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The 3 Types of Listicles Content Marketers Can Learn from BuzzFeed

Posted on 28th October 2014 , by Kunle Campbell in Content Marketing for eCommerce

There is something about articles formated in a list format that begin with numbers  – people just seem to effortlessly consume, like, read and share them more. Publishing and Media companies have capitalised on the list format for decades, if not the last century. Reader’s Digest, Men’s Health, Cosmopolitan,  and other magazines were publishing ‘list-articles’ way back, before the internet was even around. Even the Bible’s ’10 Commandments’ are a list.

Buzzfeed has proved that the Listicle List-article format works in a digital and mobile context. Which in a way is a testament to the fact  that we (or more specifically millennials) have shorter attention spans, love to skim through articles and like the idea of images or gifs to support key points.

3 Kinds of List Article Formats

3 List Article Types

 

As an online retailer that publishes articles and content,  it is important to understand the 3 primary kinds of BuzzFeed list Article formats as described by BuzzFeed’s Editorial Director, Jack Shepherd:

#1. The Listicle

The first and most basic list article format is the ‘listicle’ which Shepherd refers to as:

the lowest version of the artform. By lowest I don’t mean bad… something that’s literally just an arbitrary grouping of things… [like] 11 Songs We’re Listening To Right Now…Things where there’s no narrative that’s driving it.

32_Cool_And_Colorful_Tattoos_That_Will_Inspire_You_To_Get_Inked

It is simply a list and nothing more. In the case of Buzzfeed, their Listicles use images with a sprinkle of humor or inspiration to capture and retain the attention of readers all through the article, like these examples:

#2. The Definitive List

This list article format digs a little further by providing exhaustive coverage on a specific topic. As compared to the listicle format, a Definitive list article will take a lot more time to research with the number of points tending to be double digits and most likely rounded numbers like 20, 30, or even 50.

The_100_Most_Important_Cat_Pictures_Of_All_Time

 

These list tend to go viral on Buzzfeed, with examples like:

#3. The Framework List

The Framework list which is BuzzFeed’s most important kind of list-article format organises a list around a specific story or narrative in a way that the list number merely organises and adds structure to the story. In this case, an interesting noteworthy story is thought-out first and then a list is extrapolated from the story. The list length has to do more with the key points in the story rather than second-guessing the ideal list number. 

37_Things_You’ll_Regret_When_You’re_Old

They tend to be the most successful list article format on BuzzFeed; I also noticed that most Framework List articles address the reader in second person singular i.e. ‘You’ in their titles in a way that you feel spoken to by a friend or acquaintance. Here are examples of Framework list articles on BuzzFeed:

Does Length Matter?

Research from data scientist, Gilad Lotan points to suggest odd-length Buzzfeed listicles perform better than even ones; and that 29 seems to be the winning number for the length of your list articles.

In_Search_for_the_Optimal_Length_of_a_Buzzfeed_Listicle

Gilad’s company – Betaworks, analysed 10,000 published BuzzFeed listicles (see the listogram above) over a period of three months and found a statistically significant difference in the performance of odd-length listicles compared to even ones. Their key findings were:

  1. 10-length listicles were the most popular because BuzzFeed sells the 10-length listicle to partner brands like Starbucks, Nordstrom and Topman
  2. 11-21 length articles are far more popular than under 10-length articles
  3. The most popular lengths after 10 was 15 and then 12
  4. Odd-number length listicles highlighted in red below had significantly higher engagement  compared to even number with 29 garnering the highest engagement.

oddnumbers-engagment-29_Buzzfeed_Listicle

I will say that specific numbers do not necessarily matter but double digits and odd numbers seem to be attention grabbers. Buzzfeed’s most important list-article format – the framework list,  uses arbitrary lengths with focus on the core story.

