8 Tips For Writing A Listicle For Publication
For those of you who haven’t seen the Internet in the last five years, listicles are quite popular. The “listicle,” arguably popularized by Buzzfeed, is a sort of catchall phrase for any article that appears in the form of a list. Often, there are GIFs accompanying each point, though there can also be still images, or sometimes, no images at all. Sometimes, listicles are made up of 45 points, with only one line explaining each; other times, there are only eight points, with several paragraphs explaining each, like this one. As I’ll get into below, there are many ways to write a listicle, and no one formula for utilizing the form.
That said, as one of the people who reviews the freelance pitches that come into Bustle, I can tell you what I’m looking for in a listicle as an editor. Sites like HelloGiggles, Buzzfeed, and Mic might have different things they’re looking for in a listicle, and as a rule for pitching in general, you should be sure to familiarize yourself with what the articles look like on the site you’re pitching to, and cater to that. But in general, I think many of these rules should serve you well, no matter where you’re pitching.
Remember: Listicle Does Not = Lazy
This is the most important tip on here. Just because you’re writing a list, that doesn’t mean your writing or ideas can be lazy. In fact, because you already have a lot of the structuring work done for you, you should be devoting even more energy to your concept and form. Often, people get lazy with their writing or ideas when they put things in list form, which is the easiest way to have your pitch rejected. Because so many lists have already been done, you need to put even more energy into making sure your idea is original and well-executed. Which brings me to.
Let’s say, for example, that you want to write about your experience living abroad. I get a ton of pitches for lists on that topic, so you need to find a way to make your listicle stand out. Ask yourself: what was unique about my experience? What wouldn’t people expect? What didn’t I expect? Write out a few sample headlines, trying to get to as interesting an angle as possible.
So, for example, instead of writing “9 Things I Learned Studying Abroad,” you might write “9 Ways French Guys Are Different Than American Guys” or “9 Things That Surprised Me About French Culture When I Studied Abroad.”
5 questions to ask your PR firm in 2015
Chances are good that if you visit any number of popular Internet news outlets like BuzzFeed, Thrillist, and The Huffington Post then you have seen a listicle about some topic or another.
A listicle, for those not in the know, is combination of article and list where a media outlet essentially curates a topic and presents its top picks (or pans) for a given moment in time.
The beauty of listicles is that you can create your own for use on your blog or a guest post on another blog or as a sponsored listicle in an established media outlet – for a nice fee, mind you.
Pick a topic to write about that relates to your business directly or indirectly. Avoid picking your top 10 products as that would make the listicle appear self serving and turn off readers interested in finding a ‘reasonably’ objective list. Also, decide on a particular angle for the list. Say you are an all-inclusive beach resort in Florida that caters to snow birds. You might try any one of these angles:
To be taken seriously, research your topic thoroughly. Figure out what key details you want to share with readers. Say you want to create a list of Vermont bed & breakfasts with the best view of fall foliage, you will need to decide what factors will drive the ranking and why some made it into the list while others did not. For instance, I recently wrote a listicle for Culturemap about the top 10 coffee shops in Austin for professionals. I addressed such items as WiFi network, parking, popular drinks, power outlet availability, etc. In the end, I gave each of the coffee shops on the list a score out of five coffee cups.
How will you present your listicle? Will it be in paragraph form with a smartly written description of each contender? How about as a bullet list with terse explanations or numeric ratings of specific features? Or perhaps you will go with a blended approach in order to be free to describe something without sacrificing directness. No matter what you decide, you should prepare a summary layout of the finished listicle to use as a kind of template for later.
A necessary ingredient to successful listicles is brevity. Avoid rambling descriptions or stuffing the piece with too many details. You might consider letting colleagues and friends read the listicle and incorporate their feedback. Plus, let the piece sit for a couple of days and then go back over it with your editorial glasses to pick out any weak sentences or bad grammar.
To make a listicle pop you should use high quality images. The listicle idea above on golf packages for seniors in Florida should have pictures of manicured putting greens, breathtaking bunker shots and plenty of seniors enjoying a round of links. You can also use vines or GIFS (short looping still photos) to capture an animated version of your subjects – think best Mardi Gras parades or top Spring Break destinations.
You are providing a media outlet with fresh, free content so the least it can do is provide you with a short byline (author description mentioning your name and business.) with a chance to get a linkback (embedded URL of your website’s domain name). This is the golden nugget you are mining with a listicle – a chance for increased buzz for your name, your brand and business website.
After you write your listicle you want to see it published, right? Finding the most relevant media outlet will make that job a lot easier. Continuing our example about the Florida beach resort catering to seniors, the author would be wise to approach websites focused on Florida tourism and senior lifestyle. Hyper-local media outlets like to publish listicles about all kinds of topics from where to go for Mother’s Day brunch to the best summer camps for kids. If you can’t find an established media outlet to publish your listicle, approach industry blogs that may have smaller audiences but will still provide you with a strong linkback to your website.
A no-brainer, really. Promote the heck out of every listicle you publish. Use your own social media assets to spread the word several times over the week the piece is published, then spread mentions out over the next few weeks and months to keep it circulating. Ask friends and collaborators to share as well in order to maximize the reach on social networks. Consider pre-composing tweets to make it easier for friendly mentions. Thank any shares on the platform used in order to show your gratitude (and prime your friends for future shares).
Final thought: don’t take rejection the wrong way. It often takes many tries before you strike gold with a publication, especially in a national media outlet. Keep trying, learn from feedback, make connections with media professionals and eventually, you will be rewarded.