism in virtually every web and social channel. And it remains a staple of magazines — the medium that invented it — from Advertising Age to U.S. News & World Report. The latter’s slogan, “News You Can Use,” defines the term.
Sources: Susan Shapiro, “7 Secrets to Service Pieces,” Writer’s Digest, September 2009
“Service journalism,” Wikipedia