Application to Content Marketing and Online Retail

So how can BuzzFeed’s article list formats be applied to eCommerce? Here are real-life examples from e-tailers utilizing each list to provide some inspiration:

#1. The Listicle in eCommerce

When writing Listicles articles in the context of eCommerce, the articles should be image driven and easy to put together ideas. Remember that image curation is key with the listicle format and that each point on the list should link to a product page with all the information required. Here are examples of Listicles from Kiddicare, Huckberry, Bonobos and Zappos.

Kiddicare: Favourite 5 lightweight pushchairs

Favourite_5_lightweight_pushchairs_-_The_Handy_Bump__Baby___You_Guide

 

This is a simple listicle article about lightweight pushchairs by UK baby product retailers: the descriptions are quick and brief with the all too necessary images to go. 5 is not a great number but might work if their range of products are limited:

 

Huckberry Clothing Weekly Pocket Dump Series

Weekly_Pocket_Dump__2014_10_08___Huckberry

Men’s clothing retailer Huckberry – run a weekly pocket dump series that fits into a listicle format. They curate photos of  their favorite men’s products in collaboration with the Everyday Carry  blog and link to each curated item. Regardless of whether the sell the item or not, they’ll boldly place a link to where each item can be purchased.  This is a perfect eCommerce listicle example.

Bonobos X Dads Father’s Day Gift Guide

Bonobos_x_Dads_Father_s_Day_Gift_Guide__

This Father’s Day gift guide by men’s fashion retailer – Bonobos is a great example of an eCommerce Listicle.  There is a lookbook photo with reference links that take visitors to where each item can be purchased on the Bonobos site. I do still prefer the transparency of Huckberry, who would link to competitors.

Zappos: Black and White Dresses Ideas Listicle Article

This is a look book listicle format blog post consisting of photographs of black and white dress ideas, all of which can be found on Zappos.com. There is a handy list of links to the product pages of each of the dresses for their customers to reference.

Black & White Dresses | blogs.zappos.com 2014-10-28 13-09-58

 

John Lewis: Top 5 Ovens

Top_5_ovens

A curated list of John Lewis’ top 5 ovens with brief descriptions and links to their product pages. Note that this does not sits in their ‘Inspiration and Advice‘ section which is their synonym for a blog.

#2. The Definitive List in eCommerce

The definitive list requires a bit more research and digging. Each point on the list should wherever possible showcase a supporting image. Content does not necessarily need to tie in with your product pages. They could tie in with concepts and experiences related to your brand and products. Think like a publisher when coming up with definitive lists. Here are examples from Netflix, Bonobos and John Lewis.

Ebuyer: 10 Netflix Comedies and Dramas

Top_10_Netflix_UK_Dramas_and_Comedies___Ebuyer_Blog

 

Ebuyer do good job with this definitive list of top Netflix Dramas and Comedies. Although it could do a bit more images, a bit of research went into putting the list together with a decent amount of supporting text for each show on their list.

Bonobos: All-Season 8 Series

All-Season_8__The_Places_Every_Guy_Should_Visit_—_EQUATEUR

Bonobos do an excellent job in this definitive guide about places every guy should visit. It is part of their “All-Season 8” series in their Equateur online magazine. This is another “All-Season 8” guide: The Food Every Guy Should Know How to Cook.

John Lewis: 3 Ways to Make the Most out of your Suit 

Tailored_intelligence

This men’s fashion guide serves as a definitive guide to help men make the most out of the use of an expensive suit jacket in 3 different occassions. There is some narrative for each occasion, along with links to product pages for items mentioned.

#3. The Framework List in eCommerce

Given that the Framework list format tends to be BuzzFeed’s most important kind of list-article, eCommerce content marketers should pay special attention to its construct.

The core principle is that you address your readers in your headline in 2nd person singular and that centre your list around a narrative or solution to a problem in a way that the final number you arrive at only adds structure to the core message.

Here are a number of examples from Menswear retailers, Indochino, Asics and

Asics: 10 Ways to Manage Race Day Panic

This is example from Asics address race day anxiety common amongst runners. Reading the article, you feel spoken to by a coach or by a fellow runner. If it was to be written by BuzzFeed, expect to see humorous and inspirational photos accompany each point.

