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Friday, October 17, 2008

From Forbes to Letterman, Everybody Loves a Top 10 List

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Most journalists don't enjoy working with numbers, and many joke that they chose it as a college major to avoid math courses (myself included). However, every writer knows the potential for a giant buzz they can simply create by compiling a Top 10 list. Lists, whether they're subjective or objective, have an amazing and uncanny ability create a wide-range of reactions from every social and economic group. In certain cases, such as the 10 Commandments, lists are followed religiously.

In the area of sports, passionate fans often engage in heated debates regarding which teams deserve to "crack the top ten". Historians and political publications often receive criticism for their rankings of former U.S. Presidents. ESPN Radio's popular host, Colin Cowherd is known for mixing mainstream topics into his daily show, and he believes some lists are solely created with the intention of causing a controversial (and therefore popular) topic for discussion reaction.I'll paraphrase what Cowherd said about a Top 10 U.S. Presidents List.

The latest list I saw for top U.S. Presidents didn't include George Washington in the top five. That's when you have to step up and say, 'Come on! That guy was dodging bullets in the battlefield.'

Each spring, High School seniors rely on guides such as U.S. News and World Report and the Princeton Review to gauge the colleges they want to attend. Everyone's familiar with the phrase "Fortune 500", but the names within the top 10 tend to be the most recognized and are often placed in the media's microscope.

Earlier today, Forbes listed America's Most Generous Corporations, and they produce similar rankings such as,the cities hit hardest by the mortgage crisis, etc.Some lists aren't based on qualitative rankings, but remain popular because of the format. For example, Bargain hunters head to Craigslist and Angies List provides consumers a guide to reputable and reliable companies.

A feature story in Time titled "The Power of 10", included its very own Top 10 list of reasons why we love lists.

10.God Made Us Do It.
9.Words Suck! Numbers Rule!
8.They're Web-Friendly. If anyone loves lists more than the mainstream media do, it's the non-mainstream media.
7.Branding, Branding, Branding!.... Businesses have discovered that a well-conceived list can be marketable.
6. Asserting authority.
5. Because We Crave Justice.
4.To Remember
3.Because the Universe Is Random and Senseless. They impose order without making false connections.
2.Because Life Is Short
1.Because If You Put Numbers on It, People Will Read Anything

How long will our infatuation for lists endure? There's no really no way to tell you, but maybe I should work on a list of reasons while it will never end. I just may have to give more than 10.


By Matt O'Hern at 04:40 PM | Comments (1)

(1) Thoughts on From Forbes to Letterman, Everybody Loves a Top 10 List

The human need for order will probably always drive our desire for lists. The only way we can order anything in our lives is by making a list mentally of priorities for whatever task it is we're involved in, it's one of life's great curiousities, first time I've seen it written about..nice work.

Comments by David : Monday, October 20, 2008 at 12:48 AM

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