Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Daily Checksum

For a while, I've felt that Cracked should actually be called Lists, since most of their featured content consists of clickbait-y numbered lists that aspire to virality (unnecessarily split into two or more pages for doubled page views, but that's another issue).

Trivia: Did you know that Cracked was originally a magazine, which was a thing that people used to buy to read while on the toilet or an airplane?
None of that is a new thing; content programmers and copywriters have known for ages that people like numbered lists. (American Top 40 and Letterman Top Ten, anyone?)

(During my AOL promo-writing days, there was an additional wrinkle that was taken as testing-validated gospel that odd-numbered lists performed better than even-numbered ones.)

Anyway, even knowing all this, I was surprised when I browsed yesterday through my soon-to-be-sunset Google Reader, when I saw that literally every feature article on the RSS feed was a numbered list:

"6 Mind-Blowing Images That Nature Produces Every Year."

"23 Jokes That Never Made It Into Our Best Videos."

"The 4 Worst 'Scientific' Explanations for Famous Monsters."

And so on.

What used to be a joke is now apparently a part of the Cracked Style Guide.

Even Buzzfeed isn't that much of a one-trick pony.

Anyway, to get a little numerological and a bit reductionist, I suggest the Daily Checksum: A simple tally of all the numbered items in each day's featured articles.

The RSS feed display provides the necessary numbers in convenient column format -- for June 25, 2013, the numbers were 23 + 6 + 4 + 6 + 4, making the Daily Checksum (CDC) 43. (The CDC for 6/26 is 51, though shockingly, there is a lone non-numbered list featured item today. Rats.)

I will attempt to monitor the CDC values over time, to determine if the figures correlate to any significant world events, temperature trends, or winning lottery numbers.