RACE_DAY_TIPS_-_10_WAYS_TO_MANAGE_RACE_DAY_PANIC___asics_co_uk

Indochino: 5 Steps to a Masculine Home

This example is from Indochino, a menswear retailer that speaks to it’s audience as to how they can create a masculine living space. Each of the 5 steps has a full bodied description as well as  supporting photographs. It reads as quite a serious piece.

5_steps_to_a_masculine_home___Indochino_Blog

Not On the High Street: 10 Ways to Transform Your Tree

This example from NotOntheHighStreet.com addresses alternative decoration of Christmas trees. It is very visual but the image captions could do with being bolder looking sub-headings.

10_WAYS_TO_TRANSFORM_YOUR_TREE___notonthehighstreet_blog

BuzzFeed Partner, eBay: 10 Futuristic Gadgets You Can Buy on eBay

My final example is directly from BuzzFeed’s Brand Partners – although it is not a Framework List post, it is worth noting that most Brand Partner posts created by BuzzFeed for brands are in the form of the Listicles format.

10_Futuristic_Gadgets_You_Can_Buy_On_eBay

 

Your Turn

I hope this guide inspires your content marketing efforts for your online retail business.

Do you have any questions or any additional tips to share? If yes, please leave them in the comments below.

About the author:

Kunle Campbell

An ecommerce advisor to ambitious, agile online retailers and funded ecommerce startups seeking exponentially sales growth through scalable customer acquisition, retention, conversion optimisation, product/market fit optimisation and customer referrals.

Did You Enjoy Reading this Article?

Get Free Email Updates by Signing Up Below:

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The 3 Types of Listicles Content Marketers Can Learn from BuzzFeed

Posted on 28th October 2014 , by Kunle Campbell in Content Marketing for eCommerce

There is something about articles formated in a list format that begin with numbers  – people just seem to effortlessly consume, like, read and share them more. Publishing and Media companies have capitalised on the list format for decades, if not the last century. Reader’s Digest, Men’s Health, Cosmopolitan,  and other magazines were publishing ‘list-articles’ way back, before the internet was even around. Even the Bible’s ’10 Commandments’ are a list.

Buzzfeed has proved that the Listicle List-article format works in a digital and mobile context. Which in a way is a testament to the fact  that we (or more specifically millennials) have shorter attention spans, love to skim through articles and like the idea of images or gifs to support key points.

3 Kinds of List Article Formats

3 List Article Types

 

As an online retailer that publishes articles and content,  it is important to understand the 3 primary kinds of BuzzFeed list Article formats as described by BuzzFeed’s Editorial Director, Jack Shepherd:

#1. The Listicle

The first and most basic list article format is the ‘listicle’ which Shepherd refers to as:

the lowest version of the artform. By lowest I don’t mean bad… something that’s literally just an arbitrary grouping of things… [like] 11 Songs We’re Listening To Right Now…Things where there’s no narrative that’s driving it.

32_Cool_And_Colorful_Tattoos_That_Will_Inspire_You_To_Get_Inked

It is simply a list and nothing more. In the case of Buzzfeed, their Listicles use images with a sprinkle of humor or inspiration to capture and retain the attention of readers all through the article, like these examples:

#2. The Definitive List

This list article format digs a little further by providing exhaustive coverage on a specific topic. As compared to the listicle format, a Definitive list article will take a lot more time to research with the number of points tending to be double digits and most likely rounded numbers like 20, 30, or even 50.

The_100_Most_Important_Cat_Pictures_Of_All_Time

 

These list tend to go viral on Buzzfeed, with examples like:

#3. The Framework List

The Framework list which is BuzzFeed’s most important kind of list-article format organises a list around a specific story or narrative in a way that the list number merely organises and adds structure to the story. In this case, an interesting noteworthy story is thought-out first and then a list is extrapolated from the story. The list length has to do more with the key points in the story rather than second-guessing the ideal list number. 

