Skip to content
Oct 17 / King Kaufman

Buzzfeed editor: Lists have been a hit since the 10 Commandments

Buzzfeed editorial director Jack Shepherd talked to the journalism site 10,000 Words about list articles this week. This is a little bit dog bites man but here’s the news: He’s in favor of them.

In Why Listicles Are Here to Stay, Shepherd says that lists have been a staple of publishing since long before the web, and he doesn’t just mean the old “25 Ways to Make a Can of Tuna Last All Summer” pieces in women’s mags: “Lists have been around since the 10 Commandments,” he says. “It’s a very natural way for people to organize information.”

Putting aside the ugly word “listicles” which he says he doesn’t like, Shepherd points out that lists are nothing more than a format:

At their best, lists are just scaffolding for stories: The list format grabs the attention because it’s an easy way for people to process information and for readers to know what they’re getting, but that’s not even close to half the battle. A great list that people share everywhere has to be an experience.

This is also true of the subset of lists that are in the slideshow format. Any “scaffolding,” any format, can be used for good or ill. The important question for any writer to ask about every story is: What is the best format to for me to say what I want to say in this piece?

  • Jeffrey A. Ruth

    Thanks for a fun and informative read. Lists have been a great way for
    me to break into my writing career here at B/R. The fans seem to really
    get into them and have much to say, as well, which only helps me. Not to
    mention the fact that they keep me humble, as well. It seems that no
    matter how much research I do, and no matter how concisely I try to rank
    things there will always be the naysayers to listen to and learn from.