In Defence of the Listicle - Alastair Luke, MCE Public Relations

In Defence of the ‘Listicle’

Alastair Luke Blog

I have always hated listicles.  Click-bait headlines that your brain just won’t let you pass by, usually leading to a webpage with more ads than worthwhile content. At that, what I might call ‘worthwhile content’ is actually a list of celebrities who have lost so much weight you wouldn’t believe it, or child stars who have grown up to be ugly/stunning/rich/poor/tattooed (delete as appropriate).

Psychologically, we love lists.  They provide us with just the right balance of information and intrigue to make us click. If I counted them up I’d be ashamed at the number of these I’ve clicked and seen all the way through to number 12 – which, of course, promised to blow my mind.

It’s not information presented in list form that I hate, it’s simply that I feel compelled to click them and generally regret it afterwards.

Last week the PRCA held its Northern Ireland conference on Communicating in the Digital Age where Morgane Campioni, head of digital at the Belfast Telegraph, set the wheels in motion for this blog.

Digital communications is a different beast from traditional public relations.  Morgane reported how 64% of the Belfast Telegraph’s online readers are viewing on mobile.

Many people don’t just sit down to read a newspaper anymore, they browse the web, their notifications, news apps and social network for short bites of information that can pass their ever dwindling spare time.

Commuters sitting on the bus or train don’t necessarily have time for a long-form article.  Those standing in a queue have just enough time for a quick blast of content to see them through the 20 seconds of boredom before the checkout guy apologises for the wait.

In catering to this on-the-move audience they have found that reformatting more traditional news articles produces much higher readership figures.

She spoke on the format of traditional sport coverage.  In truth, online readers don’t need or want to know who kicked the ball where on a Saturday afternoon at The Oval, but they do want to know what the impact of the result was.  ‘Five things we learned from the Irish League’ has quickly become a viable format for football coverage.

Yes, of course the content is subjective, but the format unquestionably draws in busy readers and provides them with just enough information before they get on with the rest of their day.  So as PR professionals, we have found new ways to format our clients’ information. As with any format, the key to success is in the quality.

Good journalists and PR professionals can certainly deliver well written, highly informative and – importantly – easily digested listicles produced for the digital audience.  Doing so is without doubt unlocking a few doors to digital news platforms and helping us to reach a new audience with a fresh format.

So, yes, clickbait listicles will continue to lure me in to find out which five celebrities have give birth to twins this week, but the quality journalists and PR professionals of the world will be looking for clever ways to squeeze quality news into the ever-shortening gaps of spare time we all have.

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