You may have noticed: We’ve entered the “Age of the Numbered Advice Article.” They are upon us like a plague.
Here are just a few I found on-line this morning (or made up, though you’ll have to decide which is which):
3 Issues CMOs Need to Address Now
8 Ways to Beat Projections (and Still Go Home at 5)
3 Steps to Making A+ Hires
4 Mistakes Every Entrepreneur Should Make Before They’re 22
2 Killer Ways to Be More Creative
6 Reasons to Use 20 Font In Silicon Valley
12 Certainties That Will Transform Every Career
The best of class in this category are what I call the “Hall of Famers," designed to present controversial lists which generate response and debate. It’s what happens in Cooperstown every year; there are no rules, so all that’s left is debate. This leads to posts like:
10 Worst Business Innovations
25 Best Female Entrepreneurs
8 Great Places to Start a Business
3 Best CEOs of All Time
150 Good Reasons Silicon Valley Rules
6 Best Business Books Ever
I used to like numbered articles, but that was before they became a crutch and a marketing ploy. Now they are coming at us like angry hornets, and here are some of the reasons why:
1. Numbered articles are FAST TO WRITE. There are no pesky connecting thoughts. No “ifso’s” and “therefore’s” required. No hard thinking on the author’s part to integrate. Made to accommodate big capital letters and, as you can see, sentence fragments.
2. Numbered articles can be SKIMMED. Fast to write means fast to read. No deep-dive required. Everything looks like code. Read on a smartphone under the table during a conference call.
3. Numbered articles remind us of POWERPOINT. How many PPT slides have you seen in your life? Exactly. Authors might as well take advantage of the fact that PPT has begun to shape your mind. We used to love paragraphs; now we love lists.
4. Numbered articles always look like ADVICE. We live in a self-help culture where the job of last resort is “life coach.” I’m dying to improve and will listen to anyone. Just give me one factoid that I can claim. “ #4 Let a smile be my umbrella” and things will be better? I’m in.
5. Numbered articles drive RESPONSE. If I write “5 Great CEOs” and forget Steve Jobs, I can be sure my post will go over the top. It’s Hall of Fame controversy come to a browser near you. Brilliant.
Now, to finish such a “numbered advice” article, I need to tell a quick personal anecdote (and I’ve got a million of em, folks) and stick in a quote. To wit:
I’m sitting here with my Life cereal on a Saturday morning and just powered through this post in 6 minutes. In my sweat pants. You can do it, too. As James Thurber once said, “With the disappearance of the gas mantle and the advent of the short circuit, man’s tranquility began to be threatened by everything he put his hand on.”
Please watch for my next post: 1 Good Reason to Avoid Reading Moby-Dick