Five Reasons Why the List Post is Dead

I’ve finally seen the light.

Some of the wiser members of the blogosphere have convinced me…

The list post is dead.

Never mind 100 years of tested headline psychology and the fact that readers skim content online like never before… these list posts have simply got to go. I mean, Jason Calacanis made $25 million off of this type of blog content, and yet even he said on this very blog that his bread and butter methods are a cliché that needs to die.

So, I figured I had better head down to the local news stand and get some inspiration to correct my evil ways.

Let’s see what we have here…

  1. The 25 Greatest Science Books of All Time – Discover
  2. 50 Ways to Cut Your Health-Care Costs – Money
  3. 50+ Essential Hardware Tips – PC World
  4. 56 Ways to Expand Small Spaces – Remodeling and Makeovers
  5. 125 Glorious Gifts: Vogue’s Ultimate Holiday Guide — Vogue


Old media just doesn’t get it.

They must be still stuck in the Stone Age, focusing on silly things like attracting readers, sales, revenue and profits. What a shame.

I mean, come on… the average news stand has maybe 50 to 200 titles max. It’s not like they’re competing against 57 million blogs like we are. 😉

To my fellow Americans, have a Happy Thanksgiving. And to everyone else, what the heck… eat some turkey and skip work. We should all share in the good things, right?

And if you’re traveling, please be safe.

It may not seem like it, but I’m already gone. :)

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Reader Comments (35)

  1. says

    While list posts are effective, I find myself looking for something else, something new, something that doesn’t seem so “needy”.

    They seem to be saying, “Please read me! Please! I promise I’ll only take 2 minutes of your time.”

    Of course, such posts usually condense information to such an extent that you might wonder how worthwhile it really is.

    Maybe we can use the money from the list posts to support use while we look for the next big thing? (SMILE)

  2. says

    List posts aren’t dead. (They’re not even sleeping.)

    But overused, they can be easy to ignore. That’s why there are a ton of ways to craft effective headlines.

    Having said that, I think it’s important to be able to match the right headline format to the right post. (Marvin Hamlisch once said that when he begins to compose a new song, he’ll determine first what the song is NOT and go from there.)

    Happy Holidays all!

  3. says


    I must admit, you completely threw me off by denouncing the value of a list-post in your headline. Needless to say, you did manage to draw me in… once again!

    I don’t understand the push to devalue strategies that WORK.

    Maybe some people genuinely no longer care about “attracting readers, sales, revenue and profits.” Hmm… somehow I don’t buy it!

    Happy Thanksgiving.

  4. says

    One of my favorite types of list is the kind with only 1 item. (Does 1 item even make a list?)

    “The number one way to…”

    “The one thing your dentist doesn’t tell you…”

    “One surefire way to frighten away that rash…”

    I’m just too curious, and I have to know. I suppose that’s why lists will always work.

    Thanks, Brian!

    Happy holidays and safe travels to everyone.

  5. says

    Tomorrows Headline:”Top Ten Reasons why it is difficult to express Sarcasm on the Internet”.


    Happy turkey day! (why do we say that? Do we really think this is a happy day for the turkey?)

  6. says

    That was your best blog post title ever!

    I love it! The title was irresistible. There was no way that I could have not clicked on it.

    Must…. not…. click….
    Dooh… It’s no use! I need to click on it!

  7. says

    Should bullet points be next?
    I hope more & more people stop using them, so mine get more attention :)

    I tried writing my shopping list in prose and it worked out great. Very literary but dang it took me 3 hours to grocery shop.

    Happy Thanksgiving Brian and all readers of Copyblogger.

  8. says

    Let me see if I’ve got this right. You’re using magazines as a model because you’re assuming that it helps sales. Right?

    Uhm… Like newspapers, magazine sales have been steadily declining over the last decade.

    Your assumptions could very well be spot on, but I wouldn’t use magazine sales to support your premise.