37_Things_You’ll_Regret_When_You’re_Old

They tend to be the most successful list article format on BuzzFeed; I also noticed that most Framework List articles address the reader in second person singular i.e. ‘You’ in their titles in a way that you feel spoken to by a friend or acquaintance. Here are examples of Framework list articles on BuzzFeed:

Does Length Matter?

Research from data scientist, Gilad Lotan points to suggest odd-length Buzzfeed listicles perform better than even ones; and that 29 seems to be the winning number for the length of your list articles.

In_Search_for_the_Optimal_Length_of_a_Buzzfeed_Listicle

Gilad’s company – Betaworks, analysed 10,000 published BuzzFeed listicles (see the listogram above) over a period of three months and found a statistically significant difference in the performance of odd-length listicles compared to even ones. Their key findings were:

  1. 10-length listicles were the most popular because BuzzFeed sells the 10-length listicle to partner brands like Starbucks, Nordstrom and Topman
  2. 11-21 length articles are far more popular than under 10-length articles
  3. The most popular lengths after 10 was 15 and then 12
  4. Odd-number length listicles highlighted in red below had significantly higher engagement  compared to even number with 29 garnering the highest engagement.

oddnumbers-engagment-29_Buzzfeed_Listicle

I will say that specific numbers do not necessarily matter but double digits and odd numbers seem to be attention grabbers. Buzzfeed’s most important list-article format – the framework list,  uses arbitrary lengths with focus on the core story.

Application to Content Marketing and Online Retail

So how can BuzzFeed’s article list formats be applied to eCommerce? Here are real-life examples from e-tailers utilizing each list to provide some inspiration:

#1. The Listicle in eCommerce

When writing Listicles articles in the context of eCommerce, the articles should be image driven and easy to put together ideas. Remember that image curation is key with the listicle format and that each point on the list should link to a product page with all the information required. Here are examples of Listicles from Kiddicare, Huckberry, Bonobos and Zappos.

Kiddicare: Favourite 5 lightweight pushchairs

Favourite_5_lightweight_pushchairs_-_The_Handy_Bump__Baby___You_Guide

 

This is a simple listicle article about lightweight pushchairs by UK baby product retailers: the descriptions are quick and brief with the all too necessary images to go. 5 is not a great number but might work if their range of products are limited:

 

Huckberry Clothing Weekly Pocket Dump Series

Weekly_Pocket_Dump__2014_10_08___Huckberry

Men’s clothing retailer Huckberry – run a weekly pocket dump series that fits into a listicle format. They curate photos of  their favorite men’s products in collaboration with the Everyday Carry  blog and link to each curated item. Regardless of whether the sell the item or not, they’ll boldly place a link to where each item can be purchased.  This is a perfect eCommerce listicle example.

Bonobos X Dads Father’s Day Gift Guide

Bonobos_x_Dads_Father_s_Day_Gift_Guide__

This Father’s Day gift guide by men’s fashion retailer – Bonobos is a great example of an eCommerce Listicle.  There is a lookbook photo with reference links that take visitors to where each item can be purchased on the Bonobos site. I do still prefer the transparency of Huckberry, who would link to competitors.

Zappos: Black and White Dresses Ideas Listicle Article

This is a look book listicle format blog post consisting of photographs of black and white dress ideas, all of which can be found on Zappos.com. There is a handy list of links to the product pages of each of the dresses for their customers to reference.

Black & White Dresses | blogs.zappos.com 2014-10-28 13-09-58

 

John Lewis: Top 5 Ovens

Top_5_ovens

A curated list of John Lewis’ top 5 ovens with brief descriptions and links to their product pages. Note that this does not sits in their ‘Inspiration and Advice‘ section which is their synonym for a blog.

