Nov 11

5 reasons I hate “top reasons” articles

There is a plague amongst us. Fortunately, it seems to be limited to the world’s bloggers. The general population is not at risk.

One by one, writers are falling victim to the easy way out. They express their faith in the popular belief that if they start their headlines with the words “X Reasons…,” readers will flock to their sites.

Six Reasons Why Android Will Destroy iPad.
Ten Reasons Google Will Melt The Internet.

Four Reasons Steve Jobs Actually Liked Larry Ellison.

See for yourself. Pick a number, put the word “reasons” after it and Google it. You will be astounded. “Five reasons” seems to be the most popular number, with over 19 million instances. “Ten reasons” must be harder to dig up, because there are only 16 million of them. Even many of the more respectable writers seem to have succumbed to the lure.

Since I’ve drawn you in with my catchy headline, I don’t want to disappoint. Here are my five reasons why the government should brutally enforce a moratorium on “top reasons” articles.

1. They’re unoriginal. Writing like this is a good way to become one of the millions instead of the few.

2. They’re lazy. Real writers ponder such things. The dictionary has some really interesting words in it, just waiting to be plucked.

3. They’re condescending. They cater to the tabloid reader in us, distilling complicated issues in such a way that even our pea brains can understand.

4. They’re greedy. These types of headlines are a serious indicator that you’re only in it for the clicks.

5. They’re a stretch. There are normally a few good reasons to support any claim, but to hit some magic number, writers often pad their article with dubious reasons. Like I just did.

Then again, when I check the stats on this article and find that my readership is up … I may have to reconsider.


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  • neilw

    Reason #6: these types of articles are frequently deployed as annoying, pageview-maximizing slideshows with one reason per page.

  • ken segall

    Damn, I forgot that one!

  • qka

    Fortunately, the “Reader” button in Safari can often render those multiple pages into one, without all the ads!

  • Tom

    Yeah, they suck but they work.
    This is copywriting 101.
    People think ‘oh wait there are just 5 little things that I have to do to get killer abs, let me try that out’.