These cats cast aside their cages and ride the subway in cute, fluffy style!  It so cute to see them sitting there.  Here’s a collection of pictures from New York City, Chicago, Calgary and Toronto.

Cat Riding Subway Like a Human
Hey. Where Are My Cat Pictures?!

Sorry.  I’ve misled you a bit.  This page does not contain 36 pictures of cats riding the subway.

But, let’s take a few moments and learn a little about why you clicked on the link to this page, in the first place.

 Why Did you Click on This Link?

So, why did you click on a link entitled “36 Cats Riding the Subway Like Humans. #8 Makes Me Laugh!“?  Well, the author has entitled the “article” in a way that is most appealing to the most people at that time.  And why?  Because competition for audience on the Internet is fierce!  All of us who are writing are vying for audience.  The more audience we have, the more our site’s reputation and traffic will grow – through social media propagation, and link building.  All of this will hopefully lead to our website showing up on the sacred first page of a Google search result.

xkcd: Google 2nd Page Results
From xkcd.com

 

So, in an effort to get you to click here, I’ve used the following tricks:

 

1. Cats

According to Perry Stein‘s Article on NewRepublic.com, Why Do Cats Run the Internet? A Scientific Explanation, few of us can resist the awesome tempting power of cat pictures and cat videos.  By discussing the issue with several experts in varying fields, Stein argues that “There may be more deep-seated psychological responses at play as well. Cats’ famously reserved and withholding personalities naturally seduce us into paying closer attention to them.“.
Whether we fully understand the reasoning behind it or not, cats are excellent clickbait.  Don’t feel bad about it.  I click on those links, too.  Most of us do.

2. Numbered Lists

We humans just love numbered lists, especially when reading on the Internet.  It’s an easy way to get a lot of information, fast.  And it’s highly organized, by definition.  When we click on a link entitled “9 Things…”, we expect to read a list of 9 Things.  I think one of the biggest reasons this form of data organization is so appealing is that it makes it easy for the reader to skip information that they find irrelevant to them, personally.

Let’s say I’m a cattle farmer and am reading “7 Common Fencing Mistakes“.  I see that item #2 in the list is “Post Spacing”.  But I already know that I space my posts with the greatest of brilliance.  Well, then I can just scroll on down to item #3.  And, look at that! I’ve just saved myself 20 seconds.
(Whether or not we ever really make any use of these recovered seconds is a matter of debate, somewhere else on the Internet!).

The idea that numbered lists help with your ranking is not a new idea.  In this article from 2008, 7 Things: The Power of Numbered Lists in SEO Marketing, Philip O’Hara argues that lists are great for keeping audience attention.  He says, “A numbered list is almost better than even a bulleted list, because it has a clear beginning and end; making it readable for even the most attention-deprived viewers.

So, this idea has been around since before 2008.
It seems that, since then, people have really taken the idea to heart.  Articles with numbered lists are everywhere!  Even we have a couple of them.  (See our article, 13 Companies that Still Surprisingly Use Windows XP).

But if everyone is using numbered lists, then what does an article author do to stick out from the rest of the pack?

Enter the latest evolution in numbered lists.

 

3. In-Title Commentary on One List Item

This is the latest fad, it would seem.  If you’re on Facebook, then you’ve seen this countless time in the past few months. The structure is like this:

The New "Numbered Lists" Formula
The New “Numbered Lists” Formula

So, the original “15 Glam Tips That Will Help You Turn Heads” has evolved into “15 Glam Tips That Will Help You Turn Heads. #5 is Essential!“.  It’s a kind of title inflation.  The original title no longer holds the same power to attract and keep one’s attention.  The thing about inflation is that it can become rather unstoppable.  And so this “#7 will blow your mind” addendum to the numbered list title – which I find viscerally annoying – may only be a stepping stone to even further annoying titles and content on the Internet.

…Or I’m just getting old.

 

Conclusion (Or, “So What!?”)

I’m not sure I can be quite so poignant as to draw an Earth-shattering conclusion.  It’s just interested to take note of this trend.  And to be curious about what will happen next.  The addition of this second sentence, ripe with supposed personalized commentary from the author, is just one more step towards a Facebook news feed as ugly and flashy as the Vegas strip.

Can we expect that, very soon, most blog authors will use this second sentence in their numbered list titles?
And if so… what do you think the next move will be, for authors to stand out from others?

Is this a clear sign of the degradation of the quality of information on the Internet?
Or am I overreacting?

Should we just enjoy the pretty picture of the kitties, and not question these things?

Or do we need to take more responsibility for the clicks we do?  Remember: Every click you do is a very real vote.

 

Your Reward

Very well.  Let it be said that I am a kind and a giving author.

Just having a chat on Toronto's TTC
Just having a chat on Toronto’s TTC

 

Oh, hey.  Welcome aboard!
Oh, hey. Welcome aboard!

 

The TTC is taking forever, today!
The TTC is taking forever, today!

 

I wonder if I can make it over to the next car.
I wonder if I can make it over to the next car.

 

Bloor-Yonge Station never looked so awesome.
Bloor-Yonge Station never looked so awesome.

 

I don't know who you are.  But keep going!
I don’t know who you are. But keep going!

 

An empty subway car.  Do I smell?
An empty subway car? Do I smell?

 

Is it coming?!
Is it coming?!
36 Cats Riding the Subway like Humans. #8 made me laugh! (Just Kidding, btw)
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