#2. The Definitive List in eCommerce

The definitive list requires a bit more research and digging. Each point on the list should wherever possible showcase a supporting image. Content does not necessarily need to tie in with your product pages. They could tie in with concepts and experiences related to your brand and products. Think like a publisher when coming up with definitive lists. Here are examples from Netflix, Bonobos and John Lewis.

Ebuyer: 10 Netflix Comedies and Dramas

Top_10_Netflix_UK_Dramas_and_Comedies___Ebuyer_Blog

 

Ebuyer do good job with this definitive list of top Netflix Dramas and Comedies. Although it could do a bit more images, a bit of research went into putting the list together with a decent amount of supporting text for each show on their list.

Bonobos: All-Season 8 Series

All-Season_8__The_Places_Every_Guy_Should_Visit_—_EQUATEUR

Bonobos do an excellent job in this definitive guide about places every guy should visit. It is part of their “All-Season 8” series in their Equateur online magazine. This is another “All-Season 8” guide: The Food Every Guy Should Know How to Cook.

John Lewis: 3 Ways to Make the Most out of your Suit 

Tailored_intelligence

This men’s fashion guide serves as a definitive guide to help men make the most out of the use of an expensive suit jacket in 3 different occassions. There is some narrative for each occasion, along with links to product pages for items mentioned.

#3. The Framework List in eCommerce

Given that the Framework list format tends to be BuzzFeed’s most important kind of list-article, eCommerce content marketers should pay special attention to its construct.

The core principle is that you address your readers in your headline in 2nd person singular and that centre your list around a narrative or solution to a problem in a way that the final number you arrive at only adds structure to the core message.

Here are a number of examples from Menswear retailers, Indochino, Asics and

Asics: 10 Ways to Manage Race Day Panic

This is example from Asics address race day anxiety common amongst runners. Reading the article, you feel spoken to by a coach or by a fellow runner. If it was to be written by BuzzFeed, expect to see humorous and inspirational photos accompany each point.

RACE_DAY_TIPS_-_10_WAYS_TO_MANAGE_RACE_DAY_PANIC___asics_co_uk

Indochino: 5 Steps to a Masculine Home

This example is from Indochino, a menswear retailer that speaks to it’s audience as to how they can create a masculine living space. Each of the 5 steps has a full bodied description as well as  supporting photographs. It reads as quite a serious piece.

5_steps_to_a_masculine_home___Indochino_Blog

Not On the High Street: 10 Ways to Transform Your Tree

This example from NotOntheHighStreet.com addresses alternative decoration of Christmas trees. It is very visual but the image captions could do with being bolder looking sub-headings.

10_WAYS_TO_TRANSFORM_YOUR_TREE___notonthehighstreet_blog

BuzzFeed Partner, eBay: 10 Futuristic Gadgets You Can Buy on eBay

My final example is directly from BuzzFeed’s Brand Partners – although it is not a Framework List post, it is worth noting that most Brand Partner posts created by BuzzFeed for brands are in the form of the Listicles format.

10_Futuristic_Gadgets_You_Can_Buy_On_eBay

 

Your Turn

I hope this guide inspires your content marketing efforts for your online retail business.

Do you have any questions or any additional tips to share? If yes, please leave them in the comments below.

About the author:

Kunle Campbell

An ecommerce advisor to ambitious, agile online retailers and funded ecommerce startups seeking exponentially sales growth through scalable customer acquisition, retention, conversion optimisation, product/market fit optimisation and customer referrals.

Did You Enjoy Reading this Article?

Get Free Email Updates by Signing Up Below:

eCommerce Marketing Growth Hacks 

UPCOMING WEBINAR:
March 8th 4:00pm GMT / 11:00am EST
with Stoimen
Vesselinov

Retention Marketing for Ecommerce - Driving Repeat Customers

Register now

2X eCommerce Podcast

Kunle interviews Founders of Fast Growing 7-8 Figure Online Retail Business & E-commerce Marketing Experts

View podcasts

Download your free ebook

More

The eCommerce Marketing Blueprint