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3 reasons list stories aren't going away anytime soon
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A study released this week in cooperation with the American Press Institute claims that the future of journalism remains murky because of faulty measures of success for content.

The news business, at least in the digital age, has fallen victim to lousy intelligence, the study found, calling the new yardsticks of digital journalism namely, page views, clicks and other online analytics a "hidden problem."

"Page views can tell a publisher how many times an individual piece of content was viewed, but not why it was viewed," study author Tom Rosensteil wrote. "Nor does a page view indicate whether consumers found that content valuable or an annoying waste of time they were teased into viewing."

The study also found that audiences craved and preferred long-form stories that featured investigative or "enterprise" characteristics prompting some media outlets like European Journalism Observatory and Reuters to muse about the possible end of click-baity list articles or "listicles" that has sustained brands like catch-all news and lifestyle website Buzzfeed.

This news may have been welcome to journalists, fresh from an invigorating moment in the limelight as journalism procedural "Spotlight" took home the Oscar for film of the year last month.

But it's unlikely listicles are going anywhere just yet. Here are three reasons why:

1. Investigative journalism is expensive. Listicles usually aren't.

To conduct the sort of long-form journalism of "Spotlight" ilk takes time weeks, months or even years of research, labor and (sometimes) travel goes into a long, probing story. That all takes money, which many newsrooms who have endured layoffs or have shuttered over the past decade likely don't have. But anyone with an Internet connection and the will can write a list of the Internet's most intriguing cat videos.

2. The possible death of in-depth stories is just one of many problems the news industry faces.

As Washington Post editor and "Spotlight" subject Martin Baron put it in a recent interview with the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers, the single biggest problem the news industry faces isn't so much economic problems or their effect on long-form journalism. The true problem is the public's eroding trust of journalism in general.

"Trust is our greatest challenge ... We are constantly worried about resources, social media, monetization and all these kinds of things," Baron said. "All of those pale in comparison to this particular challenge.

3. Lists are nearly synonymous with social media, whereas hard journalism is still finding its feet there.

Listicles are often fun fluff designed to lighten the spirits of their readers. On any given day on sites like Buzzfeed or Upworthy, listicles extol the virtues of a plethora of subjects, from "20 Things You Didn't Know About Harry Potter" to "21 Surprisingly Magical Things That'll Make Life Easier For You." No matter the interest, there's a listicle for it making the snappy, conversational tones of listicles perfect Facebook fodder.

Hard news, however, has taken longer to find its way on social media. News publishers were only just invited to partner with Facebook to get content more integrated into the social media site's feed last year and even then, many publishers were leery, as the New York Times reported.

While listicles may be a turn off for some readers, they're likely not going anywhere anytime soon. Luckily, there's enough room for both lists and in-depth reporting on the Internet as long as readers click.
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