I know the idea of doing "Top 10" posts feels a little cliche and cheap, with front pages of Cosmo magazine first coming to mind. But let's face it — people read lists. It gives them something easy to consume at a glance. It gives them a point of reference for navigating a story: I know when I'm half way done, or I know I can easily skip through a section if I'm not interested.
So this is why we've launched the first phase of a bigger project around lists at The Seattle Times. Our lists can be seen as highly curated collections from our experts, on topics ranging from how to winterize your home, to best outdoors adventures, to eating healthy, to takeaways after a Seahawks game. We write a ton of lists for the paper and in our blogs, but they're not easy to read.
The example below is from a list about things to do over the weekend. Our arts staff writes these kinds of posts twice a week, and they could be a real destination, but they're an eyesore to look at:
At a glance, you can't see the 10 items or where/when they take place. It's a wall of text.
Enter: Listifyer. Or at least that's what we're calling it internally. The idea is that we create an easy way for bloggers and reporters — who are already producing these lists — to beautifully format their content and link it up with our entertainment database. The end goal is that we collects a list of lists, with the ability to filter down and for readers to engage and submit their own items.
The first part that we've launched this week is a custom post type in WordPress that lets readers input a list summary, individual list items — each containing a headline, description, details, optional photos and related links. Upon hitting publish, those fields are all structured into a format that you can read easily. Here's the first list we published using the post type: 5 ways to spend your precious weekend. Much better, right?
The eventual aggregated page might look something like this, though the image below is just a mockup from the original brainstorm:
We've rolled the feature out to all bloggers, with our features folks as the core user group. We'll tweak functionality based on their needs after a few weeks of using it, then move on to next phases of integration with our events database, collection of all lists in a central place and reader engagement.
If you have any ideas for this, I'd love to hear.