In journalism and blogging, a listicle is a short-form of writing that uses a list as its thematic structure, but is fleshed out with sufficient copy to be published as an article. A typical listicle will prominently feature a cardinal number in its title, with subsequent subheadings within the text itself reflecting this schema. The word is a portmanteau derived from list and article. It has also been suggested that the word evokes "popsicle", emphasising the fun but "not too nutritious" nature of the listicle.
A ranked listicle (such as Rolling Stone's "The 100 Best Albums of the Last Twenty Years") implies a qualitative judgement, conveyed by the order of the topics within the text. These are often presented in countdown order, and the "Number One" item is the last in the sequence. Other listicles imparts no such values, instead presenting the topics in no particular order, although they may be grouped by theme.
While conventional reportage and essay writing often require the careful crafting of narrative flow, the building-block nature of the listicle lends itself to more rapid production. It can also be a means of "recycling" information, as often it is the context, not the content, that is original. For example, a listicle can be constructed by adding captions to YouTube clips. For these reasons, the form has come under criticism as a "kind of cheap content-creation":
It's so easy you wonder why everyone doesn't do it until you realize that now it's all they do: Come up with an idea ("Top 10 Worst [X]") on the L train ride to the office that morning, [and] slap together 10 (or 25, or 100) cultural artifacts ripe for the kind of snarky working over that won't actually tax you at all as a writer/thinker.
The blogger and technologist Anil Dash has also disparaged the proliferation of listicles, particularly within the blogosphere, writing in 2006 that they were the "geek equivalents of Cosmo coverlines".
Nevertheless, the form remains a mainstay of the newsstand and the web. The covers of magazines such as Cosmopolitan and Men's Journal regularly sport at least one, if not several listicles. In 2009, postings in the format "25 Random Things About Me" became an internet phenomenon, starting on Facebook but spreading to the broader web, attracting considerable media coverage in the process. The website Gawker uses "Listicle" as a regular content category. Some websites, such as BuzzFeed, are devoted almost entirely to the listicle format.
Steven Poole has suggested the form has literary precursors like Jorge Luis Borges's "The Analytical Language of John Wilkins", and compares it to more high art versions like Umberto Eco's The Infinity of Lists, a book composed entirely of lists.
Online platforms have allowed the collaborative user generation of lists, to be shared publicly.
- Okrent, Arika (Jan–Feb 2014). "The listicle as literary form". University of Chicago Magazine.
- "Blender Jerks Off Another 'Worst' List". The Idolator. October 9, 2007. Retrieved January 31, 2013.
- "It's Always August". Anil Dash. August 31, 2006. Retrieved January 31, 2013.
- Taylor, Marisa (February 10, 2009). "Facebook Mystery: Who Created '25 Random Things About Me'?". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved January 31, 2013.
- Poole, Steven (12 November 2013). "Top nine things you need to know about 'listicles'". The Guardian.