Top 7 Lists Lead The Pack On Digg

    May 22, 2007

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.