7 is the new 10

So I lost a bet. Top 10 lists have long been the staple of bloggers, online writers, and one particular late night comedian. But like any “too much of a good thing”, I got into a discussion about “why top 10 lists”. Why not top 6 or top 9? A few interesting queries later, I was able to determine: do people really like top 10 stories? or has that number become so trite, so overused, that top 10 lists are ignored and overlooked. My guess, top 6 stories would be the most successful, my adversary (VP Malcolm Young) guessed top 7 lists.

Top ? Stories
Top 12 34 16 47%
Top 11 34 10 29%
Top 10 1690 653 39%
Top 9 10 2 20%
Top 8 25 1 4%
Top 7 90 53 59%
Top 6 18 1 6%
Top 5 558 162 29%
Top 4 17 1 6%
Top 3 40 3 8%

At first I wondered whether the non top 10 lists would be better because the thought behind them was less contrived. However, it appears that only 2 numbers (12 and 7) were more successful than 10. I think there are a couple of points to be taken:

  1. Top 10 and 5 lists aren’t that bad, but it looks contrived when you hit that number on the head. If you were really trying to provide valuable content, why restrict yourself to those numbers? It just looks like you are trying to game the system.
  2. Top 3 or 4 lists are just too small. They hardly make a list at all.
  3. Top 6, 9 and 11 lists seem unrefined or incomplete. If you are going to submit a list with numbers so close to the comfortable 5 and 10, you should take the time to refine or supplement it.
  4. 7 is the magic number, it seems the most comfortable – not exhausting but not incomplete. Perhaps our attention span is shorter than ever?
  5. 12 is not so bad itself. Perhaps 12 feels “comprehensive” and “complete”

Happy Digging!

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  1. Tyler Banfield
    May 19, 2007

    Nice info to know, thanks for doing all the leg work for the rest of us 😉

    (I have to say I’m surprised that 8 had the lowest success rate of all)

  2. Elliott C. Back
    May 19, 2007

    I think top 23 lists would be the way to go 😉

  3. Adam
    May 21, 2007

    Aren’t there various studies about how human beings are irrisistably attracted to the number 7? So products whose price includes a 7 are more likely to sell… it makes sense that this extends to top X lists as well. Thanks for the info.

  4. 10people
    May 21, 2007

    It’s interesting to notice that in “top X” lists, X is always a very significant number:
    * 7: the days of the week, the 7 dwarfs, 7 deadly signs, … it’s one of the most “ancient” numbers
    * 10: the number of our fingers. the base of our maths
    * 12: number of months. it also exist a word for it: dozen. does it exist for 13? 14? 15? no

  5. quadszilla
    May 21, 2007

    Maybe that 7 minute abs guy was on to something . . .

  6. Mike
    May 22, 2007

    Phew! And there was me thinking I was just being lazy 😉

  7. Nate
    May 24, 2007

    “does it exist for 13?”

    YES! It’s called a “baker’s dozen” 🙂

  8. Seems we humans have a thing for the number 7. Price testing also reveals that we often prefer prices that end in 7 rather than another number.

    I wonder what would happen if we changed the week to 8 days? Anyone want to try a little experiment…?


    Paul Hancox


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