  9. says

    Maybe I’ll write a post called –

    ” The Top 5 Reasons Why People Who Have Brains Of Mush Should Not Comment On Things They Know Nothing About ! ”

    – maybe then we’ll see fewer and fewer people bash things about which they know naught.

    They remind me of the losers in the forums that you can tell have an inverse of income versus forum responses.

    You keep preachin’, we’ll keep readin’.

  10. says

    I’m not assuming anything Rick. I know that headlines like that draw attention and readers, based on reams of testing data, not opinion or assumptions (unlike most of the blogosphere).

    This post is just an ironic illustration of fact. Sorry you didn’t enjoy it. :)

  11. says

    Darren, that makes you an Evil Pro, not Pro-Evil – big difference there.

    As the book “5 People You Meet In Heaven” stated (opps, did the author violate something there), strangers are family you haven’t gotten to know better yet – perhaps list posts are so familiar to us that they now seem strange??

    Either way, they sell 5-million books and will continue to capitvate your audience, Brian.


  12. says

    Those who say that list posts are cliches are probably too close to the blogging world and have lost perspective. Most likely, they’ve seen the tricks of the trade too often and falsely assume that the world shares their view.

  13. says

    damn, the headlines really kills! Brian, you got my click, and my thrust, and my readership, and my subscription, and my laugh!

    ..Just afraid that “curiosity kills the cat” will kill me as well (as your headlines really kills!)… 😀

    Really enjoy this post!

  14. says

    Maybe those that think that everything they think is an absolute need to realize that it ain’t all about them.

    Too many people who design their sites think they are their own customer … much to their detriment.

  15. says

    “Uhm… Like newspapers, magazine sales have been steadily declining over the last decade.”


    Don’t you know anything Brian? Human nature has fundamentally changed because the words are on a screen rather than on paper.


    (what was my eariler comment again?)

  16. says

    List Articles are a great formula for creating Series of Posts.

    I like to create Series from lists:
    the typical List Post is your Introduction to the Series; then detail each item in its own follow-up post.

    The List transcends One Article and becomes its own built-in editorial workflow for the Author.

  17. Adam says

    Hi Brian, i always had the feeling, something is missing here.
    Now i realized it’s your site’s favicon. It’s lost somewhere :)

  18. says

    Aanii Brian and Happy Thanksgiving to everyone who celebrates it!

    As a Native American here in the US my cultural upbringing is different than most of the US people out there.

    I was brought up with a different “story” of the Thanksgiving day feast and for us, Native Americans it was never “happy”

    However, our culture makes it a point to say “thank-you” to everyone you know many times a year. To make sure that everyone you know, knows how much you really are thankful that they are a part of your life.

    So in keeping with my lifelong traditions I’d like to thank Brian for letting me know that the List Post Is Dead! Yippe! I say…because now I can use it :-)

    I have made an excellent living using what others have thrown away as no longer useful or too old ( like public domain material etc)

    So I say let them all stop using The List Post and the rest of us can jump in – after a respectful length of time – and grab a piece of the next few billion that will be produced by the “up and comings”

    Oh, that billion would look great in my income statement! How about yours?

    Thanks Brian for your time and generosity with this blog. I have been reading in the background for quite a while now and I must say, your headline today pulled me in out of the shadows. Great work! Great sense of Humor! And Great Job!

    Keep it up I love it!

    Happy holidays to you, your family and everyone here at copyblogger…

  19. says

    I would add that people need to be careful not to project their personal misgivings about blogging tactics onto their readers.

    Be tired of lists all you want, but don’t for a second think that blog readers are in the least.

    This is just like the old argument of long vs. short copy. The people who chime in the most about what they hate the most are the ones who have definitely read way too much of both kinds.

    And they are not customers or remotely close to the target market – yet they can seriously derail your marketing focus of you put too much stake in the jaded, know-it-all crowd.

    Lists work until they don’t. You only need to check your log files to determine what kind of post you should do next.

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