Lists detailing the ten most or the ten best of people, items and events are routinely published by newspapers and online portals.
According to Poynter.org, Rex Sorgatz, who has been writing lists since 2001, says such lists have become very common and are published by several media organizations, particularly during the New Year period. These are catchy and generate curiosity among readers.
Poynter.org discusses the reasons behind the popularity of these lists, with Sorgatz and Stuart Fischoff, an expert in media psychology.
Check out the top 10 reasons why...
These lists allow people to learn of new topics that were in the news through the year. For instance, some people may not have been aware of graphic novels. However, a list of the best such novels could give them information on the subject.
"Lists provide a thumbnail rundown of what or who is up and down, in and out, winning, losing, etc," Fischoff said.
Nostalgic and Futuristic
A list offers a summary of events that happened through the year and allows people to look forward to the year to come.
"Their multiplying around December helps to summarize the year, encapsulates trends that have been occurring, and may be important to pay attention to for future reference, even survival," Fischoff explained.
In addition, Sorgatz said a list was a way of remembering memories.
"There's this form of nostalgia tied to them, but I actually think of them in terms of the future. They're really more about attempts to define what we're going to remember. It's sort of a declaration of what will be remembered about this time in the future," he said.
Clarity and Elucidation
Some lists can make future decisions clear and easily understood. For instance, a list on ten things to remember before making any investment or for buying an iPhone helps us achieve some clarity about our actions, which is always welcome.
"Lists help tidy up, simplify and prioritize the booming, buzzing confusion of sensory input we call life, being alive. They help us navigate the world and the multiplying streams of information that technology and communication platforms continue to generate," Fischoff was quoted as saying, by Poynter.org
A list also invites light discussions about several topics, such as the ten best YouTube videos, the best books in a genre or the best actors. In addition, the social media - Web sites like Facebook, Twitter or MSN - has also helped lists to strike up discussions on many topics.
"The lists were such a democratic form, and they really tied into personal publishing 10 years ago. Now, the narrative that might have otherwise existed on a blog is much more likely to end up on Facebook and Twitter," Sorgatz said.
The subjective nature of most lists tends to invite contradictory views, which can then be used to further discuss or refine the rankings. For instance, a list of the ten best films will invite a discussion, as there may be readers who think some films mentioned may not be so great.
"People like to compare their judgments and their impressions with other people. If you're a rebellious person, lists allow you to say, 'I know what you're saying but I think you're wrong,'" Fischoff said.
Lists create opinions among readers. For instance, list of top 10 tourist destinations will appear in many publications but the destinations or their ranking may not be the same.
"I think media companies have latched onto lists more and more because of the culture of aggregation. Lists have become a way that you can summarize a time and overlay your identity on top of current events without having to overtly express an opinion. You can pull together 10 events and say 'These are the Top 10 events of the year' and present it as factual information. But the reality is, you're editorializing it implicitly," Sorgatz said.
"Lists are incredibly important. They are how we define what matters to us, what we want entertainment and art to do, what we expect of our culture," said James Poniewozik, a Time magazine television critic, when discussing the list of the 100 best shows of all time.
In addition, lists provide information about various cultures and countries. For instance, a list of the best dishes in Spain could be very useful when visiting the country or simply to enjoy Spanish cuisine.
"If you want to know a culture, and know what it values, know what's in their top 10 lists," Fischoff said.
Practical and Helpful
Lists are helpful in accomplishing day-to-day activities. For example, the ten best ways of using Twitter or the ten best ways to reduce stress could come in handy every now and then. Such lists encourage a practical approach towards most concerns, even complex ones.
Lists can be inspirational. For example, a list comprising ten things that can make a poor man happy or ten religious beliefs that can bring harmony to an individual's life are always worth considering.
Why Only 10
"There is a lot of historical significance behind the number. There are 10 amendments in the Bill of Rights and 10 commandments. And our metric system is a standard set of prefixes in powers of 10. By now, 'top 10' is a convention. But its origins may be in body parts: fingers and toes, hands, feet, digits and inches," said Fischoff.