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Top 7 Lists Lead The Pack On Digg

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Lists are good, but if they become too long, readers are liable to lose interest.  Too short, and no one will think your 25-word post is worth reading.  Top 10 lists have become the norm – but why?  Russ Jones of the Google Cache combed through over 2,500 Digg stories to see if lists with more (or fewer) points do better.

The result: if you can’t think of ten different things to say, it’s not a problem.  “7 is the magic number, it seems the most comfortable – not exhausting but not incomplete,” writes Jones.  “Perhaps our attention span is shorter than ever?”

“Top 7” lists actually scored a 59% success rate, as measured by Jones, compared to 39% for the traditional Top 10 compilations.  Marketing Pilgrim’s Jordan McCollum, who noticed Jones’s experiment long before I did, also points out that “success” was defined as making the front page of Digg.

Top 12 lists were fairly high achievers, then, registering at a 47% success rate.  “Perhaps 12 feels ‘comprehensive’ and ‘complete,’” suggested Jones.  Top 12 lists were also the longest lists he measured, which leaves me wondering how a 13- or 14-item list would have performed.

How did some other, lower numbers fare?  Well, a Top 3 or Top 4 barely qualifies as a list – don’t bother unless you’re happy with less than a 10% rate of success.  Top 8 lists did even worse, for some reason.   Top 5 and Top 11 lists achieved an equal success rate of 29%.

These statistics could become very useful to Digg users – after all, with 2,500 different pieces in the running, it’s unlikely that one extra-interesting Top 7 list could have skewed Jones’s data set.  But there’s also the theory that measuring something changes it . . .  If a flood of Top 7 lists ensues, don’t expect to see their success continue for long.

Top 7 Lists Lead The Pack On Digg
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  • http://claudepate.com Karl

    Psychologists will tell you that human short term memory “chunks” data and that that it’s generally limited to roughly seven “chunks.”

  • http://www.Online4Offline.com Doug McIsaac

    Thanks for showing this. I’ve always wondered why everyone seems to have top 7 lists.  If it works stick with it.

    Doug